The FanFair Alliance has published new research into secondary ticketing platforms paying for prominent placement on search engines and potentially directing audiences away from authorised ticket sellers.
The research investigates the online marketing practices of platforms such as Viagogo, StubHub and Get Me In! and suggests they could be misleading ticket buyers.
Investigating ticket sales for 100 upcoming UK tours – by a group of artists including Metallica, Cliff Richard, Lulu and Run The Jewels – The FanFair Alliance discovered that a secondary ticketing website had paid to top Google rankings on 77% of occasions.
The FanFair Alliance found that only six of these 100 tours were sold out, with the majority still having face value tickets available via primary sellers.
It also revealed that 94% of Google searches for tickets featured a secondary ticketing platform in the top two results.
Viagogo topped search rankings 65 times for these 100 tours and presented itself on Google as an ’Official Site’. In March, the controversial Switzerland-headquartered secondary ticketing firm was called to give evidence at this morning's hearing in the House Of Commons, but did not send representation.
The FanFair Alliance previously investigated 33 UK music festivals, with ticket searches for events including the Proms, the Eden Sessions, SW4, Cambridge Folk Festival, Kendal Calling and Secret Garden Party.
Of these 33 events - of which six were sold out - a secondary site had paid to top Google search on 17 occasions. Secondary sites were among the top 2 search results on 91% of occasions.
In a statement, the organisation said: “The reason that Viagogo and other secondary sites can manipulate Google search in this way is simple - it’s because they can afford to. Their business model is practically risk-free and their service fees are typically set at around 20%-30% of the resale price. As a result, when purchasing AdWords they can outbid authorised ticket sellers whose charges are significantly less.
“FanFair has brought these practices to the attention of regulators and Google itself, but until action is taken we strongly recommend that would-be ticket buyers give search engines a swerve and check first with the artist or festival website.”
Gigantic founder, Mark Gasson, profiled recently in Music Week, said: "This research proves how secondary ticketing platforms manipulate search results and mislead the casual ticket buyer into often paying inflated prices for tickets. Not only that, these customers end up having less money left in their budget for other events too. Preventing these secondary ticketing firms from listing on search engines in this way will serve to protect customers from overpaying for tickets and is more sustainable in the longer term as it allows more artists to enjoy the support of more of their fans."
Jon Walsh, director, Kambe Events, commented: "Dealing with customers who have been duped into buying tickets through secondary agents is one of the worst issues we have to deal with. In a recent example an individual purchased 4 tickets to one of our events through Viagogo. The customer believed they were buying from our ticket agent due to the positioning and representation of Viagogo on Google. Not only did the customer pay over £1600, twice our top tier ticket price at a time, but tickets were still available. They were distraught when they realised we could not guarantee the tickets.
“In these increasingly more common scenarios it is only ever the customer and organisers that lose out, as the secondary ticket agents prey on people who have worked hard to attend events. Furthermore, whenever customers have contacted us in such circumstances the common denominator is always the complete lack of customer support and care from secondary agents, leaving the organiser to deal with the fallout.”
The FanFair Alliance recently published a free online guide called Tips For Beating The Touts When Buying Music Tickets Online.