Music fans face premium-rate phone charges to book access for live events

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More than half of disabled people who have tried to buy tickets for live music events have had to call premium-rate phone numbers to arrange access, according to a new survey.

Four-fifths of those surveyed said they had experienced problems with booking access alongside their ticket, while nearly three-quarters said such barriers had been discriminatory.

The results of the national online survey were published by the user-led music charity Attitude is Everything (AiE) as part of its fourth State of Access Report on the live music industry.

Of the 53 per cent who said they had been forced to use premium rate phone lines to book access, several reported that this had cost them more than £20 in phone charges.

Although the survey results cannot be directly compared – because they were obtained through different methods – they do appear to show an improvement since a survey of AiE mystery shoppers in 2014 found 95 per cent of respondents had experienced problems when booking access and 88 per cent said they had felt discriminated against.

This year’s State of Access Report focuses on problems associated with booking tickets for live music events.

Publishing the report, the charity also launched a new taskforce, the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition, which aims to address five key problems encountered by Deaf and disabled live music fans when booking tickets.

The pan-industry group includes more than 35 trade bodies, ticketing agencies, event promoters and venues, including UK Music, PRS for Music, Ticketmaster, Festival Republic and Live Nation.

The areas the coalition will address include: the need for a single proof-of-disability system that is uniformly recognised and accepted across the UK; all venues and events to provide quality online information about access; more choice and flexibility when booking tickets for fans with access requirements; and a more dependable system for managing access bookings.

The coalition will also target the need for “equal access”, so that disabled fans can book access for pre-sales of tickets, VIP and artist meet-up tickets, and when using entertainment gift cards; can resell accessible seats; are not charged to use access booking lines; and can easily book tickets for a personal assistant if they need one.

The report concludes that access across the live music industry “remains a mixed picture”.

It adds: “Many venues and events have moved beyond basic reasonable adjustments to improve access for customers in impressively creative and collaborative ways.

“On the other hand, there are venue and event organisers now being left behind as they continue to enact outdated and potentially discriminatory policies that impact the ability of Deaf and disabled people to access the paid-for services they provide.”

Suzanne Bull (pictured), AiE’s chief executive and the government’s disability sector champion for music, said: “Although there has been much progress in making the ticketing process accessible and inclusive, and certain venues and companies are definitely getting this right for their Deaf and disabled customers, we felt that only a comprehensive and truly unified approach would be able to drive through the real and lasting changes that we need. 

“In 2018, every large-scale music event should be all-inclusive.

“Disabled customers should be able to buy a ticket online, they should be encouraged to attend shows with their friends, and not have to jump through undignified hoops when things go wrong.”

Sarah Newton, minister for disabled people, said: “Going to a gig or festival is an experience that everyone should be able to enjoy.

“It’s therefore incredibly important that disabled people have the right access when booking tickets for live music events, which is why I’m really pleased to see leading businesses from across the music industry coming together to improve accessibility. 

“We know that disabled people and their households have a combined spending power of £249 billion a year, proving that being inclusive isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.”

AiE also announced that it will convene a new cross-sector group that will “exchange ideas and unite around common principles when it comes to accessibility”, across music, cinema, theatre, heritage and sport, and will focus on issues such as the provision of access information, providing evidence of access requirements, and implementing access bookings.

Organisations that have already pledged to join the group include Arts Council England, Shape Arts, Level Playing Field, UK Theatre and the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers.

Picture by Joanna Dudderidge