Schueremans Hopes For New Ticket Deal

Live Nation Belgium head promoter Herman Schueremans is hoping to extend the agreement he has with the national government to stamp out ticket touts.

Although the deal, which was struck immediately after ILMC 2006 and is up for review at the end of the year, is really no more than a handshake, Schueremans said he’ll fight to continue it because LN Belgium is having success with it.

With the support of Tele Ticket Service, one of the top two box office agencies in Belgium, Schueremans and fellow LN director Yo Van Saet persuaded then-Belgian economy minister Marc Verwilghen to back their plan.

It called for limiting ticket sales to four per person, not allowing tickets to be sold to third parties without the permission of the event organiser and invalidating any tickets known to be resold without consent.

Schueremans, who is also a politician, admitted that being in the same Vlaamse Liberalen & Democraten (VLD) party as Verwilghen helped him lobby the minister “until he started to listen,” but said he feels the agreement proved its worth in very high-profile ways within its first year.

It was most noticeable when it enabled Van Saet and Stefan Esselens of Antwerp-based Tele Ticket Service, which sells 2.5 million tickets a year, to squeeze some touts so hard that they handed out cash refunds outside a Shakira show at Antwerp Sportpaleis.

“It gave us fantastic job satisfaction,” Schueremans told Pollstar, recalling the day Dutch Internet tout arranged for fans who paid substantially more than face value to pick up the balance in cash as they walked into the venue.
After linking the Web tout with its network of paid suppliers, Esselens warned the Groningen-based Budgetticket that its customers wouldn’t get through the door unless they were the original purchaser.

He also sent a letter to the Dutch company’s team of ticket buyers, outlining the action he and Live Nation were taking.
Apparently fearing a media backlash or the possibility of being sued by disgruntled punters, Budgetticket agreed to Esselens’ proposal that its customers would be allowed in as long as the Dutch tout paid back the difference between its price and face value.

Along with, another site targeted by the Van Saet and Tele Ticket Service pincer movement, the Dutch Internet secondary market trader agreed to stop selling Live Nation Belgium’s tickets.

Schueremans, who is also the VLD MP for the Vlaams Brabant region in the Flemish parliament, said he’s fortunate to have sympathetic government ministers, particularly when considering the situation in the U.K.

“I saw the stories about all these people being ripped off because they bought their tickets for George Michael, the V Festivals and other big events from the wrong sources” he said. “Whatever some individuals may say, the U.K. government didn’t do what it had to do.

“I think it looks at the industry as a milk cow that produces tax revenues, but it didn’t take the chance to protect the fans – who are the consumers that create the revenues – when it could have done so,” he added.

He said he believes the U.K. government’s laissez-faire policy will blow up in its face when thousands of tickets for its “crown jewel” events, which include big events like Live Aid and the 2012 Olympic Games, suddenly start appearing on hundreds of secondary Web sites.

These events are considered to be of “such national importance” that the British government won’t allow secondary sites to resell their tickets.

Schueremans also believes the deal with his government, which Belgian media described as “a gentleman’s agreement,” has received so much coverage that it’s helped educate fans to be more careful when buying tickets.

The deal is still serving Live Nation well, as Van Saet used it in August to stop three sites selling tickets for a 2009 U2 tour that’s yet to be booked, let alone confirmed. She notified the Ministry Of Economic Affairs and Cel Internet, which designed the touts’ Web pages, and the U2 ticket ads soon disappeared.

The tickets were offered for a minimum price of £250 ($442), nearly four times the price of the best seats when U2 visited Belgium in June 2005.

The Internet sites Van Saet had to chase included, and, which appears to have ducked out of its promise to stop selling tickets for LN shows.

Schueremans and Van Saet said that alone indicates that they still have a lot of work to do.

Because of recent changes in the Belgian administration, Schueremans now needs to negotiate with at least a couple of government departments to renew the agreement.

He’s reasonably confident of getting a result because one of them is run by Vincent Van Quickenborne, whose rapid rise through Belgian politics has earned him the nickname “Mister Q.”

Van Quickenborne’s role requires him to report directly to Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme. Schueremans, knowing Van Quickenborne is a big music fan, believes they’ll be able to have a productive dialogue.

Their first meeting is being scheduled to take place in the minister’s cabinet rooms at the end of the month.