We caught up with Jonathan Brown from STAR (Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers) for a quick Q&A before their annual awareness day.
Hi Jonathan, can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at STAR.
I’ve been involved in STAR, one way or another, since it first began. My background was theatre, having started out many years ago as a stagehand, electrician and later as stage manager on overseas tours and in the UK.
Coincidentally, I worked as an electrician at the Albery Theatre (now named the Noel Coward) in the very early 1980s and helped with the installation for the first ever Ticketmaster computer room in the UK. Eventually I moved into theatre management and marketing and was a director of the marketing and PR company that helped with the launch of STAR.
STAR is a membership organisation and my role as Secretary is essentially an administrative one to manage the work of STAR and facilitate the governing council which is elected by the members each year. I also represent STAR as a spokesman for press comments and interviews and co-operate with many other industry organisations to further the work of STAR.
When and why was STAR founded?
Back in 1997, a number of leading ticket agents and venues agreed that they needed to take action to increase customer confidence in the ticketing industry. At the time there were considerable problems with the mis-selling of tickets, particularly for West End Theatre. They agreed that the best way of addressing this was to work together to create a Code of Practice and to introduce self-regulation into the industry. The need to be able to distinguish reputable ticket sellers from others in the marketplace has, over the years, spread into other sectors, particularly the music industry.
What does STAR do?
At the heart of STAR is the Code of Practice to which all our members subscribe. This sets standards for the sort of service and information ticket buyers should be given when they buy from our members. Most importantly, we help mediate in the event of any unresolved complaints against our members in order to find a satisfactory outcome.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
The ticketing market is one that is constantly growing and adapting. When STAR first began, there were no online sales. Nowadays they can represent over 90% of a member’s business. Other technologies such as paperless and mobile ticketing have been introduced, along with e-tickets and access control systems. We’ve also seen the growth and repositioning of ticket resale websites. There’s a continuing need to recognise how such things can be used to benefit the experience of ticket buyers as well as understanding the needs of the industry itself.
We play a role in getting the ticketing industry to take notice of the changes in the industry and we work to try and find industry-led solutions.
Ticket buyers continue to be affected by fraud issues – particularly scam websites, counterfeit tickets and just non-existent tickets. These problems are an issue for the legitimate industry and there is an increasing need to make consumers aware of how and where to buy tickets to avoid being ripped off in these ways. Our recommendation is of course only to buy from companies that are authorised to sell tickets and the best way of finding this out is to check that the company is a member of STAR.
What should customers do if they have a complaint about a ticketing company?
If the company is a member of STAR and it has not been possible to resolve the complaint directly then the customer should contact STAR as soon as possible. We can look into the matter with the ticket seller involved and help mediate. We take all the facts available into consideration as well as looking to see if there has been any breach of the STAR Code by the member.
How can they tell if a ticketing agent is signed up to STAR?
Members of STAR display our kitemark on their webpages or in their outlets. All the main authorised ticket agents are members of STAR as are many venues throughout the UK. All our members are listed on the STAR website. If you know you’re buying from a STAR member, you’re assured of high standards of service and information and, of course, you can come to us if there’s any problem.
What do you hope to achieve through STAR day?
Many people are aware of self-regulatory brands similar to STAR in other industries. ABTA is a good example in the travel industry and is of course very well known – but it’s been in existence for 63 years! STAR has now been around for sixteen years and is well known in the industry but less well known by the ticket buyers it is there to help. Our hope is, by making STAR better known to customers through our many members, we can multiply awareness of STAR and help more people buy their tickets with confidence.
How can people get involved?
Quite simply – pass it on! Unfortunately people are still scammed each year by buying tickets from websites and companies that simply don’t deliver and are not authorised by the event or venue to sell tickets on their behalf. Buy from a STAR member and be assured that you’ll get what you pay for.