Are secondary ticket sites ruining live music?
Mumford and Sons - Leeds Festival

Over the past few years, secondary ticket sites have come under fire from artists and fans following a rise in the number of touts using the sites to sell tickets for in-demand shows at sky-high prices.

They make it harder for genuine fans to attend gigs at a time when many believe that ticket prices are already too expensive.

In a recent Which? survey 29% of their members did not understand the difference between primary and secondary ticket companies. So what are these secondary companies, and are they ruining the live music industry?

What are secondary ticket sites?

Bono U2

When artists put on a show, fans buy tickets through authorised ticket sites such as Ticketmaster. But if the tickets are sold out on primary sites, fans are left with no choice but to look to secondary ticket companies such as StubHub and GetMeIn for tickets.

Fans often find that tickets sold on these sites are set at a much higher price. In October last year tickets to U2’s London show were priced at a whopping £3,300 on re-sale sites, despite a face-value figure of £182.

Last year, Which? monitored four major secondary ticket companies, and found that many of the sites were selling tickets before they were even officially released.

Why are people angry about them?

Elton live

As a result, there is a lot of controversy surrounding secondary ticket sites, and many artists have spoken out against them. Sir Elton John has branded them disgraceful and told the BBC that he would “rather have empty seats”.

In November last year, Coldplay and a number of British artist’s managers signed an open letter to the UK government calling for tighter regulations on ticket re-sales. It stated that fans were being “ripped-off by touts, who anonymously exploit fair ticket prices via online ticket marketplaces”.

Some touts have even been accused of using illegal computer systems called ‘botnets’ to buy large batches of tickets immediately after they go on sale. Many believe this is the reason why some gigs sell out in a matter of minutes.

What are the positives?

That said, secondary ticket sites are not all bad – and there are times when they can be useful.

For example, if a fan buys a ticket to a gig and finds they can no longer attend, they can sell their ticket through a secondary company, ensuring their money, and the ticket, is not wasted.

Twickets and Scarletmist are ‘trusted’ resale sites. They offer tickets at face-value, and some artists have urged fans to purchase from these sites instead. So there’s still some good guys around online.

What’s next?

Mumford and Sons - Leeds Festival

Mumford & Sons met with the UK’s Department of Culture, Music and Sport in December last year to discuss the problem with Michael Waterson, Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick, who has been appointed to Chair an independent parliamentary review into secondary ticketing.

His findings will be reported before May 26. Artists and fans hope that the results of the review will push more government legislation to protect ticket re-sales.

Until then, Which? have shared a few measures fans can take to ensure they are not ‘cheated’ by secondary companies:

  • Sign up to the band’s newsletter for a chance to receive priority booking or discount codes
  • Use sites such as or that list advance tour dates
  • Receive gig alerts from primary sites such as Ticketmaster and Seetickets
  • Buy from the venue to avoid booking fees
  • Check ‘trusted’ secondary sites such as which offer tickets at face-value and encourage meeting in person


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Main image credit: Anthony Longstaff