Gig cancellations and late arrivals: your consumer rights

Justin Bieber’s late apperance at the O2 arena – on a school night no less – prompted a furious reaction from fans and their parents. Are gig goers entitled to a refund?

Justin Bieber’s late appearance on stage at a gig at London’s O2 arena on Monday night angered hundreds of parents who felt that appearing at 10.24pm on a school night instead of the scheduled time of 8.30pm was unfair. He’s not the first artist to make the headlines for keeping fans waiting, so what are your rights when an artist turns up late, or fails to do so at all?

I was at the Bieber gig and had to leave before it ended. Can I get a refund?

No. You paid to see Bieber and he honoured his part of the deal by turning up. It’s not his fault you had to get the 11.12pm train home to Brighton, no matter how unfair that sounds.

But don’t let that stop you complaining to promoter AEG Live – just because it doesn’t have to issue a refund doesn’t mean it might not make an exception. Try emailing enquiries@aeglive.co.uk.

The O2 apologised for the late showing, stating it spoke to Transport for London to make sure it held the last tubes, and that the nine Thames Clipper boats it owns were waiting to ferry guests at the end of the gig. Everyone was out of the venue by 12.10am, it added. It is referring complaints to the promoter.

What can I do if a gig is cancelled completely?

If a ticket seller is a member of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (Star), it should abide by its code of practice. Although the code is not legally enforceable, it was drawn up using Office of Fair Trading guidance, meaning Star-approved companies should not include anything in their terms and conditions that could be deemed unfair. This includes “denying the consumer a right to a refund in all circumstances or allowing the event promoter to make changes to the contracted event without valid reason”.

That only applies to the face value of the ticket – not all ticket retailers will refund booking fees or postage fees. According to consumer rights group Which?, Ticketmaster will refund postage charges if tickets have not already been sent, but some agents – such as See Tickets – will not refund the extra fees.

You will not be able to claim for travel costs – if, for example, you have already bought train tickets – from the promoter or ticket seller in the event of a cancellation. If your ticket allows, however, you may be able to switch your dates of travel at little or zero cost by contacting the travel company direct.

What if an event has been rescheduled?

Your rights are similar to a cancellation: your tickets will be valid for the new dates, but if you can’t make that date you are entitled to a full refund. Again, you will not necessarily be refunded any booking or postage costs.

You will not be able to reclaim travel costs from the promoter or ticket seller; again rearranging your travel will come down to what type of ticket you have bought.

I went to a One Direction gig, but they pulled out at the last minute and Rylan appeared instead. Can I get a refund?

It’s a bit of a grey area, this. According to Which? you are not entitled to a refund if a substitute appears in place of a show’s headline star, or a headlining artist changes from the one advertised on a music festival line-up. (Festivals in particular have a right to substitute acts, given there are often hundreds of them for organisers to juggle).

However, if you’d contracted to see One Direction specifically and arrived to see Rylan on stage, it is unlikely there could be any scope for a substitute act. “The position may be different if it was, say, an X-Factor tour and the specific acts weren’t guaranteed,” a Which? lawyer says. This indicates that a refund should be due if the advertised act does not appear, but it all comes down to how artist abandonment is covered in the terms and conditions of the ticket sale.

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Rebecca Adlington, you’re not the only person to retire at 23

The champion swimmer’s retirement so young might have surprised many. But she is not alone. Other athletes – and even a member of Wham! – happily did the same

It may be disappointing for the rest of us to see Rebecca Adlington retire, but we aren’t the ones who have to get up at 5.15am each day to train. At 23, she simply feels too old to win the biggest races now, she says. “I hate the word ‘retired’,” she told her press conference. “I’m not retired. Even when I’m 90 years old, I’ll still be getting in the pool and going for a swim.” But loving what you do and loving winning are two different things. The second one has driven Adlington to become Britain’s greatest ever swimmer. You could understand if the distant gleam of bronze is not, perhaps, enough to swap for another four years of her youth.

And she has plans. Since the London Olympics, she has qualified as a level two swimming teacher. (Not a very tense exam, you would imagine.) She has also set herself another ambitious target by launching a programme called Becky Adlington’s Swim Stars, which intends to get every child in Britain swimming at least 25 metres by the time they leave primary school.

Yet ultra-young retirement does not agree with everybody. Bjorn Borg suffered a double misfortune after he quit tennis at 26, first struggling in his business and personal life, then staging a disastrous comeback. Even so, Adlington can take some comfort from the more encouraging examples among her fellow 23-year-olds.

