Viagogo boss thinks Bob Marley would approve of ticket touting

But ask Viagogo CEO Cris Miller what his hero Bob Marley would have thought about concert tickets being sold for hundreds of dollars more than their initial value, and he is optimistic the reggae legend and political activist would see his side of the argument.

The traditionally press-shy Viagogo boss has been going on the offensive in recent months as the group faces the existential threat of a price cap on ticket resales, which would crush its business model.

Viagogo’s reselling platform has become a bugbear for frustrated music and sports fans who have turned to the platform when they can’t get tickets on initial resale, often forced to pay markups worth hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Miller was asked by the Guardian whether the One Love singer Marley would approve of that system, which has become a point of contention among fans and musicians alike.

“I think after some education, yeah, he would,” Miller said.

Ticket resale model in jeopardy

The U.K.-founded ticket seller has been criticized for overseeing a system that returns huge profits to ticket touts, in other words, people who buy tickets from source and sell them secondhand at a steep markup.

Miller told The Guardian that he preferred the term “professional resellers,” while also distancing himself from them by claiming they wouldn’t be considered “business partners.”

Ticket reselling has become a top topic in the last couple of years, as high-profile tours by Harry Styles, Beyonce, and Taylor Swift have proved fertile ground for ticket touts to extract maximum value from superfans.

Viagogo’s U.S. partner StubHub, which it merged with in a $4 billion deal in 2021, was criticized for allowing resellers to charge up to $35,000 for tickets to Swift’s Eras Tour last year.

Miller is a staunch free marketeer who believes that the exorbitant resale prices simply reflect how much consumers are willing to pay for them and not a failing in his platform. 

“Buyers make their own decisions,” Miller told Fortune in an interview last year. “If they see a ticket up there that’s out of their price range or their comfort zone, don’t buy it.”

That stance is unsurprising, given Viagogo generates revenue by taking a cut of the final sale price of tickets on its platform.

However, that avenue for revenue, and accordingly the group’s IPO prospects, is now in jeopardy. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer, who is expected to become Prime Minister following a General Election this Autumn, has vowed to bring in legislation that would cap the price resellers can charge for tickets.

Disagreeing with Miller’s view that the ticket reselling model is fair, Starmer argued that ticket touts cut off access to culture to those on lower income.

However, Miller doesn’t believe this approach would work, arguing it would just encourage a black market for reselling, which could increase the occurrence of scams.

“What happens with price caps is that the highest-demand part of the market, where you might see prices go above the original price, will just get driven underground,” Miller said.  

Whatever Miller’s rationale, it seems fans have been left unimpressed with the resale system that Viagogo has encouraged.

Based on nearly 38,000 Trustpilot user reviews, Viagogo has an average score of 1.7 stars out of 5.

The platform also doesn’t have many fans among artists. 

After a couple was convicted of fraud for creating false identities to buy up a large number of tickets before reselling them on Viagogo, musician Ed Sheeran’s manager said he and his singer had moved against the current resale model.

“Ed Sheeran’s 2018 summer stadium tour was when we really took a stand against online ticket touts,” Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp told the BBC.

“The low point for me had been one of his earlier Teenage Cancer Trust concerts, where tickets were listed on Viagogo for thousands of pounds, but with none of the money going to charity.”

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