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As their uptake grows, artists and promoters are getting increasingly creative with how these digital collectables can be used to keep fans engaged after the show.
By James Drury on 01 Nov 2022
NFTs are the hot topic in ticketing right now. The pandemic has hastened the move away from paper tickets to see most territories fully embracing digital passes. Yet for all the advantages mobile ticketing brings – security, control over the secondary market, data-gathering, environmental and administrative benefits, what’s missing is the ‘souvenir’ element of a paper ticket stub.
This element of extending the fan connection post-event is where many people believe NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) can play an important role. “We think it’s a great way for us to engage with our fans using NFT and that direct relationship now to add rewards, add perks, add souvenir moments,” Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino told an investors call in 2021.
“We think it’s a great way for us to engage with our fans using NFT and that direct relationship now to add rewards, add perks, add souvenir moments”
He discussed his interest in the benefits of NBA Top Shot, where fans can buy, trade, and sell digital collectables of NBA moments. These ‘moments’ – often short videos of an amazing dunk or key moment – were sent to ticketholders’ wallets after each game as an NFT. They can be traded, shared online, or used to unlock VIP opportunities, rewards, and more.
Inevitably, in August 2022, Live Nation- owned Ticketmaster partnered with the Flow blockchain operated by Dapper Labs, which is behind NBA Top Shot. “Event organisers who choose to offer fans an NFT with their ticket have a real opportunity to make this new technology relevant and relatable at scale,” said Brendan Lynch, Ticketmaster EVP of enterprise & revenue at the time.
“This is why we are partnering with Flow, because their blockchain is custom-built for fan engagement and frictionless consumer experiences.”
“Event organisers who choose to offer fans an NFT with their ticket have a real opportunity to make this new technology relevant and relatable at scale”
The breadth of opportunities these digital collectables offer is what’s exciting many, such as Olivier Biggs of GET Protocol: “In 2016, we started with blockchain ticketing because our founders were interested in the promise of transparency and accountability in ticketing,” he says. “Ticketing can have opaque situations that lead to distrust between promoters, artists, venues, and fans.
Originally, eradicating scalping and fraud was the main goal. And we achieved that quite quickly by designing a system where there’s a very clear, simple ticket market, where anyone can see the aspects of their tickets, they can see whether it’s been resold or not, for what price, and everything is transparent.
“Then, in 2019, the NFT hype kicked off. All of our tickets were already on-chain, meaning anyone could see them transparently on a blockchain. But with NFTs, there were suddenly all sorts of new, exciting elements that came into play. And that got us and many others thinking: this is very relevant for ticketing.
“All of our tickets were already on-chain, meaning anyone could see them transparently on a blockchain. But with NFTs, there were suddenly all sorts of new, exciting elements that came into play”
“First and foremost is the application of collectables. That’s one of the more understandable approaches because it’s a human trait to want to collect something of an experience you enjoyed or that was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It’s like a moment of fandom encapsulated into tangible items. Our tickets are NFTs, meaning they are also digital collectables. We prefer to call them digital collectables as opposed to NFTs because it makes more sense to people.”
GET Protocol has around 15 ticketing companies using its technology, ranging from the full white-label offer to more bespoke combinations. One of them, Guts Tickets in Holland, works with the Dutch basketball champion team. The company offers digital collectables with tickets that the attendee can claim post-event. These include things such as a highlight picture of the game, which creates a collectable digital item that fans can keep as a memento.
Vienna-based B.A.M. Ticketing offers blockchain ticketing and collectable NFTs. The company set up its own blockchain to solve the issues the digital ledger has sometimes shown, such as speed of processing.
“First and foremost is the application of collectables. That’s one of the more understandable approaches because it’s a human trait to want to collect something of an experience you enjoyed or that was a once-in-a-lifetime moment”
Co-founder and CEO Georg Müller says the added economic value of post-event engagement possibilities these digital collectables provide are sometimes not fully realised by promoters. “Every time we ask event organisers: ‘what’s the use of adding these post-event elements?’ Often, we get the reply: ‘We don’t know; we just want to get additional revenue from selling them.’ But nobody will buy something like this if there’s no economic value behind it.”
What Müller sees as really harnessing the power of NFTs is the huge variety of creative ways you can use these digital collectables. “NBA Top Shot uses past content, and I don’t see the real economic value for the end consumer in that. We are working with a record label in Austria with one of their artists who’s issuing a track as an NFT for VIP ticket holders.
“People who get the track can play it within our app, but it’s not available to the public. It’s only the VIP ticketholders who get the NFT as a track that can listen to it or play it to their friends. This is a great example of how to use NFTs to create real economic value.”
He also sees the capability of creating “social value” as a real benefit of NFT tickets, which have the ‘smart contract,’ including all the usual terms and conditions found on the back of a paper ticket attached to them. Because it’s on the blockchain and can’t be traded or shared with anyone else without it being registered to the new owner, fans can genuinely prove their dedication to an artist or sports team.
