June 16, 2016
It’s both irritating and disappointing when you can’t get tickets to a long-awaited show, isn’t it? Just to spice it up, you probably don’t even know that sometimes you lose the battle to bots, not even people.
Just a week ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the hottest actors, composers and writers today, shared an insightful letter of concern that many people passionate about art and, in particular, the musical Hamilton, don’t stand a chance to get a ticket against soulless bots scooping up tickets within minutes, sometimes even seconds, of their release before true fans and consumers get a chance to purchase them at the original price. Though to be fair, the surge pricing has stopped few.
Leveraging the extreme imbalance in supply and demand of tickets, bot-powered platforms hunt for tickets to resell them at eye-popping prices, creating an infinitely disappointing experience for art lovers.
As Miranda shares, Brokers who buy tickets using bots substantially mark up prices – sometimes by more than 1,000% – yielding enormous profits. Even the fact that ticket bots are illegal in New York doesn’t overweigh the greed to earn millions on honest ticket buyers.
…I want to be there when the curtain goes up. You shouldn’t have to fight robots just to see something you love, says Miranda.
Just to give you an idea of how massive and mighty the bot-powered ticket brokerage industry is, data suggests that more than 15K tickets were bought by just two bots for the U2 2015 tour in 20 different venues across North America in 1 day. The markup is very impressive as well, going beyond 100%.
In addition to bots, the venues themselves decrease the general public’s chances of getting tickets at fair prices by shrinking the supply even more. For some concerts, tickets reserved for insiders may constitute quite a significant part of the total number of tickets. According to the Ticket Sales Report by the New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, A Kanye West show at Barclays Center held 29% of tickets for insiders, including over 2,000 tickets for the promoter and more than 500 tickets for the venue. Overall, 14 of the State’s most popular shows held at least 20% of available tickets for insiders (as if bots weren’t enough).
In the end, the public gets access to only about 46% of tickets, the report suggests.
That said, the question now is: how do we stop bots from manipulating on our desire to see something we love, given that industry odds are stacked against fans?
NYAG offers quite an array of ways to fight bots, including ticket-selling platforms that ensure brokers comply with laws, increased transparency on the ways tickets are allocated, and ticket vendors (ie Ticketmaster) addressing the bot epidemic themselves using bot detection and prevention methods. And finally, in case the government takes legislative actions against bot-powered leverage, the passed legislature should act in full strength.
There are some other suggestions, but let’s look at some particularly interesting solutions that could potentially improve the situation with ticket access. There are three parts to the puzzle that power the proposed solution.
Non-transferable paperless tickets: As with any digital asset, paperless tickets are certainly not flawless. There is some friction if you want to gift a paperless ticket that is not transferable, or if a credit card is forgotten. However, NYAG suggests that paperless tickets appear to be one of the few measures to have any clear effect in reducing the excessive prices charged on the secondary markets and increasing the odds of fans buying tickets at face value.
Non-transferrable uniquely IDed paperless tickets have the potential to substantially reduce the ripping-off that happens with the resale of the most desirable seats. These tickets would cut off brokers and leave the tickets for purchase by people who will actually be using them at a fair price. This is essentially what the airline industry does.
However, the option hasn’t been applied yet and there are reasons to that as well. Despite the drawbacks of the whole broker system, brokers are seen as a positive force that pushes less desirable tickets along with the desirable ones. Whether the benefit that brokers provide to ticket suppliers should outweigh the cost to consumers remains to be seen.
Blockchain technology. Of course, we couldn’t leave aside one of the darlings of the modern tech world – blockchain technology.
The tamper-proof unique ticket attributed to a particular buyer recorded on blockchain could significantly aid in eliminating all speculations with resale. A blockchain record would serve as proof that a particular person purchased the ticket. This would decrease the risk of not only fraudulent activity but also the resale of highly-desirable seats with huge markups.
There are already companies operating in this space, like Cloudchain, a ticketing platform based on blockchain. The company offers a system that allows ticket suppliers to create, sell and distribute all the tickets one needs with just a few simple clicks. Tickets are verified simply by scanning the QR code that contains the ownership information. The underlying blockchain technology provides anyone the ability to verify the validity of a ticket, ensures maximum system security and makes it easy to integrate the system with partner (e.g. reseller) infrastructures by using specific features of the blockchain technology.
Finally, having the venue itself to own the whole release and selling process is also a possible solution to eliminate the whole problem with middlemen. Eventually, it is the venue that organizes the event within its walls and offers seats to enjoy the show. However, the industry has grown in complexity and middlemen pushed one of two main actors (another one being spectators themselves), out of the process.
These three elements can actually be a part of a holistic solution – blockchain-recorded non-transferable paperless tickets sold by the venues directly to the customer. But then, the whole ecosystem is shrunk to the entertainers and to the customers, shutting the sometimes-useful middlemen out. On the other hand, it would be the fairest way to sell tickets to the truly passionate individuals at a face value ensuring diehard Hamilton fans aren’t soured by surge pricing.