Nadia Comaneci, gymnast

It is perhaps easier to abandon the career you love when you know for certain that its highlight has already passed. At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, when she was just 14, the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci not only won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze, but also scored the first perfect 10 – on the uneven bars – in the history of the games. In Moscow in 1980, she won two more golds and two silvers, then ceased competing the following year, before retiring officially at a lavish ceremony in 1984.

This was not especially young for a female gymnast. They have perhaps sport’s earliest and shortest careers. She may have been only 23, Comaneci likes to remind people, but she had been working hard since she was six. In 1989, she escaped Romania, climbing seven barbed-wire fences (very gracefully, you expect), to seek asylum in the United States, where she now lives. With her husband, Bart Conner, another gold medal winner, she runs a gymnastics academy, supply company and magazine. On the side, she is an official spokesperson for Botox.

Wang Junxia, runner

She never actually failed a drugs test, so depending on how you look at it, Wang Junxia is either one of distance running’s greatest ever athletes, or its greatest disgrace. In September 1993, she won the 10,000m at the Chinese National Championships in a time that cut a scarcely believable 42 seconds off the previous world record. Three days later, she and another runner both broke the world record in the 1,500m. The following day, she broke the world record in her heat of the 3,000m, then broke it again in the final the day after. Never again did she or anybody else get close to these times, and after winning gold in the 5,000m at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, the 23-year-old Wang retired, citing the way her health had suffered under her former coach Ma Junren’s training methods.

In 2000, however, six of Ma’s other runners tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs on the eve of the Beijing games, and ever since Wang’s achievements have been tainted. She may have been almost impossibly brilliant, she may have been a drugs cheat, or she may have been the coerced victim of one, but we will probably never know. In her new life she founded a popular jogging club. Latterly, she even took up film acting. Her records still stand.

Andrew Ridgeley, musician

It is true that 23-year-olds who leave Wham! have only a 50% success rate. Yet it hardly seems fair to judge Ridgeley for failing to become a pop star twice, when once would be enough for most people. And at first, after the group’s farewell concert at Wembley stadium in 1986, he didn’t even try. Instead he moved to Monaco and took up Formula Three racing, without success. On his return to Britain, he recorded a solo album called Son of Albert, which flopped utterly.

Rather than embittering him, however, the experience seemed to get something out of Ridgeley’s system. At the end of a hedonistic decade, he settled down with his partner Keren Woodward, herself a former member of Bananarama. The couple now live in quiet anonymity with their children on the north Cornwall coast, surfing, golfing and sometimes – you never know – popping to the shops. Thanks to his continuing royalties on Wham!’s music, Ridgeley is wealthy enough to need no other employment, and he is still just 50. Retirement indeed.

Sasha Grey, porn star

Given the way the industry has declined in recent years, Sasha Grey may ultimately be remembered as pornography’s last great star. The American actor started in 2006, aged 18. She was known as much for her looks as for the extremity of the scenes she was prepared to work in, and the unusually thoughtful and assertive approach she took to making them. When she announced her retirement from the business on her Facebook page in 2011, it was with characteristic poise and wit. “It’s become quite evident that my time as an adult film performer has expired,” Grey said. “It was simply the perfect time for me to move on … while I was on top (pun indeed, intended).”

And she has moved on. Having already starred in an experimental film directed by Steven Soderbergh, she became a regular character in the seventh season of Entourage on HBO. She makes music with an avant-garde pop band aTelecine, and in May, her first novel, The Juliette Society, is scheduled to be published.

Kim Clijsters, tennis player

Tennis players have a constant grind of tournaments to work through, which takes its toll. In 2003, Belgian Kim Clijsters became the first woman for 29 years to play more than 100 matches in a season, and afterwards had serious wrist, ankle and knee injuries to prove it. “I like to win and I put in a lot to do that, but the quality of life in and outside tennis are at least as important,” she said, before having even won her first grand slam title. In 2007, aged 23, and with one US Open to her name, she retired – bringing the announcement forward, appropriately enough, because of injury.

After just two years, however, having got married and had a baby, she came back. Six months later, she had won the US Open again, beating both Williams sisters on the way to the final. The following year, she won it a third time, and then the Australian open in 2011, propelling her back once again to the top of the world rankings. If you are going to unretire, that is how to do it.

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Music streaming for the masses

Spotify, Deezer, Rdio, Google Play … which is best? We check out a rapidly growing market

Music streaming is coming of age. Spotify now has more than 30 million customers for its service. Deezer claims 22 million, while Rdio this week launched a deal that allows listeners free access to 18m songs – but only for six months.

Over the past few years, streaming sites have really struck a chord with consumers looking for a flexible, cost-effective way to access music on demand.

