Ciarán Busby analyses the economics of ticket touting, taking into consideration both the underground market and high-profile legitimate resellers.


We have all been there. Our favourite artist announces a gig, or a massive event is scheduled, and we are told tickets go on sale this Friday. You wait all week with the hopes of securing a ticket by getting up bright and early to boot up your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone (just in case), and you go on to the ticket sellers website only to be greeted with the heart-dropping pop-up, reading: “There are no tickets available for this event.” The news headlines all spout, that in a record-breaking time, such and such a person has sold out.

By this point, you’re scrambling to find tickets, Googling, DoneDealing, and checking ticket resellers sites for anything that might look like it could get you to the front row. Until you find out that your Mam’s friend, Paddy from down the road, who’s definitely more into Nathan Carter than Ed Sheeran, has eight tickets and has them for sale at double the face value. Being a die-hard fan, you buy the ticket, albeit at a much higher price, and enjoy yourself. Although you might not know it, by buying tickets from a ticket tout, you are actually worsening the situation.

“€650 plus booking fee, an extraordinary 677% price hike.”

This summer, the Irish government hope to ban ticket touting which exceeds a maximum of a 10% profit margin with new legislation. The news has been met with extreme opposition from both Ticketmaster and their subsidiary reseller Seatwave. The latter of which has hit the headlines most recently for an extortionate pre-sale ticket on offer for Britney Spears to the value of €650 plus booking fee, an extraordinary 677% price hike. However, as it appears, the decision to implement this regulation will fall to each performing artist’s request.

Although, as official resellers who guarantee a limited supply of genuine tickets  for an event, Seatwave are not exactly the enemy. Yes, they severely overcharge for entrance to events, but the company does not have a vast impact on the economics of ticket-selling. The real damage occurs when ‘Paddy from down the road’ decides to buy as many tickets as possible to resell.

“A roaring secondary ticket selling market is a clear indicator that ticket prices are too low.”

Primarily, and this statement will not be met with great enthusiasm, a roaring secondary ticket-selling market is a clear indicator that ticket prices are too low. Demand is exorbitantly higher than supply for these events. Mainly thanks to event promoters wanting to fill their stadium with people and make money off of food, drinks, and merchandise. High demand causes touts to make an entrepreneur of themselves and resell tickets at a higher price. It makes sense for someone to profit off of a problem, it is basically what capitalism strives on.

Touts often use internet bots to purchase tickets online almost instantly and at a higher volume than humanly possible. A major issue that presents itself in this process is the resultant overflow of online servers, crippling the selling system and locking users out, ensuring that fans don’t get a ticket legitimately. This practice has rightfully been outright banned in the UK, but it has not piqued the interest of us Irish just yet.

“it really isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get front row seats to see an act, it will most likely be streamed through a plethora of Snapchats and Facebook Live videos anyway”

Then comes the anger-inducing fake tickets. Counterfeits are easily forged, a quick scan of a printable downloaded ticket and, with virtually no extra cost, touts can sell a convincing fake ticket. Maximising their revenue while the poor old none-the-wiser concert-goer gets tackled by a team of security men. Even with this potential risk, die-hard fans continue to buy on the second-hand market, in the hope that they will receive a genuine article. Why? Due to the fact that tickets are far under-priced and overvalued.

What can you do to help?

Vote with your wallets. Even though it is a hard pill to swallow, if everyone were to stop purchasing from the second-hand market, it would cease to exist. With too high a risk to purchase multiple tickets and not make a return, touts would conceivably give up the trade. Alternatively, stop going to concerts. In turn promotors would have to raise the initial ticket prices to remain profitable. However, that is quite drastic. Anyway, it really isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get front row seats to see an act, it will most likely be streamed through a plethora of Snapchats and Facebook Live videos anyway, but that is an article for a different day.

While the government introducing legislation is all well and good for regulating online retailers, without policing, cash-in-hand black market sales will continue on their current trajectory. As the problem lies with event promoters, in a catch-22 situation, to put an end to ticket touting for good, ticket prices inevitably need to rise.