Scarcely today is a top-selling artist’s tour announced without articles and social media debate about how the tickets, shortly after going on sale, appear on secondary ticketing sites for sums many times their face value. As demand significantly outweighs supply, many fans have to buy tickets at inflated prices.
Brand programmes such as American Express Invites, Telstra Thanks and O2 Priority have all played a role in ticketing over the years, supporting artists, promoters and ticketing platforms by promoting tours and driving demand among their customers. What is now equally as important to the industry is that brands consider how they can ensure that tickets end up in the hands of fans and not profiteers.
But what is being done to tackle this problem? UK government agencies debate the introduction of regulation and measures to prevent and fine professional touts, who are using "bots" to overcome ticket limit restrictions. They also strive for more transparency in the ticket details on secondary ticketing sites to protect consumers from counterfeiters. In Italy, meanwhile, the authorities have gone as far as outlawing completely the practice of ticket reselling by private individuals.
However, real change to this practice has to be driven by artists and promoters, and I believe technology provides the solution. In recent months, artists, tour and event organisers have been trying a number of different ways to prevent profiteering from the illegitimate resale of tickets and have put measures in place to maximise genuine fan access.
Eticket and mobile solutions have been developed that restrict purchasers from reselling or sharing tickets outside the official sites, where genuine ticket exchanges take place at face value. This is a great solution unless the purchaser has unwittingly bought these tickets through unofficial resale sites. This happened recently at a Foo Fighters gig at the O2, when many hundreds of fans were turned away for not having ID that matched the name of the person who originally purchased their tickets.
Ticketmaster has taken a different approach. Its Verified Fan technology leverages a pre-registration mechanic that uses an algorithm to identify real fans and weed out the touts, delivering one-time-use presale codes to successful registrants. This year Ed Sheeran, Bruce Springsteen, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift have all adopted this technology. Although there were a few teething problems, Ticketmaster boasts that its ticket algorithms now ensure fewer than 5% of tickets are sold to touts and that number is improving over time.
Brands are now beginning to take a similar stance – they are helping fans to secure tickets more fairly by partnering ticketing platforms or working alongside innovators to embrace, invest in and advance these technologies. After all, the future of ticketing will be digital as the physical ticket becomes obsolete because of its lack of trackability.
The brands that embrace such technologies first can pioneer this space, proving to artists and the industry that they are serious about supporting real fans by providing fair access, attracting artists to their programmes and securing a competitive advantage. Brands that do this well will own this stage.
Peter Harris is the UK head of music at Momentum Worldwide