How can you sell tickets to an event that you cannot guarantee will go ahead?

Garth Brooks dominated the headlines in the past two weeks, as some 400,000 waited with bated breath to see if the concerts would go ahead.

They didn’t. (And, now we can all now go back to our normal lives.)

However, ‘Garth Gate’ highlighted an issue which is bigger than a few peeved-off country western fans. How can you sell tickets to an event that may or may not go ahead?

The answer is; it seems to be the industry practice. Concert tickets are regularly sold with the tagline ‘subject to license’ and up until now punters paid little or no attention to those three words. It has rarely been a problem before. Organisers promote gigs and then apply for the license.

Planning permission is required before any construction can begin in Ireland and up until 2001 you also had to apply for full permission to put on an event. This was improved to facilitate promoters, by allowing temporary licenses to be obtained for concerts with a capacity in excess of 5,000 people.

There is a process to go through and promoters are only required to apply 10 weeks before the event. First you must advertise your intent to apply and within 2 weeks submit your application. The Council then can’t make a decision for a further 5 weeks to allow for submissions and objections from members of the public and groups.

Dublin City Council stated that they had never refused Croke Park a license before and it seems they have never refused a license of this scale elsewhere either. It could also have been assumed that DCC were unlikely to reject this specific application due to the scale of the event and the amount of revenue it would generate for Dublin City. It is estimated a loss of €50 million will occur due to the refusal.

Which goes back to the original question; how can you sell tickets to an event that you cannot guarantee will go ahead?

It’s because what you’re doing is not illegal. It is clearly stated in the terms and conditions that this gig is subject to license and it is the consumer’s choice to heed that warning or not. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but Aiken did not hide the fact that they would retrospectively apply for the event license once the tickets had been sold. Now that they have been rejected, they are doing the right thing and offering refunds.

The real loss makers in this situation are the additional industries to benefit from this and of course, the consumers, but that is unfortunately the risk you take when you purchase tickets ‘subject to license’.

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