Every year thousands of people try to get their hands on tickets to see the Eurovision Song Contest live final. For the team at HelloEurope.eu it’s become a bit of a tradition, to arrange our holidays around the dates of Eurovision and to travel to the host city. The accommodation and flights are generally easy enough to organise, but the trouble comes with purchasing the ever elusive tickets to the event itself.
It seems that every year there is a furore surrounding the ticketing of The Eurovision Song Contest; last year Kyiv left it until February to start selling anything after issues surrounding the tendering process for the ticketing company. Ticket sales in the two years before were plagued with slow websites, virtual waiting rooms and dozens of tickets available on secondary ticketing websites for inflated prices moments after they officially went on sale. This year’s process was plagued by much of the same.
This year’s ticketing palaver started on 30th November 2017 where at 11:00 CET (10:00 GMT) ticket sales began. I stood by on the official ticket selling site BlueTicket.pt to see what position in the virtual waiting room I would be randomly assigned. At first I thought this was a fairer process…but then I received my position in the queue, 10,453, and I quickly decided this was no way to run ticket sales and that they should bring back the old system of ‘first-come-first served’ where I could book the day off work and log on to the website at 6am to guarantee I’d be one of the first in the queue when sales began. The site told me it would be a good few hours before I’d get an opportunity to pick through the carcass of tickets left over, after 10,000 other fans had chosen their preferred tickets. Twitter on the other hand told me within 30 minutes that there were no longer any tickets available. With my randomly allocated position, I didn’t stand a chance.
Needless to say, I was geared up for the next set of ticket sales on 20th December 2017 and got as many friends as possible to log on for 11:00 CET to give me the best chance possible for some Eurovision final tickets (I don’t have many friends but thought this may give me an edge). The best position we achieved in the queue was 15,556. My dreams of watching The Eurovision Song Contest 2018’s live final in Lisbon, were over.
This is my story of disappointment but this was replicated throughout Europe with many Eurovision fans unable to obtain tickets. It’s understandable that, as a popular once a year event, not everyone can get tickets. It’s important that prices remain low in order to make the event accessible to as many fans from as many countries as possible and so with this in mind, I could have lived with coming away from yet another Eurovision ticket selling event with nothing to show for it knowing that real Eurovision fans were getting to see the event and that they just happened to be luckier than me on the day the tickets went on sale.
Secondary Ticket Sites
Shortly after the first tickets went on sale, it was brought to my attention that secondary ticket sites such as Viagogo began selling a large variety of tickets costing three or four times the face value. The Eurovision Song Contest recommends not using these sites as buying tickets from such vendors encourages people who aren’t true Eurovision fans to buy the tickets to sell on and make a profit. Some sellers have even faked the tickets that they put on these sites.
I didn’t know much about secondary ticketing websites so I did some super-sleuthing (well I found a podcast by Freakonomics called ‘why is the live event market so screwed up?’ – which gave me some great insights). One thing I discovered was that one reason artists allow secondary ticket websites to continue to sell tickets is because somewhere down the line the marketing team or organisers of an event make a cut of the inflated prices. This can’t be true of the European Broadcasting Union, can it? I contacted the Eurovision press team via e-mail and Twitter but they provided no response to my questions.
I found some good solutions to the dilemma of tickets being sold on secondary ticketing websites during my search and the following are my recommendations to the Eurovision Song Contest.
- The EBU should ensure that the ticketing process is fair (as much as I hate it, the virtual waiting room is pretty fair – no one has a greater advantage than anyone else) and only allow official ticket sellers who have some process for not allowing bots and touts to bulk buy tickets and sell them at huge profits on secondary ticketing websites.
- The person buying tickets should be required to register before-hand. Names or ID numbers should be printed onto the tickets which would then make it next to impossible for someone to sell the ticket on to others.
- The credit card and ID used to buy the tickets should be shown at the event itself to avoid passing tickets on to someone else.
Over the last few years the live event industry has been wising up to the secondary ticket market, especially when it is the ticket touts and not the event organisers or performers who are reaping the benefits from tickets being sold at inflated prices. To combat ticket re-selling, The Glastonbury Festival in the UK has had a registration system for over 10 years. Photos must be uploaded of the individual purchasing the tickets which ultimately makes it impossible to sell the ticket on. More recently Ed Sheeran has announced that fans must bring confirmation of purchase, ID and the credit card used to purchase the tickets to his 2017 tour in order to dissuade secondary selling of tickets.
Obviously, there would have to be a mechanism for people to get refunds on tickets they can no longer use for genuine reasons – and with enough notice – but I think it’s a price that most Eurovision fans would be happy to pay. Knowing the nature of many Eurovision fan, I also can’t see an issue with people having to register, upload photos and/or bring ID with them to the event.
If these seem like pretty easy, simple steps that ticket websites could take, that’s because they are. The same thing is done when you buy a ticket for an aeroplane – it has your name on so you can’t just give it to someone else or sell it on. This is why I can’t understand why the EBU doesn’t insist that official ticket sellers of Eurovision Song Contest tickets do something about secondary ticket websites. OK, it is not yet an industry norm, it means people have to bring ID to the venue and it means that individuals can’t decide to give their ticket to someone else at the last minute, but I think it would make real Eurovision fans pretty happy.
Kick Up A Fuss!
The Eurovision community has been complaining about the secondary ticketing market for years but little is likely to change until people start shouting about it. If you’re as annoyed as I was when the most recent Eurovision tickets went on sale this year, tweet about it, send an e-mail to the Eurovision Song contest press team or sign a petition. The more people that do something, the more pressure the EBU will be under to change their processes and it may encourage them to think twice about using ticketing sites who are complicit in the secondary ticketing market.
Anyway, I need to get back to preparing for the next round of ticket sales on the 30th January 2018. Any hints on how I can get to the front of the randomly allocated queue in the virtual waiting room!?