A week before the Foo Fighters' show at London’s O2 Arena on Tuesday, Kate Coulson – a risk manager for a nearby bank - bought two tickets for the show on StubHub for $965. The price was steep, but she wanted to give her husband, Paul, an early birthday present. But the couple were surprised when, after they arrived and made it through security, they were asked to present their IDs. When neither ID matched the name on the Foos tickets, they were sent to the box office, where they were told they wouldn't be getting in. "It was just awful,” says Coulson. “And there were hundreds of people in the same boat, and people were genuinely really upset. I really love them. It was horrible."
They weren't alone. The Coulsons were two of about 200 Foo Fighters fans who, after buying from resale websites like StubHub and Viagogo, were turned away from the venue for not having IDs that did not match the names displayed on tickets, a new requirement that was an attempt to stave off ticket resellers. The venue argues that the stipulation"was clearly stated at the time of announcement and was explicitly noticed at the point of purchase." But many fans didn’t get the message. "Not the ideal time to start enforcing that rule," a fan tweeted. "[It's] only the fans that miss out.”
In a statement, the Foos were unrepentant about the policy, saying only that they were "frustrated and saddened" that some fans who'd bought "bogus tickets from these unscrupulous outlets" couldn't get in.
But some fans argue that the outlets they bought tickets from were not necessarily "unscrupulous." StubHub is a legitimate, official O2 partner that stations ticket machines throughout the arena, and many fans who bought via the site say they were not made aware of the rule. "We don't think this is fair at all. Lots of innocent people, if you will, were denied entry," says Aimee Campbell, a spokesperson for StubHub, which quickly issued refunds for all purchasers who didn't get into the show. "It was happening not just from people who purchased on resale sites, but also people whose brother bought tickets, and somebody went at the last minute."
A concert-business source with knowledge of the show says 200 tickets out of a total of 20,000 in attendance is a small price to pay for highlighting a venue’s no-scalping policy. "The promoter really wanted to cut down on the touts,” says the source, using the British term for scalpers. "Unfortunately, people didn't pay attention to what was going on, and certainly none of the brokers were very interested in dissuading their own sales, so they probably just ignored it and figured everybody would not ask for a refund."
As the $8 billion resale market continues to grow, certain artists have become more aggressive in fighting against scalping. Earlier this year, Eric Church canceled 25,000 ticket sales because his managers determined them to be purchased by brokers. Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift are using Ticketmaster's new Verified Fan system to weed out resellers for their upcoming tours.
The band and venue's explanation did not sit well with Jinky Espanol, a University of East London psychology student, bought her ticket in advance for more than $300 and took a three-hour train from her home in Norfolk, England. O2 security denied her entry because she'd purchased her ticket from Viagogo, and her name was not on the ticket. For a few anxious minutes, she was in line at the box office, on the phone with Viagogo and searching for new tickets on Facebook.
Espanol got lucky—another fan sold her a ticket for $90. Her original seat was in the front row, and this one was "near the roof," but she was able to get in. "It wasn't fair," she says. "I was there early and they turned me away—and later in the evening, they let me in, even though the name on the ticket was not the same. Which is ridiculous."