“You could use an NFT token or badge on your profile picture, social media, and so on, and brag about it in public”
“We’re working with a first-division football club in Austria on their season tickets. Imagine you’re a mega-fan of the team: even if they aren’t playing well, and the weather is terrible, but you still attend 20 out of the 22 games, you can legitimately prove that you stuck with them through thick and thin – and you’re a superfan, which would be verified because of the security of the blockchain.
“You could use an NFT token or badge on your profile picture, social media, and so on, and brag about it in public.”
Florida-based Relic Tickets was set up by Hunter Abramson, who’s equally excited by the security and creativity offered by NFT ticketing. The company uses blockchain technology to issue smart tickets that provide benefits for fans and management tools for promoters.
“Blockchain can solve fraudulent activity, as well as mitigating scalping,” he says. “I’ve sat down with many major US artists who want that to happen because their true fans often can’t afford the scalped tickets.
“But the really big advantage is the marketing value. How do we give clients a relationship with their ticketholders in perpetuity? And not only that but how do you use it to collapse the distance between a ticket holder and the experience that they just had, and have it live on forever? This has been really big in the US. So there’s a new huge revenue stream for music festivals, conferences, and brands.”
“Blockchain can solve fraudulent activity, as well as mitigating scalping”
ComeTogether is an Athens-based firm providing NFTs with both physical and digital utilities, such as NFT ticketing, collectables, and memberships. Its NFT ticketing solution introduces a new form of digital ticket as an NFT with delivery through a dynamic QR code that changes every 30 seconds. The company says it aims to prevent fraud and scalping and unlock new secondary market revenue for promoters, plus offer better audience insights.
“Performing artists and promoters are looking for ways to increase fan engagement, reward loyal fans, and to monetise their audience,” says co-founder/chief revenue officer Stathis Mitskas.
“NFTs provide solutions to these challenges. Our NFT collectables can be provided with ticketing or standalone. There are two categories: NFTs linked to events, such as tickets as collectables with digital art, highlights from the event, and fan-generated content. Membership NFTs offer exclusive content plus utility. Fans are only one example of where these concepts will emerge; we believe these programmes will cross over into different types of businesses in the future.”
Membership NFTs can provide exclusive rewards that are only available to people who hold them. These rewards can provide greater motivation for fans to engage with artists or event organiser offers.
“When you think of NFTs, usually the first thought is that this is purely a digital concept”
“When you think of NFTs, usually the first thought is that this is purely a digital concept,” says Mitskas. “ComeTogether is promoting the combination of both physical and digital NFT utility. The combination of these ideas allows the provider of the NFTs to reach a wider target audience and engage with them on multiple levels.
“The introduction of memberships with exclusive access based on the level of membership also allows organisations providing NFTs to build a greater rapport with the owners of the NFTs.”
Underpinning the digital collectables, of course, is blockchain, the ledgers that mean ownership of a ticket can be linked to a person’s digital wallet, thereby authenticating ownership.
The security of knowing exactly who’s coming to events has many advantages. But sometimes, the transparency of public blockchains can be off-putting to some promoters or artists who might not want everyone to be able to see who owns the tickets. B.A.M. Ticketing has created its own private blockchain to overcome this issue, which is specialised in high-speed transactions.
The company’s Müller sees additional advantages of enabling ticketing companies to work together more closely. “Imagine there are multiple ticketing providers selling tickets to a concert. We can let the event organiser or the ticketing company control who can see what data. For example, event organisers can provide the fire authorities with the precise number of tickets sold.”
“Or the venue can see the names of who’s attending so they can carry out Covid tracing, but we can hide the pricing information from them. You can also include audit notes for financial accounting and proof of adhering to secondary sales laws, where relevant. For example, we can prove that no secondary transactions were made with a markup of more than 20% without revealing real pricing.
“We can control who can see which data but in a completely trusted way so everybody knows this is genuine information.”
With so many exciting new ways of leveraging sponsorship or reaching attendees post-event, digital collectables and NFT ticketing offer ways of keeping people excited and engaged after they’ve left a concert. But there’s still a lag in the education of many audience members and even among some ticketing companies, despite Ticketmaster’s entry to the sector.
“We can control who can see which data but in a completely trusted way so everybody knows this is genuine information”
As GET Protocol’s Biggs says: “With the big organisations, everyone’s looking at each other and slightly dancing around it. They don’t want to make a mistake with their entry to the market, but they also don’t want to miss out. So we’re advising and trying to slowly but surely educate as many people as possible. We want to demonstrate that this isn’t a crazy, complicated thing, and anyone can do it.
“There’s still a discrepancy between the assumption of how technical and difficult it is to implement this type of technology and how easy it actually is. But we’re making the case every day and winning more and more people over. And we’re selling a lot of tickets.”
As more and more companies and artists catch on to the opportunities available and people get increasingly creative with what they can make as a digital collectable, the NFT ticketing sector looks set to finally consign the paper ticket to the history books.