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Ticket Touts the Scourge of the Music Festival Sector.

Andy Robertson

Since tickets have been sold and used for entry to music festivals ticket touts have existed and while advances in technology have eliminated many the professional ticket tout still prevails. How are ticket touts operating in the current environment and what can festival organisers do to overcome this unsavoury activity. 


Technology has overcome many ticket tout practices but it has also afforded them a platform to continue their activities. Ticket touts often make large sums of money by selling event tickets at highly inflated prices to unsuspecting buyers. This results in unfair prices for buyers and incurs financial loss and can lead to reputational damage for festival organisers too.

Ticket Touting. 
There are currently two methods employed by professional ticket touts to sell tickets at inflated prices. A common practice is known as ‘ticket harvesting’ where touts use multiple identities or multiple credit cards to obtain large numbers of tickets. In extreme cases they may use specialised bot software to buy tickets the moment they are made available. The other more dubious practice is ‘Spec Selling’ where tickets are advertised for sale at inflated prices but the tout does not even possess the tickets, they then attempt to buy the tickets at normal prices for any they have sold at the inflated price. In fraudulent cases the tout may disappear with the money received and buyers never receive the tickets purchased. Both practices attract prosecution for fraud with Billy McFarland of Fyre festival fame famously being prosecuted for running such a scheme. In the UK Peter Hunter and David Smith were convicted in 2020 for running various ticket harvesting and spec selling schemes that netted them £11m apparently.

Secondary Ticket Markets.
In an attempt to counter ticket touts several well controlled secondary ticket markets were set up including StubHub (eBay), Viagogo, Get Me In and Seatwave (Ticketmaster). However, ticket touts have been using these secondary markets to carry out their dubious practices which has resulted in some significant changes to the operation of these platforms more recently. There continue to be serious concerns about the ongoing operations of these secondary ticketing platforms and this will no doubt continue for the foreseeable future.

Actions for Festival Organisers.
Having a robust ticketing solution in place is going to help combat the ticket touts but it may be impossible to totally eliminate them. Making every ticket ‘not available for resale’ can help and ensuring that unique personal data is stored for every ticket purchased is a good first step to take. Ticket buyers with QR codes and Bar codes that need to be scanned at entry can be cross referenced and verified by organisers to ensure the ticket holder is the same person that purchased it. This prevents ticketholders who purchased their ticket on the secondary market from gaining entry. Requesting evidence of a person's identity at an entrance gate can also be used as an additional check.

Selling music festival tickets at a profit is still not illegal in the UK (as it is in other European countries) and it is only the practice of using electronic means to make bulk purchases that can lead to a conviction. It therefore means that the onus falls on festival organisers and ticketing companies to manage their ticket sales processes to fight the professional ticket touts. 

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Andy Robertson
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