They keep going on about this topic, but here’s the latest wannabe pop star trying to make a name for himself by jumping on the band wagon and trying to ban gig ticket reselling.
A bit of history. The first band I ever saw live was Horslips, circa 1977 or 1978. I found out about the tour in Sounds, one of the best music newspapers of all time, and wrote away for a ticket with a postal order enclosed (I didn’t have a credit card back then). Kids today haven’t got a clue what it was like before the internet – the only way you could hear music was by buying a record, and the only way you heard about developments was through printed media (or decent music shows on TV, of which there were a few at that time). The ticket arrived, but being a naïve teenager It wasn’t until I arrived at the Birmingham Hippodrome that cold winter evening in January or February that I discovered I was on the front row. Considering the Hippodrome’s curved layout meant that there were only about a dozen front row seats – and that the show was sold out – I’d obviously got a good deal. And this was through a postal application, remember.
At the same time, I was also a Rush fan. In those days, Rush filled places like the New Bingley Hall in Stafford, which was all standing (it was a cattle auction shed during the day, I believe). Rush were my second live band, and even back then I used to go to every show they performed at the New Bingley (I think I remember a three-nighter on one occasion). Those hot, sweaty gigs with everyone packed in like sardines and jumping around to the music are something I’ll never forget. It was a great venue, and as long as you got there sensibly early, being near the front was no problem at all.
Jumping to the 80s and Rush started filling big arenas. I’d go to all the Birmingham NEC and London Wembley shows, and by then I was booking tickets over the phone (there was still no internet). Throughout those 80s arena tours, I’d either be in oxygen mask territory up the side, or on the floor about 30 rows back (on one notable occasion I’d drunk about four litres of Stella prior to a gig and can barely remember it). Even in the 80s there were plenty of “my girlfriend wants to see better and I’m hoping to have sex later, so she can sit on my shoulders – and f—k the 2,000 people behind me” types, not to mention the fact that almost everyone smoked (and not just tobacco). It’s only now, with hindsight, that I can analyse it this way. At the time it was just the way it was. Or so I thought.
For various reasons, Rush didn’t tour in the UK for 11 years from the early 90s until their comeback in 2004. When that tour was announced, I was on the phone at 9am the instant tickets went on sale. The ones I got for both nights at Wembley Arena were right at the back in the top corner, and the bloody place is longer than a football pitch which meant I was going to be a long way from the stage. When I queried this with the woman on the phone, pointing out that I must have been one of the first few dozen callers, she just said “tickets go out to the agents first”. I never found out precisely what that meant.
When I turned up for that first night at Wembley and was walking from the car park to the arena, there were the usual touts with their spiel. I’d always assumed touts were scammers selling bogus tickets, so I can’t now explain why – when one of them uttered those immortal words “anyone need tickets” as I passed – I said “what have you got, mate?” To cut to the chase, I paid him £70 for a £39.95 ticket and ended up a mere nine rows from the front!
I will declare right now that on that night – 8 September 2004, at approximately 7.00pm when I got to my seat – I experienced what can only be described as an epiphany. I said to myself: “what the f—k have you been doing all these years?” So, the next night at Wembley I walked straight up to the first tout I saw and asked him what he’d got. Same price, and this time I was only five rows back!
I kept in touch with that second one, who runs a ticket agency, and he got me even better tickets for Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow on that R30 tour. For all subsequent Rush tours (and a few other gigs), I just phoned him up, told him to do the bizzo (first five rows, centre stage if possible, not up the sides), and he came through. He’s only ever let me down once, and that was with a London O2 Rush gig, though he made amends on the next tour at the O2 with second row tickets.
More recently, he got me a ticket for Ritchie Blackmore at the Birmingham Arena. This gig – the only one in the UK – sold out in approximately 15 minutes. The ticket he’d got me made my eyes water when he first told me about it – the ones I’d been looking at had face values of around £60, but this one’s was £185. It turned out to be a VIP ticket with special parking and a meal thrown in. And it was on the second row! All things considered – and I could have simply said “no thanks” – the £360 I paid was an absolute bargain.
The nearly-a-popstar in the BBC article says:
They’re [ticket touts] making money out of real genuine fans of music.
Actually, that’s not correct. For a start off, the official beef is with online ticket sellers who often don’t come up with the goods (it’s the fact that they often don’t which caused the original uproar that this latest moan fest comes from). Furthermore, the vast majority of people who go to see most bands are not “genuine” music fans at all, and they’re certainly not serious fans of the artists in question. Ticket sales are frequently (and, I suspect, deliberately) directly influenced by publicity stunts – of which laying into secondary ticket selling is a good example. Real music fans don’t want to be stuck a quarter of a mile away from the stage at an altitude where breathing is difficult.
They don’t want to be behind several thousand arseholes with their girlfriends on their shoulders, or who stand for a solid hour and a half videoing the entire show on their bloody iPhones (one prick at Rock City a few years ago was doing it with a sodding iPad), or taking selfies and talking loudly the whole time with hardly a glance at the stage. Real music fans don’t get good seats at the expense of someone more deserving, and then leave 20 minutes before the end “to beat the rush”. Slightly more controversial, real music fans don’t take their bloody 7 year old kids to a gig, and then let them keep “going to the toilet” every 15 minutes because – like most 7 year olds – they’ve got the attention spans of gnats, and would much rather be running aimlessly around somewhere unfamiliar getting on everyone else’s nerves than sitting still listening to music for anywhere between 90 minutes and (in the case of Rush) three hours. And real music fans don’t go to gigs solely because they saw the act in question on Later… with Jools Holland and decided they were now hardcore groupies.
The bottom line is simply this. If I – or anyone else – who actually IS a genuine fan is prepared to pay to get around all that shit, why shouldn’t I be allowed to?
Incidentally, when The Darkness were an up-and-coming band the first time around, I was planning on going to see them at Rock City in Nottingham. Then, disaster struck. The Sun did a big spread on them the week before tickets went on sale, and they sold out in under 10 minutes. I’ve seen them a few times since – but I bet very few of the people who bought tickets to that Nottingham show ever have.