Brussels concert venue Ancienne Belgique (AB) is to implement a number of measures to fight ticket scalping including a legitimate ticket exchange system.

The system becomes effective Jan. 22, the date for a sold-out show from Belgian metal band Channel Zero, which has booked six nights at the 2,000-capacity venue. AB also has a 280-capacity club room.

With over 300 shows per year - 80% self-produced, 20% staged by external promoters such as Live Nation - AB is an active player on the Belgian concert scene. As such, it has been confronted with ticket scalping and extravagant ticket re-sales on Web sites like eBay or ticket agencies.

"The problem is that the music lover is left in the cold and is forced to pay big money for tickets," explains Tim van Riel, head of ticketing at Ancienne Belgique. "And the real problems start when shows are canceled or rescheduled and people want their money back."

According to van Riel, the main problem for the AB are street sales by scalpers, auction sites and agencies re-selling tickets at high rates. "They give the whole concert business a bad reputation," says van Riel, who estimates that around 10,000 tickets per year for AB concerts circulate on auction sites.

While the Belgian government is discussing the approval off legislation and measures to prevent ticket scalping, due in February 2010, AB is putting in place its own system for their concerts. Suspected scalpers buying online during advance sales periods will have their credit cards blocked to prevent purchase, or the ticket order will be deleted on the system and the buyer refunded.

"We cannot start controlling people at the gates or implement repressive action without a legal backbone," van Riel continues. "We try to identify the ticket re-sellers and withdraw the [order for those] specific tickets from our advance sales [system]. We have also launched a Web platform where people who bought [surplus] tickets can offer them for sale on our own AB Web site, where we have control of the activities."

Van Riel explains that, unlike in other territories, Belgium is not as widely confronted with so-called secondary market activities from dedicated companies. European secondary ticket services Viagogo and Seatwave currently have limited availability for shows at the venue.

AB will be also provide "exchange booking" where the public can trade in their surplus tickets with AB putting them back in circulation, thus avoiding excessive ticket rates via the scalping circuit.

"The idea is to bring supply and demand together, the Channel Zero concerts are a first test series: we take the risk for ending up with unsold tickets but all this will be evaluated," Van Riel concludes.

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