Once touted as "legalised scalping" by its critics, viagogo is now the world's biggest ticket marketplace


After a terrible experience with a ticket scalper, Eric Baker realised the ticket resale market was ripe for innovation. Generally speaking, sellers had the power, and buyers could only hope they’d found a trustworthy seller. Despite its critics – some saying the concept was nothing more than “legalised scalping” – Eric’s viagogo is now the world’s biggest marketplace for event tickets. We caught up with the company’s Head of Asia Pacific, Alex Levenson, to grill him on why it works so well and where the company fits in Australia’s sport-obsessed market.

We read founder Eric Baker started viagogo after being ripped-off by a ticket scalper. In your experience, why do you think it’s been successful?
Like Eric, I had a rather negative experience buying tickets from scalpers outside a venue. About 10 years ago, I was desperate to attend an LA Clippers NBA game in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Although my friends and I didn’t have tickets, we decided to try our luck at the stadium. Our only option at the gate was to buy tickets from a rather shady character, so we took the risk. As soon as we got in we realised all four of the seats were in separate locations, despite being promised seats together! It was a rather lonely night for each of us, but at least the Clippers came away with a win.

viagogo has been successful because it puts the interests of consumers first by providing a place where people can buy and sell tickets to experiences that they love. What we hear from our customers is that they love the simplicity and security of our process and the fact they’re protected from potential fraud.

How is it different to other ticket resale vendors, and marketplaces such as eBay and Gumtree?
For the first time in Australia, we introduced new levels of consumer protection to ensure fans were no longer ripped off when purchasing tickets to events. The most fundamental difference is that, unlike viagogo, eBay and Gumtree do not provide a guarantee to protect the transaction, deliver a valid ticket, or offer a replacement or refund if something goes wrong.

viagogo has virtually eradicated fraud from our platform by taking measures such as not paying the seller until after the buyer has attended the event – so fraudsters have been driven to eBay and other sites, where no such controls exist. In fact, even eBay has conceded that managed platforms like ours are “quicker, easier and safer”. eBay is a great place to buy a table but a terrible place to buy a ticket.

When viagogo launched in Australia, how did it make itself known to this new market?
We launched in Australia in September 2013, and found that consumers were crying out for a service like ours. Australia is a nation of live entertainment lovers, but our research found that unfortunately in 2012/13, half a million Australians had been scammed by dodgy ticket resellers. The launch of a safe, secure and guaranteed service therefore proved popular in Australia, as it had across the rest of the world.

As well as an intensive PR launch, where we engaged with media outlets across the country to let people know we had arrived, we unveiled two new partnerships with AFL clubs Collingwood FC and Richmond FC. Since the launch, we have also announced partnerships with the Sydney Swans and Sydney Roosters as well as two of Australia’s biggest music festivals Soundwave and Stereosonic.

We also made ourselves known by campaigning to influence the NSW government’s proposed anti-ticket scalping legislation. Our research found that 8 out of 10 people in NSW believe it’s their right to on-sell a ticket if they want to, however the legislation looked to introduce an unprecedented and unnecessary level of complexity to the process of reselling a ticket.

Why has viagogo chosen to partner with sporting clubs (such as the AFL’s Richmond and Collingwood, and NRL’s Sydney Roosters), and what do these partnerships involve?
We’re very proud to have signed multi-year deals with some of the biggest names in Australian sport. No one likes seeing empty seats in a stadium, but even the most loyal fan won’t be able to attend every match in the season. Our partnerships are important because we offer fans a safe place to buy and resell tickets for sold out events and helps to protect them from ticket fraud. We also have partnerships with two of Australia’s most successful music festivals, Soundwave and Stereosonic.

Alex is speaking at The Collective x Vivid Ideas event ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ on May 28 in Sydney. Click here to buy tickets.

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