Secondary Ticketing Still Topical

This year’s International Live Music Conference had a new opening session to replace Carl-Leighton-Pope’s Talking Shop, and it was hardly IQ editor Greg Parmley’s fault it often sort of morphed into yet another debate on secondary ticketing.

In fact it wasn’t so much a debate as a series of derogatory remarks that Muse manager Anthony Addis aimed at Live Nation international chief ops officer Paul Latham, who tried to make light of his company continually being cast in the role of the pantomime villain.

Addis appeared to be suggesting the merged Live Nation-Ticketmaster is making money by putting inventory straight onto its secondary site, which Latham denied and shrugged off in the manner of someone who’s heard it all before.

In the lead up to the merger, Latham was instrumental in convincing the UK’s Competition Commission that the merged company wouldn’t have a stranglehold on the British live music business.

“I spent so long in there that I got invited to the staff dance,” he joked. Perhaps he wasn’t joking. Either way, it was still funny.

The Agency Group chief Neil Warnock looked to have spared delegates all this by saying that, so far, the merger hadn’t made any difference to his company.

But Addis had already taken up the role of antagonist, presumably to force Latham onto the back foot.

What was intended to be a review of “the key stories from the previous 12 months in the live music world” was turning into the Muse manager’s take on what’s been happening for the last three or four years.

It could hardly have been what Parmley intended. He’d at least had the bottle to get into Leighton-Pope’s hot seat and made every effort to see that ILMC looks for what the conference guide described as “fresh ways to keep you interested and entertained.”

The start of the session was so packed that about 30 delegates had to sit in the lobby outside and watch it on a screen, although quite a few seats were empty by the end.

It must be hard to hold the attention of hundreds of people who regularly do business but only meet face-to-face once a year.

The constant stream of taxis either picking up or dropping off delegates at The Royal Garden Hotel March 11-13 demonstrated how many delegates use ILMC as a platform for doing business in London. Everyone has meetings.

The following day there was the official panel on secondary ticketing and Kilimanjaro chief Stuart Galbraith also had bottle to chair it. Two years ago, the last time secondary ticketing was officially on the agenda, the panelists were threatening violence against each other. And that was before the session started.

Once Galbraith got that session going, things got better. It’s hard to imagine they could have gotten worse.

This year’s panel was very instructive as it revealed the technological methods being used to thwart the touts. A few days after ILMC, 7 million Olympics tickets with a collective face value of £500 million were put on sale.

The session also touched on the main concern the music industry faces. Nobody is confident that their business model will remain the same – or even exist – in a couple of years.

Radiohead has sold albums through its website. Mumford & Sons has just controlled the ticketing for its recent tour. More bands look to be creating what are effectively their own 360-degree, independent operations.

The parameters regarding who does what in the live music business will be further blurred if acts start hiring halls, routing their tours and promoting their own shows.

The secondary ticketing arguments are unlikely to go away. Some acts are very much against the secondary market while others are happy to make more money by putting some of the inventory straight onto resell sites.

Other items on the agenda included a production meeting that focused on last year’s Love Parade, where 21 people died in a crowd crush, plus sessions on summer festivals, the proposed increase in the UK’s PRS rates and the regular panels about booking agents and the world’s developing markets.