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CMU Beef Of The Week #330: Q Awards winners v StubHub

By | Published on Friday 4 November 2016

Q Awards

When StubHub was announced as the sponsor for this year’s Q Awards, it was unsurprisingly controversial. Anti-ticket-tout campaign group the FanFair Alliance accused the secondary ticketing platform of trying to “buy legitimacy” and implied a potential boycott by nominated artists. But it turns out that it’s a lot funnier if artists turn up angry instead.

Jack Garratt got things rolling, using his acceptance speech for the Best Breakthrough Artist award to say: “If there are people who are doing what they can to steal moments away from the public or steal moments away from fans, I have no time for those people”.

“I’m only interested in finding the best and cheapest way for my fans and my audience to come and see my shows”, he continued. “I care about it so much. Everyone does”.

Of course, one of the things StubHub’s sponsorship of Q’s awards show allowed was an expansion from the traditional industry-only backslapping dinner. Taking over The Roundhouse in Camden, the ceremony was opened up to the public for the first time in the awards’ 26 year history. As a result, artists who chose to pass comment were met with an audience of fans, as well as boozed-up industry freeloaders.

“Apologies to my fans for ever having to deal with secondary ticketing sites”, James Bay told the crowd, picking up the prize for Best Solo Artist, “I hope we see the end of them. They definitely suck”.

See, it’s much funnier to splash around in a brand’s money while simultaneously doing things you know will annoy them. Like that time Lady Gaga forever associated Doritos with vomiting. If any brand wants to drop £50,000 into my bank account, I will demonstrate this further this afternoon.

The angriest speech of the evening came from Bastille’s Dan Smith, who picked up the Best Track prize for his band’s single ‘Good Grief’. “Exploitative secondary ticketing is fucking bollocks”, he spat. “It’s shit for fans and it’s pretty shit for the bands as well”.

So there are three artists who can definitely be put on the anti-touting list. All the other winners are still maybes. Though, to be fair, not all of them were there to drink up a load of StubHub’s booze and start shouting.

Classic Album award winners The Charlatans played a show immediately after the ceremony, and while we have no record of them commenting on the secondary ticketing market, the press release announcing the post-awards gig was notable for the absence of any mention of StubHub. Perhaps they were worried that people would start selling off their tickets once they found out the big closing performance was going to be from them. No need to worry, StubHub had barred anyone from listing Q Awards tickets for resale. Well, they wouldn’t want anyone spoiling their own event.

For its part, StubHub doesn’t see itself as an evil corporation parasitically profiting off music fans, and reckoned that its sponsorship of the awards was a good thing. “At StubHub, we love it when an already successful concept develops into something even bigger and better”, said StubHub’s Global Marketing Director Charles Davies in the run up to the event. “We want to help fans get to the events that they want to see and we’re proud to be giving fans the opportunity to experience The StubHub Q Awards live at the legendary Roundhouse”.

Managing Director of Q owner Bauer Patrick Horton also reckoned it was just fine, telling Music Week in an interview: “We work with a wide variety of commercial partners and StubHub already have a long relationship with music. They have sponsored nights at SXSW and they have partnerships with everyone from Apple through to promoters such as AEG, [and] with venues like The O2”.

“We understand that StubHub want to work closely with rights holders and the industry, and their involvement with Q underlines that”, he added. “We at Q believe wholeheartedly in supporting musicians and the music industry”.

The fact that all those angry musicians turned up to collect their trophies would suggest that they do appreciate Q’s support – or at least the support of Q’s readers, who do the actual voting – just not that of StubHub.

Though the fact that StubHub sponsors other events and has partnerships with big venues doesn’t make it any less controversial a partner. SXSW is stuffed full of events sponsored by brands you might have a problem with, and people expect big companies like AEG and Apple to do things they find questionable.

The Q Awards, however, is a fairly well-respected awards ceremony that sees people from across the industry – who are definitely not all of one mind on this subject – together in a room at the same time. So selling StubHub headline sponsor status was always going to be controversial and a perfect opportunity for the anti-tout brigade to take a stand. Oh sure, only three people actually seem to have taken a stand. And OK, their principles didn’t rise up in their gut hard enough to keep them away from the event altogether. But we’ve already discussed what’s funnier than a boycott, and that’s always the most important thing.

Also, the FanFair Alliance noted in its statement last month: “The company’s sponsorship of the 2016 Q Awards – now The StubHub Q Awards – comes at a particularly sensitive time, during an ongoing compliance review of secondary ticketing by the Competition & Markets Authority and with government due to respond to the recommendations of Professor Michael Waterson that would help clean up a notoriously under-regulated sector”.

Oh well. Maybe next year the Q Awards should take a leaf out of the NME Awards’ book and get themselves sponsored by a city, so that people are confused, rather than angry. I look forward to the Panama City Q Awards 2017. David Cameron could present an award.

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