Fraudsters Strike As V Pulls 160,000

Hundreds of music fans were left furious after being conned by a rogue online trader that failed to deliver tickets for the U.K.’s V Festivals August 16-17.

Although 160,000 fans made it to the twinned events at Chelmsford, Essex, and Weston Park, Staffordshire, as many as 800 may have been victims of a scam by a company called SOS Master Tickets agency. The twinned event is one of the U.K.’s biggest outdoor gatherings.

In some cases, SOS promised to deliver tickets personally to the festival gate, but company reps didn’t turn up and hundreds of fans were left stranded with no way of getting in.

Some festivalgoers at Chelmsford were told to collect their tickets from a man called Richard, while those at Weston Park were told to meet Jay.

Bob Angus of Metropolis Music, who runs the Chelmsford leg of the festivals, immediately issued another of his oft-repeated warnings about the dangers of buying tickets from secondary outlets.

“As concert promoters we urge the public not to get tickets from these secondary ticket outlets, whether that be unofficial ticket outlets or through auction sites, as it could well lead to disappointment,” he told BBC News.

“We’re sorry for those who may have been let down from certain sites and recommend checking if it’s an official site on in future.”

SOS has since sent out a letter directing fans to apply to a Spanish address to claim a full refund and compensation, but the company’s Web site is no longer online and is now the subject of an inquiry by Islington Council’s trading standards department.

The company is registered as being based at a residential address in the north London borough.

Graham Burns, chairman of the Association of Secondary Ticket Agencies, said fans had clearly been victims of a “rip-off” and the fallout has been “quite spectacular.”

The worst may be yet to come. SOS is also believed to have taken fans’ ticket money for concerts including Madonna and George Michael, as well as the Reading-Leeds festival weekend at the end of the month.

Many of those who shelled out money but gave up on getting their tickets are already claiming refunds from their credit card issuers.

As for the V Festivals themselves, Angus told Pollstar he’s very happy with the new layout at Chelmsford, which involved switching the main and second stages and moving the huge tented stage to an adjoining part of Hyland Park that was unused.

“It generally opened up the site really well and I think it made it much easier to move around,” he said.

There were 77,500 fans in the park and huge crowds for Muse, Kaiser Chiefs, Kings Of Leon, The Verve and Amy Winehouse, who was billed in 2007 but failed to show.

Gusting winds made sound mixing difficult during her late-afternoon set and at times she looked more than a little uncomfortable on stage.

Fans who saw the Essex show wouldn’t have been surprised that she was back in East Anglia a few days later, reportedly checking into a rehab clinic in Bury St. Edmunds in the neighbouring county of Suffolk.

MCD’s Denis Desmond, who owns the V festivals with Metropolis and SJM Concerts, which promotes the Staffordshire version of the event, told Pollstar the general reaction to the new configuration at Chelmsford was very positive.

So was the attitude of the 85,000 fans in Staffordshire who endured four hours of torrential rain on the first day.

Desmond, who spent Saturday at Chelmsford and Sunday at Weston Park, said it didn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm for what many reviewers are describing as one of V’s best lineups.

The 162,000 or so who had no trouble getting in saw a bill that also included Lenny Kravitz, The Prodigy, Amy Macdonald, Newton Faulkner, Guillemots, Duffy and Alanis Morissette.