Looking for Concert Tickets? Then Don’t Use Google

Looking for the best and cheapest concert tickets online?  Then, don’t use Google, says FanFair Alliance.

Last March, anti-scalping group FanFair Alliance invited UK concertgoers to avoid using search engines when purchasing tickets online.  Now, in a recently published report, the group had asked consumers to stop using Google altogether.

In its guide providing ten tips on how to purchase your tickets online and avoid scalpers (or ‘touts’), FanFair Alliance wrote,

“Don’t trust search engines.  Increasingly, search engine results for concerts and festivals are dominated by the big secondary ticketing websites […], all of whom spend big money to top the rankings.  We advise that you ignore search engines and go straight to the artist website.  This is where you should find definitive information about ticket sales and the authorized ticket agents.”

The group didn’t name Google back then.  Now, it’s taking direct aim at the search giant.

The FanFair Alliance has published research that shows how online scalping has dominated search engine results, especially on Google.  The UK anti-scalping company wrote,

“New FanFair Alliance research highlights the extent to which so-called secondary ticketing platforms such as Viagogo, StubHub and Get Me In! could be misleading would-be ticket buyers through their online marketing practices on Google and other search engines – paying to top search results with tickets listed by touts, when face value tickets from authorized sellers are widely available.”

On sales of 100 upcoming UK tours, the group discovered that these sites had paid the search giant to appear among the first results.  Controversial ticketing resale platform Viagogo topped 65 of these 100 tours.  It paid the search giant to present itself as an “Official Site.”  Only six tours had legitimately sold out.

The result?  These platforms drive up ticket prices when fans could easily purchase tickets at face value.  FanFair also found that fans could purchase concert tickets much cheaper from authorized primary sellers.

On 94% of Google searches, tickets from secondary platforms (or touts) had appeared in the top two results.

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Image by FanFair Alliance

During a CMS Select Committee evidence session into ticket abuse, Viagogo executives failed to show up.  That day, Committee member Nigel Huddleston MP described Viagogo as “the most psychologically manipulative website… ever seen.”

To gain prominence on all search engines, Viagogo places artist names in their URLs.  For example, “www.thundercat.viagogo.co.uk/high-demand/tickets-deals”.

Along with paid search results, the anti-scalping group also found results to bogus price comparison sites.  Safe Tickets and Compare Tickets often default to Viagogo.

The secondary ticketing platform problem wasn’t only limited to music concerts.  When looking at thirty-three UK music festivals on search engines, secondary ticketing platforms dominated all search results.  Again, underscores FanFair, the secondary sites paid top dollar to Google to appear among the most relevant search results.  Only six music festivals had genuinely sold out.

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Image by FanFair Alliance

Highlighting the findings, FanFair Alliance campaign manager Adam Webb released a statement.

“This is a real problem for UK audiences.  If you’re looking to attend a gig or festival, you’d probably expect a search engine to act as a trusted guide and direct you to the legitimate ticket seller.  However, we consistently see secondary ticketing platforms, led by Viagogo, using paid search to dominate search rankings and even masquerade as “official” sellers – causing considerable confusion in the process.  FanFair is contacted on a daily basis by consumers who have been duped by this kind of advertising and led straight into the arms of a ticket tout.”

How can Viagogo, StubHub, and Get Me In! afford to pay for premier search result listings? Thanks to the high service fees they charge concertgoers, says FanFair. The anti-scalping group added,

The reason that Viagogo and other secondary sites can manipulate Google search in this way is simple – it’s because they can afford to.  Their business model is practically risk free and their service fees are typically set at around 20%-30% of the resale price.  As a result, when purchasing AdWords they can outbid authorised ticket sellers whose charges are significantly less.”

So far, FanFair has brought the practices to Google’s attention.  They recommend that ticket buyers avoid the search engine altogether and check first on artists and festivals’ websites.

Image by Rhys A. (CC by 2.0)