Insight: There could be a no Sting if you book through secondary ticket platforms- only buy tickets through the designated ticket platform

How much will you pay for a concert ticket and how do you know that your ticket is legit and will scan at the venue? When bookings opened recently, for Sting’s South African tour [Sting: My Songs World Tour], in February next year [2023], tickets rapidly sold out for the two Cape Town concerts. There are some tickets available for other venues. Many fans sat at their devices, ready to book but without success. But, hey presto, when they tried again, by typing “Sting South Africa”, into the search bar, they were offered seats for the tour on secondary ticket/on-seller ticket platforms: At eye watering prices, but hey, it’s cheaper than buying a ticket to London.  So what, if the price is way above the listed prices on Ticketmaster, the designated and official seller for Sting, authorised by Big Concerts, the tour promoter and producer? Okay, you may be reading this and saying, well, I am cool with paying inflated rates because I really want to see Sting. Listen up, Big Concerts’ CEO Justin van Wyk says that Big Concerts will only accept tickets issued by Ticketmaster. Ticket holders, from other platforms, will be refused entry at venues.

Secondary ticket sellers/on-seller platforms

The issue of secondary ticket selling is a tricky and global issue. As far as I was aware, in South Africa, it is not illegal to offer tickets for resale on a secondary ticket site, although it is illegal to make fraudulent claims – that a concert is sold out – when it is not. Justin van Wyk states the view of Big Concerts, very clearly. Big Concerts will not accept tickets, bought via other vendors: If it is not a barcoded Ticketmaster ticket, then no entry. Van Wyk explains: “There are real world consequences for public safety at venues when people arrive with tickets that have been purchased from secondary ticketing platforms, which in many instances, are not legitimate. This is why it is a criminal offence, under the Safety at Sports & Recreational Events Act of 2010, to resell tickets and purchase resold tickets from secondary ticketing platforms, such as Viagogo, without the written approval of an Event Organiser and/or Venue.” 

I looked it up.  Section 5 (2) of the SASREA Act is explicit.  If you buy tickets with the commercial purpose of selling them, you had better make sure the event organiser has authorised it. If not, it’s a criminal offence.  

And clearly neither Ticketmaster nor Big Concerts have given resellers that authorisation. 

Read the T&Cs when booking

Consumers should read the T&Cs when booking ticket for any event. Van Wyk: “Ticketmaster’s Purchase Policy and Big Concerts Terms & Conditions prohibits the reselling of tickets, and doing so may lead to the cancellation of that ticket without liability to offer a refund and without notice to the purchaser (and secondary purchaser) and may result in you being denied entry to the venue.”  

Digital tickets – screenshots not accepted

It is not like the old days, where one could wave a ticket at an usher at the entrance. Justin van Wyk: “All of our tickets are 100% digital. There are no physical or electronic tickets. Digital tickets will be only available 30 days before the event through the Ticketmaster app or mobile website, and can only be distributed through the Ticket Transfer process that Ticketmaster offers. Screenshots of digital tickets are not valid for entry to the venue.  We encourage fans not to purchase tickets from secondary ticketing platforms, and to immediately seek a chargeback through their bank if they have purchased tickets from secondary ticketing platforms for any of our events.”

Ticket transfer – must be validated

Okay, you were on it fast and got four genuine tickets to Sting.  For whatever reason, oh no, something has come up and you cannot use them.  What a bummer.  Can you pass them on?  Yes, but do it the proper way.   You have to go onto Ticketmaster and plug in the change of names – transferring the tickets from your name to the other party.  But it is not for the purposes of scalping: Van Wyk:  “The ticket transfer functionality is aimed at fans wanting to transfer tickets to friends and family.” What about payment for those seats? You have paid x for them and want your son, aunt or friend to reimburse you? Van Wyk:  “Whether there is a transaction between the individuals or not we cannot know, but reselling tickets for commercial purposes is not permitted.”

Don’t get cancelled

Bottom line: If you cannot use your tickets, transfer them to friends and family, no problem. Gift the tickets or get paid what you paid. If you try and profit and someone dobs you in, and this comes to the attention of Big Concerts, then you may have those tickets cancelled. Van Wyk: “We may cancel your tickets without a refund and without notice to you if you resell tickets, and there are numerous ways and means for us to determine if someone is purchasing tickets to resell or purchasing as a legitimate fan. You cannot screenshot a digital ticket and send it to someone else, it does not scan and is not valid for entry into the venue.”

Viagogo are not the only secondary ticket sites, so be aware: There’s also StubHub, Seatgeek, Ticket Liquidator, and others.  Two key points to note:  First, many of these sites are not actually selling you a ticket – they are facilitating a deal between you (the buyer), and someone else who bought the tickets to start with.  If something goes wrong, you usually have almost no recourse against the website.  After all, they are simply helping buyers and sellers connect. And good luck getting money back from the seller.  Second, if the event gets cancelled, you may have a tough time getting your money back.  So if you bought genuine Justin Bieber tickets (also Big Concerts), you’ll be okay.  But if you bought them on a secondary site, you might not be so lucky.

Don’t get stung.  Do your homework.  If the show is sold out, but you’re on a website offering you front row tickets – stop, think, and decide:  if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. 

✳Featured image: Elton JohnFarewell Yellow Brick Road, Chase Center, San Francisco September 2019. Pic: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.