Tory MP: Ticket touting an “excellent example of enterprise culture”

This post was written by Reuben Bard-Rosenberg on January 22, 2011
Posted Under: Music,Tories

Today in parliament the labour MP Sharon Hodgson brought forward a private members bill aimed at controlling the spiralling problem of ticket touting. If you have sought to by a ticket for a popular music event during the past few years, then you may well have been left reeling with frustration. While there have always been touts flogging tickets outside venues, the problem has assumed a whole new dimension since reselling went online. The best seats to any event will typically go in a flash, only to reappear on ebay or elsewhere  for several hundred pounds. The result, as Sharon Hodgson noted, is that ordinary fans are excluded.

The solutions she put forward were not draconian. Under her proposals, people putting on events could, if they wished, apply for protection from unauthorised resale. If they did, touts would be banned from selling tickets at a mark up of over ten per cent.

If anybody doubts that the Tory Party’s support for free markets is characterised by a certain doctrinaire zealotry, they need only to look at the response from the government benches to this relatively modest proposal. When Hodgson mentioned that tickets for the recent Help or Heroes concert were sold originally for £46, but touted for £106, the Conservative Philip Davies interrupted: “I wonder”, he asked, “who the honourable lady sees as the victim”. After all the organisers had got their £46. His honourable friend Jacob Rees-Mogg then chipped in to have a go at the organisers for not selling tickets “for the market price, which is £106″. The idea that somebody unable to spalsh out three figures might have appreciated the chance to see Robbie Williams or Tom Jones was clearly a non-issue for them.

And so it continued in that vain. Tory MP Sajid Javid rose to tell us what his “constituents might think of this proposal”. “I think” he stated, “they would believe that if they have genuinely and honestly come by a ticket and they wish to sell it, Government should impose no restrictions on what price they can sell it for, and on how they can sell it.” Presumably far more of his constituents are in the business of buying and selling tickets than, say, trying to see their favourite bands once in a while.

Yet perhaps the most illuminating was one Javid’s later comments. As long as tickets were not got hold of fraudulently, he said, then touting tickets for “whatever profit” was “an excellent example of the enterprise culture and of what a classic entrepreneur does”. In a certain sense on cannot argue with him. Ticket touts are handsomely rewarded for producing nothing of any value, and taking few substantial risks on their own account. As such they are indeed very much representative of 21st century British capitalism, dominated as it is by financial institutions deemed too big to fail. The difference with the Conservatives, however, is that (for all their communitarian guff) they consider such activity to be the foundation the Good Society.

Update: Heroes of the hour.

Special praise is due to Tory MP who managed to show up his honourable friends in the debate by demonstrating that the proposed measure is consistent with even a vaguely pragmatic commitment to free markets (see also Will’s comments below).

Special praise is also due to Leonard Cohen. When he performed massively touted and oversubscribed gigs in London a couple of years back he set aside some tickets for diehard fans on the unofficial Leonard Cohen forum, and took steps to ensure they would have first dibs. I have no doubt this was a personal decision by him, rather than the work of a promoter. After discovering the forum and the attached site a few years back, he became a personal friend of  the forum administrator, and even came to meet us forum members when he was in London.

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Reader Comments

Will Brambley

Actually, it’s a zeal for something that isn’t a free market. In a free market, you can choose any feature of a product that you sell. If you want to sell a product that isn’t open for resale, or that is only open to resale under certain conditions, you should be allowed to. Personally I can’t stand when you can’t resell things though, as usually I need to buy them before I know if I’ll be free. But a law that says they can choose to set a limit of 10% higher than face value seems sensible.

Written By Will Brambley on January 22nd, 2011 @ 12:51 am
jonathan colwill

I’ve sold lots of tickets for a profit and had emails of thanks from keen fans in one case who paid me about £500 a ticket above the original price for a very small Springsteen gig and had a great time.
Ive also bought tickets off touts and used them myself and I’m thankful to the honest people who made a profit out of me .
Anyway I’m very much in favor of ticket touting

Written By jonathan colwill on January 22nd, 2011 @ 12:56 am

Will, one Tory MP actually made this point pretty well. After going on about how he was inspired by Keith Joseph he said:

“A performer cannot be in two places at the same time. An imperfect market is then created, and prices rise due to a shortage of supply.

The question is whether intermediaries should be able to take advantage of that imperfection against the wishes of those providing the service. I certainly hope that everyone present in the House today recognises the value of copyright protection to the creative industries. If anyone does not, I suggest that they review the conclusions of the Gowers report, which agrees that intellectual property, and thereby the wishes of the creative person as to how their product is produced, marketed and used, should be protected. The copyright owner should retain control of their product.”

Written By Reuben Bard-Rosenberg on January 22nd, 2011 @ 12:59 am
jonathan colwill

The creative person has sold their product, why should the buyer of that product be stopped from selling it on .
If I buy a book I can sell on that book to someone else if I no longer want it

Written By jonathan colwill on January 22nd, 2011 @ 1:09 am

Reuben, thanks for the Hansard link. The Tory MP makes a load of extremely good points in his full remarks, well worth the read.

Written By AdamP on January 22nd, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

Last year my jaw swelled up like Marlon Brando and I had to have a rather lengthy root canal on an infected tooth. As bad as that was, it did not come close to the pain I felt at seeing Leonard Cohen play live. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, not even his die hard fans.

Written By Salman Shaheen on January 23rd, 2011 @ 1:23 am

‘Ive also bought tickets off touts and used them myself and I’m thankful to the honest people who made a profit out of me’

…or you could just have bought them at face value, but for the fact that touts had bought up a large proportion of the tickets to sell on…

Written By Majeed on January 26th, 2011 @ 9:18 am

Reuben Bard-Rosenberg: “The question is whether intermediaries should be able to take advantage of that imperfection against the wishes of those providing the service.”

If a venue wishes to prevent this, all they have to do is ensure that when you buy the tickets online you give your name, and require people to supply ID at the event.

So there’s no need for any new law.

Written By Phil Hunt on January 31st, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

Bring back paying on the door

Written By CRINDY on February 20th, 2012 @ 7:23 am

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