Another Tout Bites The Dust

The crash of London Ticket Shop shows the fallacy of the government select committee’s position on the secondary market, according to former National Arenas’ Association chairman Peter Tudor.

"Self-regulation is all well and good for those companies operating transparently, but not for those parasitic individuals who really don’t care how much or how badly they are ripping off the fans," he told Pollstar a couple of days after a February 5 High Court’s decision to place the companies trading as London Ticket Shop and London Ticket Market in the hands of an official receiver.

Tudor, who is GM of London’s Wembley Arena and a firm believer that the secondary market should be outlawed, feels the select committee should at least have recommended legislation against Internet ticket sites that seemingly spring up overnight and then go bust owing the punters thousands of pounds.

"For Michael Bublé’s December sellout we had a steady trail of customers all day that had not received their tickets from London Ticket Shop," he explained. "Some people thought they were to collect them from the box office, but we obviously weren’t holding them here. The prices that they’d paid LTS ranged from £65 to £175 per ticket, while the face value was £40.

"The LTS customers said they’d been unable to contact the company, so were left without tickets. Some left the venue disappointed and some stood outside just in case we got returns.

"We had a group of about 25 people waiting for any returns. Some had traveled from Spain. One guy had come from Manchester and paid £150 for his ticket via debit card, so he was fretting that he wouldn’t get any money back."

So far the official receiver hasn’t recovered any tickets and is asking anyone who has bought but not received tickets from London Ticket Shop or London Ticket Market to send full details of the transaction to [email protected].

Geoff Ellis from Scotland’s DF Concerts, who has helped lead the U.K. concert promoters’ fight for a law to regulate the secondary market, was equally scathing about the select committee’s recommendation that the industry polices itself.

On London Ticket Shop’s demise, he said, "I’m glad to see the back of them but they will no doubt re-emerge as something else, as most of the similar tout sites have done in the past.

"I’ll be interested to hear the government’s response. Presumably it thinks it’s in the public interest for these sites to exist and then go under leaving the public disappointed and out of pocket, although I don’t remember seeing that in its last election manifesto."

Geoff Huckstep, who succeeded Tudor as chairman of the NAA two years ago, says the select committee’s recommendation that the secondary market self-regulates isn’t practical as has no realistic chance of ever happening.

"The MP’s are totally missing the point that if they [the secondary touts] self regulate it will formalise their arrangements, and thus they would have to register for VAT, PRS and inform the Inland Revenue of the income they are generating through this very lucrative business. It would be like turkeys voting for Christmas", the Nottingham Arena chief exec explained.

"Having read the report in full, I am astounded there is scant reference to the trauma suffered by fans who have been let down by these so called secondary agents.

"Each arena within the NAA has its own stories to tell of customers having paid for the ticket, usually by credit card, discovering the seller has not turned up or the ‘front row seat’ is in Block 15 row Z. Or the ticket, if they actually have one, turns out to be a forgery".

The news that the companies have been forced into receivership came as the BBC was believed to be examining their connection to infamous ticket tout Michael Rangos.

Rangos, who has been regularly on consumer programmes including "Watchdog" and was due to be the subject of an expose by BBC’s regional Three Counties Radio, was formerly head of GetMeTickets, which was shut down by the government two years ago.

The Companies Investigation Branch (CIB) of the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) raided GetMeTickets’ London offices, seized assets and company records and shut the business down because CIB determined it wasn’t in the public interest for the company to continue trading.

The CIB only takes such measures when it feels there’s a real danger that assets will disappear or that members of the public are suffering to such an extent that urgent action is required.

In May 2006 Ticket Tout managing director Caroline Beale threatened Pollstar with legal action over questions linking Rangos to her company. She’d previously been employed by GetMeTickets and had founded Ticket Tout just days after that company had collapsed.

Having traded on the secondary market for a little more than a year, last March Ticket Tout tanked with debts of about £1.5 million.

"We’re receiving information and looking at any possible connections [with Rangos], although what we have at the moment is hearsay rather than hard and fast," GetMeTickets receiver Lane Bednash told Pollstar at the time.

"I was only appointed as administrator a week ago, but even in that short time I’d have to say that I’ve never seen a business in so much need of regulation," he added, revealing that Ticket Tout’s collapse had left about 6,500 music fans with losses averaging £200 apiece.

He said he hoped Ticket Tout’s bankruptcy would help persuade then culture secretary Tessa Jowell to introduce laws to curb the secondary market.

Regardless of whether any legal connection exists between Ticket Tout Ltd. and GetMeTickets, a connection between Ticket Tout and the now-bankrupt London Ticket Market has been in evidence for more than six months.

The latter’s Web site began by stating, "Ticket Tout Ltd trading as," before listing the conditions under which it does business.

Both sites used the same contact telephone number and both are registered to companies giving their postal addresses as Ermis House, 5th Floor, Office 502, PC 1096, Nicosia, Cyprus.

Last June, questions e-mailed to the addresses given on the companies’ respective Web sites failed to draw any response and Pollstar notified the DTI of its findings.

Amy A No-Show For Grammys

Amy Winehouse was finally successful in her appeal for a U.S. visa but the news didn’t come in time for her to sing in person at the Grammys. However, she did perform via satellite.

It seems there must have been a few comings and goings between Winehouse’s lawyers and London’s American Embassy during February 8, as the first stories broke that she’d been turned down for a visa and the U.S. authorities wouldn’t be letting her into the country.

She’d been invited to sing at the ceremony, which took place in Los Angeles February 10.

"Unfortunately, her application for a visa has been rejected at this time by the American Embassy. Amy has been progressing well since entering a rehabilitation clinic two weeks ago and, although disappointed with the decision, has accepted the ruling and will be concentrating on her recovery," read a press statement from The Outside Organisation.

However, a few hours later, things had changed, with a second statement from the London-based PR company saying, "Following further discussions involving the U.S. Embassy in London and officials in the United States, Amy Winehouse has been granted a visa to enter the United States of America.

"Unfortunately, due to the logistics involved and timing complications, Amy will not be coming to the U.S. this weekend to perform at the Grammys in Los Angeles; however she will still be performing via satellite broadcast from London as previously announced this morning."

Winehouse canceled last year’s U.S. tour because of her health problems. After being arrested and fined for cannabis possession in Norway, she made a personal appeal to be allowed a visa.

The controversial singer, who was nominated in six Grammy categories and won five, has been undergoing rehab since The Sun ran a front-page photo of her apparently smoking crack cocaine.

The same paper claimed she was turned down for the visa because she took and failed a drug test at the London embassy, although the story wasn’t corroborated and now seems unlikely in view of ensuing events.

The video film from which the Sun’s front-page still was taken has been on the Internet and Winehouse has subsequently faced police questioning about the incident but wasn’t arrested.

Winehouse husband Blake Fielder-Civil is in prison awaiting trial for trying to pervert the course of justice. In December the increasingly erratic singer was arrested and questioned in connection with the same alleged offense, although she was released without charge.

Apart from her U.S. tour, she canceled all the U.K. arena shows she had booked at the end of 2007, blaming the stress caused by Fielder-Civil’s legal problems. The case is pencilled for June.

Winehouse’s career has been on the up since Back to Black, her Brit-winning second album, sold more than 3.3 million copies worldwide.