Capital's gig punters likely to be most affected over ticket nightmare

A new deal means tickets to shows at Wellington Opera House will be sold through Ticketmaster.
Woolf Photography

A new deal means tickets to shows at Wellington Opera House will be sold through Ticketmaster.

Ticket prices increasing, fake tickets on the market, less acts coming to Wellington – these daunting possibilities are threatening the Wellington gig scene and its punters.

Last week, Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) signed a six-year contract with Ticketmaster for the rights over all ticket sales at Venues Wellington. Those venues included TSB Bank Arena & Auditorium (Shed 6), the Michael Fowler Centre, the St James Theatre and the Opera House. 

For most of us, the new contract, originally held by Ticketek, means very little – you continue to put in your credit card numbers, write down your details, receive your tickets, and you're good to go, right?

With those hoping to make a quick buck – it seems not.

Ticketmaster is one of the largest operators in Australasia.
STEPHEN LAM

Ticketmaster is one of the largest operators in Australasia.

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Ticketmaster, an offshoot of major US promoter company Live Nation, provides a service that allows its customers to resell their tickets if they can't make the gig. The ticket holder can sell the ticket onward, for as much cash return as they like.

Wellington's St James Theatre.
ALEX LIU/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington's St James Theatre.

On its Facebook page, Ticketmaster explains the resale option gives punters a "secure platform which facilitates the buying and re-selling of tickets in a way that is safe for both the buyer and seller".

"Ticketmaster doesn't control the inventory on the site. The prices are set by the sellers listing the tickets and tend to fluctuate depending on the demand for the event.
"While part of the same family, Resale operates independently to Ticketmaster and they have their own customer service team."

A good idea for some – but add a dash of scalping and you have a ticket sales nightmare on your hands.

WREDA figures show Wellingtonians, and many from outside the region, embrace and support a range of acts coming to the capital.

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In the last quarter, Venues Wellington hosted 53 performances, with over 74,000 attendees.

Major highlights from the quarter included sold out shows to Nick Cave, P J Harvey, Don Henley and 21 Pilots. 

But many have already fallen victim to the ticket reselling website – one fan forked out early $200 for rugby tickets that retailed less than $80.

Punters that wanted to purchase tickets for the Queen's of the Stone Age concert in Auckland and selected cities in Australia were left fuming after the tickets were exhausted within an hour of being released, only to be advertised for nearly double the price on the reselling website.

Local promoters described the ticket resale site a con.

WREDA's venues marketing and destination development general manager David Perks said the ticketing experience for Venues Wellington patrons would remain easy and user-friendly. 

"Ticketmaster is one of the largest operators in Australasia, with extensive experience in comparable venue operations," he said.

"Through our close working relationships with clients, we have an understanding of their needs developed through many years of partnership. During a robust closed tender process, we thoroughly considered all the systems, costs and benefits for everybody involved, and I'm confident we've chosen the right option." 

New Zealand Promoters Association spokesman Ian Magan said those in the promotion industry should have been consulted by WREDA.

"The only people taking huge risks are the promoters and it is the promoters that are objecting to these heavy, heavy, multinational bullies who are moving into have a greater control over a ticketing master they didn't own in the first place," he said.

"We used to contract these agencies directly until they saw fit to sign a side-contract with the venues of New Zealand.

"Both WREDA and Wellington City Council have made a huge mistake by aligning with Ticketmaster, when they have known all along that we oppose the operation of Ticketmaster, because we were against the thing in Auckland.

"It would be nice if they consulted us – we thought we had a relationship with these people, but they have proved that money is more important to them then their long-term relationship with their promoters."

Magan, a veteran of the NZ entertainment industry and one of the original Radio Hauraki DJs, described the decision as a "huge retrograde step in the history of New Zealand ticketing". 

"The Wellington people have aligned themselves with this mob that have an active reselling ticket [site] which we hugely object – it's a growing problem," Magan said. 

"People are buying tickets on Ticketmaster Resale website thinking they are on the ticket sale primary website – the ones we object to being sold at all because they're being sold at a much higher price."

The promoters that fork out millions of dollars to get major acts to Wellington claim they'll avoid the capital, preferring to do business elsewhere.

Capital C chief executive Phil Sprey is one of those promoters.

He claims he has suspended a $2.5 million international act after WREDA's new contract signing, despite the agency saying there were no bookings at its venues.

Sprey has brought to Wellington the likes of Elton John, Kiss and Bon Jovi.

"We were going into our pockets for over $2.5 million, which in turn means that the city will lose maybe $12 million in potential income, just out of that one concert alone," he said.

"When you're the ticket manager and the promoter, effectively, if I went along (to Ticketmaster) I'd be giving every bit of information of what I plan to do to an opposite company.

"It just doesn't work."

Ticketmaster did not return calls asking for comment. 

 - Stuff

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