Many music lovers are ditching their CD collections, listening to music on the move through their smartphones and routing it into speakers at home through their broadband wi-fi system.

Dozens of companies are staking out their territory in the once-barren middle ground between illegal filesharing and digital record stores such as iTunes. So, for the uninitiated, what on earth is it? And what are the best-value deals?

What is streaming?

Music plays instantly over a device such as a smartphone or a home computer, so there’s no waiting around for it to be delivered or downloaded.

Most sites have a vast array of music from all genres. It suits both the casual listener and the diehard fan since mainstream chart music and offbeat rarities can all be found in the same place.

But it’s a mindset change for many; you don’t own the music in the way you do when you buy a CD.

Will it cost me a fortune?

It doesn’t have to cost a penny, as many sites are entirely free. Others charge a monthly fee in return for unlimited access and bonus content.

When Spotify released its results in September last year, it revealed that only 8% of its 33 million users at the end of 2011 were paying customers.

Can the music I listen to be saved on my device?

It depends on the site and the device. For example, Spotify’s basic service allows users to save their music to playlists. All saved content is linked to an account, rather than an individual computer.

If you want to access your music on a mobile or tablet, you’ll need the premium or unlimited service for a monthly fee.

What equipment do I need?

All that is needed is a reliable internet connection and a computer, or a smartphone or other web-enabled device.

Although it is possible to use 3G, most streaming sites work best with a broadband or a 4G connection.

Do music streaming sites offer any added extras?

Yes. Most offer exclusive “first listens”, free downloads and live material. Apps (see above) are also becoming big business; if you can’t decide what to listen to, a friend, a music critic or even a roulette wheel can choose for you.

How is my privacy protected?

These operators do have a habit of wanting to broadcast your music choices to the world, so your embarrassing song selection may appear on Facebook unless you switch off social settings.

Some apps may also tweet or post messages on your behalf, so if you’re not comfortable with that, make sure you opt out.

Every site has a privacy policy and it’s best to familiarise yourself with it.

The top sites

Spotify

The upsides It has a huge selection, with thousands of songs added each week. The interface is smooth and simple, which makes it easy to navigate. Varied and innovative apps.

The downsides The free version has adverts, which can become irritating. Some users complain that more obscure tastes are not catered for. Persistent grumblings about the minimal amount artists make from the site.

The cost The advert-funded version is free. It’s £4.99 a month for the premium service, which is advert-free and £9.99 a month for the unlimited service, which is also advert-free and includes access to the mobile app.

Rdio

The upsides It offers free unlimited access to a library of more than 18m songs for six months. Users can follow their favourite artists and access their playlists. Can also be used offline.

The downsides After your free trial you will have to sign up for a monthly subscription to continue using the site.

The cost Nothing for the first six months. After that, it’s £4.99 a month for unlimited web streaming or £9.99 for unlimited web and mobile streaming.

Deezer

The upsides It is web-based rather than client-based, meaning there’s no need to download any software to use it. You can listen to its radio stations on your mobile without a subscription.

The downsides The mobile streaming quality is not quite on a par with the desktop version, which could prove offputting to premium subscribers.

The cost £4.99 for the basic version. £9.99 for the premium service, which includes mobile streaming.

Sony Unlimited Music

The upsides It offers a wide selection of songs (15m and counting) from a trusted brand with expertise in both music and technology. The site can be used through other Sony products such as Bravia TVs and PlayStation consoles.

The downsides It lacks a “higher quality” streaming option, unlike rival sites. As yet, its mobile service can’t be used on BlackBerrys or Windows phones.

The cost Basic subscription is £3.99, while premium is £9.99. A 14-day free trial is available to new users.

Google Play

The upsides It’s more than just a streaming site. Users can upload 20,000 tracks from their own music collection. You can also buy tracks and access exclusive material. As you’d expect, it has a very fast search facility.

The downsides Less intuitive and a crowded layout makes it slightly difficult to navigate.

The cost There is no charge to upload. Hundreds of songs can be streamed or downloaded for free. But top tracks are typically 99p each and albums £6-£7.

Soundcloud

The upsides It’s great for finding new music. Artists often upload material, including mix tapes and demos, directly to the site.

The downsides It has a slightly messy interface and the user comments that pop up while you listen to music can be distracting.

The cost Free for the basic service. Prices for the premium services start at £25 a year.

TuneIn

The upsides It allows users access to a large variety of radio stations from across the world, covering everything from sports to religion. It has a desktop and a mobile version.

The downsides It’s strictly no-frills. You won’t find anything here but radio stations (and a few podcasts).

The cost Nothing for the basic version. The pro version lets users record programmes for a one-off fee.

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