Anyone who’s been to any kind of major event will be well aware of ticket touts. Standing outside venues, touts will attempt to buy any spare tickets at a low price and sell them to desperate would-be audience members at an inflated rate. Occasionally, someone you know will get a bargain ticket half way through a show and the system doesn’t seem too bad. More often, though, the tout will exploit the desperation of someone who shows up to a show ticketless and only hand one over for an extortionate sum.
Up until recently, digital technologies have done little to help the situation. If anything, having online platforms for peer-to-peer ticket sales has only made it easier to buy tickets in bulk and sell them at an inflated price almost immediately. Sites like Viagogo, Seatwave, Get Me In!, and others are arguably noble in intention, but they provide a platform for touting on a professional scale and the industry needs urgent revision to limit genuine fans being ripped off.
The issue is widely prevalent, but is only shunted into the spotlight when high-profile artists or others within the music industry speak out against it or Last year, Iron Maiden made a conscious effort to curb ticket touting on their UK arena tour, going ’In 2010, 6,294 tickets appeared overnight on three of the major resale platforms — Viagogo, Seatwave and Get Me In! — on the day of sale. In 2016 this had dropped to 207, all on Viagogo, as Live Nation/Ticketmaster had agreed delist the tour at Iron Maiden’s request.’
Chance The Rapper made a similar stand against tickets ‘scalpers’ at the end of last year, albeit in a less conventional fashion. The 24-year-old Chicago rapper bought back around 2,000 tickets from touts (at a value of $200 in some cases) to sell them back to his fans at face value. Both artists have helped to bring the topic of ticket touting into the mainstream, and with good reason. The issue is as much financial as it is ethical - secondary selling is a billion dollar industry in which artists are not positioned to benefit, despite it being their shows being exploited.
Members of the FanFair Alliance, a collective aiming to unite members of the music and creative community in a stand against ticket touting, said: ‘The black market in ticket resales is now widely recognized to have reached an industrial scale, with touts operating anonymously and with impunity on under-regulated secondary ticketing sites.’
Finally, technology is stepping up to combat the issue. Ticketmaster, for example, is using tech to limit mass buying from bots (although with evidently limited success). ’Our IT teams continually analyse traffic patterns and are able to block bots based on the non-human nature of the patterns they use,’ a Ticketmaster statement said. ’A key and successful initiative is the software that we employ to identify multiple purchases from the same IP Address. Once identified, we then block these IP addresses and share them amongst our global networks to ensure that they cannot repeat activity anywhere in the world.’
This, clearly, doesn’t always work - ticket reselling sites are still heavily populated with overpriced tickets. As a result, a number of companies have emerged looking to solve the issue once and for all. Dice is a mobile-only ticketing app that doesn’t allow users to sell their tickets on. By being 100% mobile, the app means that users cannot buy a ridiculous amount of tickets for profit. Even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to sell them on. If a show is sold out, users can have their tickets refunded which then passes it onto the next person in the waiting list.
Una Tickets, alternatively, is an app that links to a card, which holders can use as a pass to events. The card features the user’s picture, and has a NFC chip on the inside storing information about which shows the holder has purchased. ‘The advantage of that is there's no touting or counterfeiting because there's no actual ticket stored on the pass, it's stored on your account,’ co-founder Amar Chauhan told Stuff.tv. ‘We allow consumers to resell their ticket, or transfer them to friends and family. The marketplace is limited to face value or less, so it's a last resort really.’
More regulated secondary sales sites are a logical answer to the problem. Twickets, for example, runs on a policy of ‘face value or less’ and encourages users to meet in person to make the exchange. ‘We like that because it reinforces the community aspect,’ says founder Richard Davies. ‘It fits well with the whole mantra of Twickets. People should be trusted to work in that way and 99% of the time they do. We see very, very little fraud, and very little overpricing. As a delivery mechanism it's something we'll always want to support.’ Twickets began as a Twitter page dedicated to its service, and today festivals like Kendal Calling and Secret Garden Party have chosen it as an official reseller for second-hand tickets. It’s services like this that can really give a fatal blow to industrial-scale touting. Stopping people from buying and selling tickets outside of a venue is one thing, but cutting down the supply of (and the potential profit from) hoarded tickets is how digital can really make an impact.