Missing a great gig sucks, but paying a scalper is worse

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The ACCC can’t save us from scalpers. We need to take matters into our own hands.

I’m going to be overseas when Paul Kelly plays in my home city of Brisbane this November. It’s the ultimate first world problem, but it’s still gutting; I love Paul Kelly and I love his support act Steve Earle almost as much. I’ve seen both countless times, in venues far more intimate and with crowds far less intense, yet the thought of missing this tour is still almost too much.

So, with no kids or responsibilities to worry about, and a handful of frequent flyer points earned from a well-spent youth playing in rock bands, my partner and I booked a flight. We’d spend 16 hours in Sydney, see the show at the Opera House Forecourt, and deal with the tiredness once it’s all done.

One problem, we forgot to buy tickets to the gig.

I stuffed up. It was poor planning. I knew when tickets were going on sale, I’d just forgotten to buy them. By the time I remembered, it was too late. It’s one hundred percent on me.

We now have a few options. We could try and beg the airline to let us change our flight to a different time, and hope for a second show. We could go to Sydney as scheduled, find a pub and do Paul Kelly karaoke. We can hope that a friend has spare tickets we can buy from them.

Or we could go to ticket reseller Viagogo, drop $300 each per ticket (plus an astronomical booking and handling fee), and hope like hell they are legit.

I’m not sure what course of action we’re going to take, but it won’t be that last one. And whoever runs Paul Kelly’s Facebook page wants to make sure no one else does either.

We need to starve scalpers of the only thing they care about; money.

For years, promoters have told us not to buy tickets from resellers like Viagogo (but also eBay, Gumtree, StubHub and more). They do everything but beg when they tell us not to roll the dice.

They don’t want you at the gate of their event, livid that you’ve been defrauded and sold fake tickets. Just as importantly, they don’t want their hard work, and that of the artist, lining the pockets of scalpers.

Scalpers argue that promoters are to blame. That they don’t sell enough tickets. That they reserve the best seats for corporate packages, commercial partners, fan clubs and other connections.

Some people, particularly in the US, agree.

In his newsletter this week, music industry commentator Bob Lefsetz said Taylor Swift fans aren’t going to get the best seats for her upcoming tour unless they use one of these on-selling platforms.

“[Taylor Swift]’s gonna bankrupt wannabes who are not gonna be able to sit in the good seats no matter what, because those are reserved for those who are connected, who oftentimes resell them, which is why if you want to sit up close and personal you pay more on StubHub,” he wrote.

No one likes to miss out on a show. It’s worse when your mates are there without you and you’re at home scrolling through Netflix and talking to your cat.

But it’s a damn sight better than bankrupting yourself to buy tickets well over face value, handing your hard-earned money to opportunistic scalpers who contribute nothing to the world besides the ability to use a ticketing website or ticket buying bot.

Let alone arriving to the gate of the show, only to find that some scumbag sold you a fake ticket and that your hundreds of bucks won’t even get you through the gate.

Sometimes, it's better to just not go. 

I'm not saying it's a simple solution. It's not. It's actually really hard to make the call that you're going to deny yourself something you really want. But by not buying tickets from scalpers, you're sending a powerful message. You're not gonna stand for it.

The ACCC's case against Viagogo in the High Court isn’t going to combat their ridiculous price mark-ups.

This story from triple j Hack absolutely broke my heart. A music lover couldn’t bear to miss a show, so they panicked and spent $700 on a ticket. They didn’t complain, because they were too embarrassed about what they’d done.

Conversely, this story made me sick. Even in the face of concerning trends in the US where too few tickets are offered to the public, the audacity of a scalper taking the high road in this debate is unbelievable.

In most territories, scalpers are legally allowed to buy tickets and sell them at a profit. The forthcoming case the ACCC are putting against Viagogo in the High Court isn’t going to combat the ridiculous price mark-ups that come with secondary ticket selling.

It’s a good start. Hopefully the case will force on-sellers to cut their fees, will stop them misleading people into believing they are the official ticket sellers of events and stop panicking buyers about how many tickets are left for a show.

We can’t count on the High Court to help us here. We need to take the power back. And the only way we can do this is by swallowing that bitter pill, staying home and never, ever buying a ticket from a scalper.

We need to starve scalpers of the only thing they care about; money. If they don’t sell the tickets they never intended on using, they’ll lose money and, hopefully, stop trying to snatch up the tickets we want for the artists we love.

I missed out on tickets to Paul Kelly because I was too slow. I’m not blaming a scalper for that. But, conveniently, there are scalpers there right now offering me tickets to the show, no questions asked. I just need to pay the money and bow to the whims of the scalper. That is too high a price for me.