Can We Fight Back Against The Robot Touts Ruining Live Music?

06/09/2016 15:10 | Updated 06 September 2016

I spent this weekend in a field enjoying Brian Wilson and Suede roll out their nostalgia filled hits. It rained (of course), beer was a little over priced, and as is more common now, small children rode their parents' shoulders. All in all a very British festival, albeit one for middle aged, middle class, Remainers (it was Brighton after all).

The one difference, and it was a pleasant absence, was the complete lack of touts. Not one person asked me if I had spare tickets or if I needed tickets. An example of a clamp down on these for-profit resellers? I doubt it. If anything it's just a sign the touts are now online-first; building a black market empire at the expense of everyday music fans.

Of course touts pushing up the price of resale tickets is nothing new. They've always seemed to get their hands on "spares". The difference is the scale of the operation, and the effect it's having on the budget of gig goers.

Ticket prices for gigs and festivals are already hugely inflated thanks to falling revenues from albums (that's a rant for another time), but it's becoming near impossible to see popular shows at face value.

I used to pride myself on always being ready and able to buy a hot ticket, poised to click at 9am. Now, massive venues such as Alexandra Palace are sold out within minutes, and tickets appear moments later on resale sites such as Seatwave at hugely inflated prices. Anti-tout campaigners say Internet "bots" are being used to mass purchase tickets as soon as they go on sale. Thousands of tickets can be bought in minutes, leaving you and I out of luck.

It's a far cry from people buying the odd extra ticket to sell on eBay to make a little extra cash. It's mass scale, and hugely profitable. Worse still, you never really know if a resold ticket is legitimate.

And the problem might not just be with tech savvy touts. There were allegations this year that promoters were deliberately syphoning batches of tickets to the resale sites to boost profits. The Guardian reported of Ticketmaster insiders working with resellers and taking a cut of the profits. In fact Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster, also owns Get Me In and Seatwave.

So what can be done about it? In recent months Which? have campaigned against inflated resale prices and an industry and fan initiative called FanFair Alliance has launched.

Despite the good and welcome intentions of these groups, nothing will change until we get legislation to stop these shady practices, and help music fans buy tickets at reasonable prices.

A government report in the summer agreed with this, but only offered suggestions rather than hard action - which is what we need.

So while we wait, what can gig-goers do to fight back?

In the MySpace era, my friend and I set up the "Indie Exchange", our attempt to create a face-value swap shop for spare tickets. Our lack of web expertise meant it didn't take off, and slowly disappeared along with MySpace. Fortunately, 10 years on there are similar (and more successful) initiatives.

Twickets began life on Twitter, but now has an app where you list and buy unneeded tickets. I used this a few months ago to sell a spare ticket to a Beck concert. I lost just a few quid from what I paid and the ticket ended up in a real fan's hands, cutting out the inflated selling prices (and deflated buying prices) if the transaction has been via a tout. is another fan resale site worth bookmarking, while some bands are hoping to reach more fans by selling direct via their websites or the Dice app.

However, these sites don't help you if you can't get a ticket in the first place. Despite the bots, my old tricks can still work: making sure you're logged in before tickets go on sale will save valuable minutes; if there are multiple dates, go first for the less popular mid-week show; and go for mid-priced tickets rather than cheapest. I subscribe to a daily newsletter from for advance sale info. Even better, join the fan club or find a mate with O2 Priority to get your hands on pre-sale tickets.

The best thing you can do though is refuse to use the touts, both online and outside the venue. Don't buy from them, don't sell to them. It might not make a huge difference, but at least you'll know you're not part of the problem.

Follow Andy Webb at and read more on his blog Be Clever With Your Cash.