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The future of ticketing

by Nicola Macdonald

Ticketing has been hitting the headlines recently, and not always for the most positive reasons, so EN decided to take a closer look at this rapidly changing sector…

Event ticketing seems to be undergoing a seismic shift.

In much the same way that sustainability has caught the public’s attention with the widespread banning of plastic straws, counterfeit tickets and extortionate resale prices have been hitting the headlines.

In recent months secondary ticketing site Viagogo attracted some unwelcome attention from angry consumers and both the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and in August 2018 Ticketmaster announced the closure of its ticket resale platforms Seatwave and Get Me In, along with the launch of a new ticket exchange, in a bid to combat issues with secondary ticketing. 

Andrew Parsons, managing director of Ticketmaster UK, released a statement saying: “Our number one priority is to get tickets into the hands of fans so that they can go to the events they love. We know that fans are tired of seeing tickets being snapped up just to find them being resold for a profit on secondary websites, so we have taken action.

“Closing down our secondary sites and creating a ticket exchange on Ticketmaster has always been our long-term plan. We’re excited to launch our redesigned website which will make buying and selling tickets fast and simple, with all tickets in the same place.

“Our new Ticketmaster ticket exchange lets fans sell tickets they can’t use directly through their Ticketmaster account, for the price originally paid or less. Selling tickets through Ticketmaster is really simple: we do all the hard work and outline the maximum that can be charged for the ticket – and it doesn’t cost fans a penny to sell them.”

While the fans will no doubt be encouraged by the move, other ticketing providers worry that the sector’s reputation has taken a hit.

“The threat of the tout is high on the consumer conscious,” says Richard Howle, director of ticketing for The Ticket Factory. “This is having a knock-on effect on the reputation of the wider ticketing industry. The more touting is publicised, it causes more customer confusion, and an uncertainty of what companies/sites to trust.

“Over the past months, successful campaigns by groups such as FanFair Alliance and Victims of Viagogo have raised awareness of the issues surrounding the secondary ticketing market, and the recent news that Ticketmaster plans to shut down Seatwave and Get Me In has been (nearly) universally welcomed. 

“However, efforts to combat the practice will never completely eradicate it, and in the internet age it can operate anywhere in the world, outside of the jurisdiction of individual national governments. Therefore, we need to address this by raising our profiles as STAR-accredited retailers, and put a greater emphasis on raising awareness of how customers buy tickets safely.”

Since summer 2016 the FanFair Alliance, comprised of a group of music managers and businesses, has been fighting industrial-scale online ticket touting and attempting to hold some of the worst offenders to account. EN caught up with campaign manager Adam Webb to learn more about what he saw as the biggest challenges facing the sector.

“Meeting audience expectations,” he says. “Fans need clear, consistent and advance information about when and where tickets are going on sale, and they need a similar level of detail about how to resell or reallocate a ticket if they can no longer attend.

“We need to make resale easier, and any important terms and conditions should be displayed in large print! FanFair Alliance is focussed on reforms of the secondary market, but I think across-the-board improvements are needed in terms of communication.”

Tech it out

Many in the industry think that new technology and innovations could be the answer to many of the sector’s issues with counterfeit ticketing and ticket touts.

“A ticket could and should be so much more than a licence to enter an event,” Webb tells EN. “With a stronger push towards digital and app-based ticketing I think these potentials could be realised, as well as mitigating large-scale ticket touting.”

Howle agrees, adding: “At The Ticket Factory and NEC Group [which owns the company], we have leveraged advancement in data segmentation, helping us to adopt a more sophisticated approach to the way we market exhibitions and engage with our database.

“We are also seeing a shift in booking habits, with more people booking on the move via mobile and our new app, so the level of the technology ticketing companies use must withstand these alternative traffic streams. The Ticket Factory app has been designed to work directly with our API, enabling more customers to transact, especially during busy periods. We’ve also integrated with other ticketing APIs to bring a greater selection of events to our customers.

“Overall, API software will become more advanced, allowing for easier system integration. The usage of AI such as Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa will be utilised by customers to purchase tickets, and the use of chatbots to aid customer service teams, will become commonplace within the industry.”

When we ask Katie McPhee, head of marketing for Eventbrite UK and Ireland, what she foresees disrupting the world of ticketing, she also goes down a tech route: “I’ll go for two big innovations: new generation RFID in the near future, and blockchain technologies, which are likely a little further away from actually changing the entire industry,” she says. “While RFID wristbands are by no means a new sight at large festivals, this technology has recently evolved drastically in terms of cost, seamless system integration, analytics, and component size, which now makes it much more eligible for medium-sized events.

“With RFID, a ticket isn’t a ticket or a QR code as we know it. It’s a memory, identity, data, and can come in various shapes and sizes – like a traditional wristband or lanyard – or integrated into your mobile phone. Attendees use RFID for fast site access, near instant cashless payments, a means of identification, and for connecting with third parties on site, which helps creators understand each individual attendee, allowing them to deliver a highly-customised experience to all attendees, possibly translating into real-time upgrades. RFID will also help eliminate fraud: RFID chips have a unique identifier that makes them nearly impossible to duplicate.

“And then there’s the blockchain…”

Blockchain, most famous for its association with Bitcoin, is – to put it simply – a method of information sharing. To learn more (not that we knew much to start with) EN sat down with Aventus co-founders Annika Monari and Alan Vey, who are bringing an exciting new emerging technology into the ticketing market using blockchain.

“The easiest way to explain what the blockchain is just by looking at history, and how things have changed over time with technology,” says Monari. “When post was the main way of communicating and people wrote letters to each other, we depended on big institutions to allow us to talk to each other. If the post offices disappeared or manipulated post, we would have no control over it. Then the internet came along and completely changed how we could communicate and share things with each other.

“Before you could use blockchain to send money around, we depended on governments and big banks to facilitate value transfer, but now with blockchain we can transfer value according to a set of rules that both parties agree to, that can’t be circumvented. Blockchain lets us represent value online and transfer it to each other without having to rely on a trusted intermediary.”

And where does ticketing come into this? Well, says Vey, blockchain technology has the potential to improve the ticketing market in three key ways.

“The first is control over inventory,” he explains. “For example only reselling tickets at ten per cent above face value, or maybe having no resale market at all. The second benefit is around operational efficiency and transparency; you know exactly who’s touched your tickets and how they’re transferred. The final benefit, depending on how you integrate it, is additional security around counterfeits.”

Aventus will fit into the ticketing industry as a B2B business, supporting existing B2C providers and giving them the ability to leverage the properties of blockchain.

“One of the biggest issues in the industry is that there’s a lot of inefficiency that leads to some entities being happier, and therefore some things are quite difficult to change,” says Monari. “Protection around fans hasn’t been the biggest concern, and only recently have things like Fan Fair Alliance come out to protect the fans.

“For us, we think that’s going to become an increasingly important aspect of going to events. Ultimately everything is about the artists and the fans; making things more secure for them and providing a better experience.”

There’s no doubt that big changes are on the horizon for the ticketing sector and, with increasing attention and oversight from government bodies, event professionals and the fans themselves, it seems clear that those changes will aim to secure and improve the ticket buying experience. 

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