Sheeran and his promotion company Kilimanjaro Live have been at the forefront of a battle with resale platforms such as Viagogo, which are used by touts to sell tickets for popular gigs, often at vast mark-ups.But concertgoers have complained that the methods used by the singer-songwriter’s team to combat touts ended up hurting innocent fans.
Sheeran devotees who bought tickets, but later found they could not attend the gig, were permitted to use so-called “fan-to-fan” resale sites that allow users to sell to one another. For the Divide tour, prices were set at the face value of the ticket plus a 10% “resale fee”, in an apparent effort to provide an alternative to sites such as StubHub and Viagogo, which have been criticised for exploiting music lovers.
But angry fans said they were unable to offload tickets on the platforms authorised for Sheeran’s concerts because seats were still available at face value up until the day of the event. This meant that last-minute buyers snapped up those face value tickets, rather than pay a 10% premium to buy the ones listed by fans unable to attend.
The outcome appears to be at odds with advice issued to event organisers earlier this year by the Competition and Markets Authority, the consumer watchdog. It said promoters and venues should either offer a full refund to ticket buyers who cannot attend an event, or provide arrangements that allow them to “recoup or substantially reduce any direct financial loss”.
George Fox, a 20-year-old student, told the Guardian that he offered to help a family member offload four tickets to see Sheeran in Leeds, because the gig clashed with a holiday. He says he was left nursing a loss of £340.
“It [price restrictions] meant I was unable to sell the tickets or recoup any money with the price being locked […] because why would anybody buy tickets for face value plus 10% when face value tickets exist?
“That meant Ed’s team selling more [of their own tickets] as nobody could buy off anybody else who couldn’t go. Thousands went to waste, to their advantage, whether intentional or not.”
Several other fans complained of resale restrictions, via Twitter.
A spokesperson for Kilimanjaro Live said: “From the outset we have tried to find a way to be fair to fans, to facilitate the ethical resale of tickets and to leave as many fans as happy as possible whilst preventing the daily horror stories of them being ripped off by ticket touts profiting from the panic to get a ticket to see Ed. We have undoubtedly had a huge impact here.
“Whilst we understand the frustration of someone who is unable to resell and wants to drop the price accordingly to give themselves a better chance of recouping some of their money, unfortunately this throws up more questions than answers.”
Kilimanjaro Live said it did not want to allow ticket owners to cut the price of their tickets below face value, because consumers who had paid full price would end up feeling ripped off.
But the promotion company did not explain why sellers were not permitted to sell tickets at exactly face value, or sell them back to the box office.
“An Ed Sheeran ticket on this tour costs around £85 to £90, and that’s a price point that we have set all along – and one that industry stats suggest as being of really good value for the size of venue on this tour,” said a spokesperson.