Live music executives, including members of the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), have called for search engines to question their role in helping to facilitate unauthorised ticket resale.

During Barcelona’s Primavera Pro conference on 1 June, a panel consisting of Neo Sala (Doctor Music), Nicole Jacobsen (previously, Sam Shemtob (FEAT) and Scumeck Sabottka (MCT-Agentur), suggested the live events sector could replicate the success of the record business when it tackled music piracy links displayed through search.

The panel discussed how the advertising policies of Google and other search engines do not permit advertising that deceives users, either by excluding relevant information or providing misleading information. But the panel suggested Google did not appear to be adequately enforcing this policy.

The panel pointed out that, during Google’s brief ban on advertising from viagogo in 2019, global traffic to the site fell by two-thirds.

The panel also addressed the development of Make Tickets Fair!, a new Europe-wide campaign educating fans about safe ticket buying. Developed by a cross-industry working group, the campaign aims to promote best practice and share resources for fans and event organisers through its website.

FEAT director and founder and CEO of Doctor Music Neo Sala said, “We see a close parallel between the situation now with the live events industry, to that in the noughties with the record business. I think we all remember when you’d Google a song name and ‘mp3’ and you’d be met with piracy links as the first, second, third results. Today, try Googling ‘Harry Styles tickets’ and you’ll see a link to unauthorised, overpriced tickets right at the top. The live industry needs to ask Google to take the same sensible steps as they did with the record industry and start guiding fans to trusted, official sources.”

FEAT director Sam Shemtob said, “Across Europe, countries including Belgium, France, Ireland and others have outlawed unauthorised ticket resale. The European Court of Justice meanwhile has ruled that event tickets are a contract for services, subject to terms and conditions of the event promoter; and the incoming Digital Services Act promises to tighten consumer protections in e-commerce further. In this environment of strengthening legislation, search engines ought to start asking what kind of companies they are. Do they want to enable the activities of ticket scalpers, and support the anti-consumer and anti-artist practices of unauthorised resale platforms? Or, do they want to stand up for their users and guide them toward legitimate tickets for the events they want to attend? We hope companies like Google will choose the latter option.”