Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Red death to the touts

What’s the best New Year party you’ve ever been to? Mine, if all goes according to plan, will be this 31 December at the Battersea Arts Centre. Never mind that I’ve chosen the only night of the year when the tube runs into the early hours to go to an area without a tube. Punchdrunk’s Masque of the Red Death post-performance ball promises hedonistic delights such as are not to be found auld lang syning down at the local.

I’ve written about the experience that is the Masque of the Red Death here before, since when tickets for the sold-out performances have been fetching up to £300 a time on ebay. Which makes £75 a head for Punchdrunk’s New Year bash sound almost reasonable (especially when even auld lang syneing it down at the local can cost you £20 a time to reserve a place round some parts of London).

Even better value, though, and not to be missed if you can possibly get there, are the ordinary tickets for the now-extended run of the Red Death. They’re currently on sale for performances until mid-April via the National Theatre box office. But get in quick if you don’t want to end up bidding silly money for tickets on ebay because these are bound to sell out quickly.

How to stop the touts

This seems as good a time as any to revive one of my pet anti-touting proposals for events that could sell out several times over. I’ve suggested it to Michael Eavis and the Glastonbury crew on a couple of occasions but neither they nor anyone else has so far taken it up.

It is, quite simply, that since tickets for major events will invariably – and inevitably – end up being sold for well over their face value on ebay or by other means, why not make a virtue out of it and auction a proportion of the tickets directly? The idea of a first come-first served set up, or a Led Zeppelin-style lottery, is an admirably – and unusually – egalitarian one. In theory, at any rate, everyone (who can pay) gets a (sort of) equal chance to get what tickets are available.

In practice, though, there’s always someone willing to sell to those who are willing to pay over the odds. So why not accept the fact, milk the rich for whatever they’re worth (and segregate them from the rest of us, so we can throw beer at them on the night), and give the balance to charity?

I’m absolutely confident that it’s only a matter of time before this idea is adopted by major event organisers – with one small modification. They’ll keep the extra money from the auctioned tickets for themselves.

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