Analysis: 5 Ways Faith No More Could’ve Slowed Scalpers
On Friday morning, tickets went on sale for Faith No More’s first US tour since the ’90s. But the exciting moment turned sad when sources contacted me immediately to rage that none of them was able to buy. Like, not even one ticket. We shrugged and chalked it up to a high-demand tour in smallish venues, then shed a tear and notched a small measure of resentment for Faith No More — in the same way we’d pout about a massive party thrown while we are out of town. Really, it’s worse than that.
But it turns out that fans aren’t the only unhappy ones. Faith No More bassist Billy Gould minutes after tickets went on sale:
This presale thing is pissing me off…would like to find out how these scalpers are getting their tickets!
— Billy Gould (@MRGOULD) January 30, 2015
Aha! The culprit is scalpers, we might’ve known! Gould again:
Obviously this is a systemic problem, not just with FNM tix. It should be investigated.
— Billy Gould (@MRGOULD) January 30, 2015
Investigated? That’s our job! So, to find out what — if anything — could’ve been done differently by the FNM team, I checked in with a close friend and ticketing professional, Tess. That’s not her real name, as it’s on the condition of anonymity that she agreed to examine the FNM situation and answer my questions about it. Entranced as always by her gorgeous jugs, I nonetheless took away five tips for FNM’s next jaunt. Artists of this level, listen up:
1. Allow ticket pick-up only on day-of-show
To an artist like Faith No More, scalping — or “resales,” “third-party sales,” “ticket brokerage,” or whatever — is tantamount to hiring some guys to irritate ticket buyers, panic them, exponentially increase ticket prices, and sell tickets at a different location. Imagine a supermarket owner that enlists you and I to buy out his dairy case and hold its contents hostage at the foot of his driveway. “A gallon of milk now costs $20,” we’d cackle to irate customers as we pour out an ounce for each second that they pause to consider the sale. But, Tess explained, it’s tough to re-sell something that the seller does not possess. So, FNM could’ve mandated that purchases be processed as usual, but that no ticket be distributed until the day of show. “They should bypass the option to ‘print at home’ as well; that allows scalpers to promise delivery of tickets via email on day of show.”
2. Allow ticket claims only by buyer via verification of ID, credit card
Your first thought might be, “Hey, day-of-show pick-up solves nothing. The scalper buys, then second buyer pays big and picks up, and FNM fans stay fucked. Right?” Well, no, Tess continued. “The key is to require a government-issued photo ID that matches the card used to purchase” in order for tickets to be claimed. It requires the attendee to buy directly from the venue/ticket agent and defeats remote resales.
3. Allow very limited transfer of ownership
The measures above create a lockdown situation — but FNM could allow some wiggle room. Tess: “Some artists will permit a 24-hour window after the sale to transfer ownership to another person” for the purpose of gifting, for example. This leaves scalpers almost no time to execute a gouging, while parents and friends can buy on behalf of their loved ones. But communication is important, says Tess: “The artist must put this language in a huge font on the sale’s landing page” or the resulting clusterfuck will cause more heartache then scalpers could.
4. Go fishing
Before her current high-profile position, Tess ran a three-venue complex’s very busy box office. Aggressively anti-resale, her team engaged scalpers online with the goal of teasing out ticket information before making a “purchase.” She explains: “We’d pose as buyers to big organized resellers and jokers on Craigslist. Before pulling the trigger, we’d ask for the exact seat location(s).” From there, she’d pull up those tickets (and, after a verification, void them) and their purchaser’s info (and block them). “This only works with assigned seating events and, again, requires some notification on the sale page” which warns that attempts to buy from third parties may result in a savage self-fucking. “Once those tickets were listed for resale at horrendous mark-up, we’d initiate the process of getting them voided. Later, their second buyer — a fan — would arrive at the show ready to party, only to learn that their overpriced tickets are worthless.” That’s tough news to deliver.
5. Shell out for a good manager
Tess was understanding and not at all peeved that Faith No More’s on-sales were handled with a bit of naivety. That is, until she heard that it was without the aid of expert management that the band was staging a complex tour. “They need an experienced manager to advise them on this stuff,” she sighed. “Even their tour booker could’ve chimed in, but it’s usually the job of management to liase with legit ticketing agents and venues, and to set these rules to protect their fans.” With no relish, I reminded her that the previous FNM tour — again, one-offs and fests not included — was before the internet. “Artists in that position might wish for the best, but reality is waiting,” she continued. I asked her sadly if legislation sponsored by Iron Maiden and Tony Iommi could contribute to ending this mess. She was positive but unenthused: “Legislation and penalties can help, but in all things, the highest degree of control is found at the point of sale. Venues and ticket agents — and entertainers themselves — must resist the belief that scalpers are an unfortunate fact of life. Our side has power, too.”