A storm is brewing in Italy over reports that Live Nation is directly partnering with a range of secondary ticketing partners to sell tickets at vastly inflated prices.
The allegations stem from a television interview between the managing director of Live Nation Italy Roberto de Luca and reporter Matteo Viviani on primetime Italian TV show Le lene [translated into English as The Hyenas], which aired earlier this week.
The interview formed part of an undercover report which retraced the journey of a ticket as its price increased on the online secondary market from €50 ($54) to €1,050 ($1,144) using testimony and evidence from an anonymous employee who works in the ticketing sector and claims that the practice is widespread throughout the industry.
During the course of the TV show, Luca is reported to have initially denied that Live Nation was complicit in placing tickets directly onto secondary platforms. The reporter then appears to show the exec a number of documents, which leads Luca to change his stance and admit that the company does indeed place tickets directly onto secondary sites.
"I want to be clear that, to your question if Live Nation issued tickets on secondary sites and I answered no… in fact we issue some tickets. A very limited number of tickets on other sites, in this case [on] Viagogo," said Luca, according to a transcript provided to Billboard.
"But I must make clear that Live Nation sells around two million tickets every year and the tickets that we issue on the secondary sites are equal to 0.20 percent of our tickets sales. We are not talking about tens of thousands of tickets, but hundreds of tickets for a concert," Luca goes on to say.
Of course, Live Nation's involvement in the wider secondary ticketing market is far from headline news. It owns Ticketmaster, which operates two of the world's biggest secondary platforms, Get Me In! and Seatwave, in addition to running its own TM+ secondary ticketing solution. Secondary ticketing sales generated $1.2 billion in revenue for Live Nation last year, up 34 percent on 2014.
That fact that promoters allocate large numbers of tickets to secondary platforms such as Viagogo has also long been tacitly acknowledged throughout the industry, with Live Nation among the companies alleged to have been complicit in the practice in a Channel 4 "Dispatches" documentary, broadcast in the U.K. in 2012. Viagogo unsuccessfully appealed to the High Court to stop that film being aired, claiming it breached consumer confidence.
However, that hasn't quelled the anger of a number of Italian artists and trade body associations up in arms about the latest revelations. Following the broadcast of le Lene, the managers of one of Italy's most famous artists, Vasco Rossi, has announced that they have cut all ties with Live Nation.
"After learning from the television service of the [le Lene] of possible involvement with Live Nation in the 'secondary' resale of concert tickets in Italy, Giamaica management announces that it has currently suspended all trading relations with Live Nation and reserves the right to take legal action being totally foreign to what emerged from the news report," reads a statement – via Google translate – posted on the Vasco Rossi's website.
"Giamaica believes that the secondary ticketing activities, highly speculative, has long been recognized as harmful not only for the public but also for the artists without their knowledge and against their will find themselves involved [in]," the statement goes on to say.
In a statement to Billboard, Live Nation Italy sought to clarify the nature of the Le lene allegations as they pertain to Italian artists.
"Live Nation Italy would like to make it clear that the allegations in Le lene relate to a small number of tickets for a handful of international artists," the company said. "Live Nation Italy has never been asked to list any tickets on secondary markets by Italian artists."
On Friday (Nov. 11), Italian officials presented an amendment to the budget law that would address the secondary ticketing issue in the country. The new law "forbids the activity of selling on tickets by persons other than concert organisers or those authorised" to create automatic ticket offices. The government takes issue with "the placing of large numbers of concert tickets on secondary platforms which are then sold at greatly inflated prices." Culture minister Dario Franceschini said in a statement that the practice is "an intolerable phenomenon and recent events show that self-regulation is not enough."
In light of the allegations, Italian consumer association Codacons has also submitted a complaint to the public prosecutor of Milan against Live Nation Italy.
"We are asking the investigating magistrates to sequester the television programme 'Le Iene' transmitted last Tuesday, in which the MD of Live Nation Italy is alleged to have admitted the existence of a commercial relationship between the company and secondary ticket platforms which sell tickets at astronomic prices" said the president of Codacons, Marco Maria Donzelli in a statement.
Donzelli went on to call the complaint a "necessary step to start up investigations concerning Live Nation," adding that, should legal proceedings follow as a result, "all those who have bought tickets for concerts on secondary ticket sites and at inflated prices will be able to seek action to be compensated for the damages that they have suffered."
Viagogo did not return requests to comment when contacted by Billboard.