Friday, 17 June 2016

Nashville Cast, Black Sabbath, and online touts

Tuesday night’s Nashville Cast performance at Birmingham Symphony Hall was a great show. All credit to cast members Scarlett, Will, Deacon and Gunnar – otherwise Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Charles Esten and Sam Palladio – for taking the risk of arranging a UK tour based on a US TV series, all the more so when the two female leads Rayna and Juliette were not involved. The Birmingham show was a sell out.

But we almost didn’t go. Having only found out about the tour late in the day, when it was sold out, the only tickets available were from secondary sources (OK, let’s not beat about the bush, from online touts) at double and in one case treble their face value. No chance. Only the late availability of two unbelievably good tickets, at face value from the box office, meant we’d see the show after all.

Here’s another example of online touting in practice. In today’s Birmingham Mail, it is reported that even before tickets for the final Black Sabbath tour went on general release, they were already in the hands of online touts at inflated prices. No fault of the band, but their reputation will suffer as a result.

A few thoughts. The touts’ purchase of these tickets does not involve any adding of value to them. Not a penny of the mark-up finds its way back to the artists. And the subject matter of the tickets – an audio visual experience from a live concert on a specific date – is of no interest to the touts, but of great interest to genuine fans, who would not find comparable pleasure in a Justin Bieber concert, a Birmingham City home match or a Shakespeare play if they were unwilling to pay the touts’ prices.

Legislation may be the answer. Here’s a link to a petition from Royal Blood’s site with their own comments. But is it really beyond the ingenuity of the artists, their promoters and the venue owners to put a stop to online touting of their own initiative? Surely there is scope to print the purchaser’s name on show tickets and carry out random ID checks at the venue? And in the event that a purchaser was genuinely unable to go to the show, surely the artists would be happy to reimburse the venue for any unsold returns, if it meant that they were not tarred with the same brush as the online touts?

Come on, artists, get thinking. If it’s quick and easy in the digital age for independent authors to cut out the middlemen that stand between them and book publication, can’t you find a way to make online touts history?