700+ artists boycott Amazon over ICE ties
Just over a week after Amazon Web Services (AWS) revealed the full line-up for its Intersect music festival, over 700 musicians have pledged to boycott any Amazon-affiliated event or partnership due to the e-commerce giant’s links with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Artists including Deerhoof, Speedy Ortiz, Downtown Boys, Priests and Guy Picciotto have signed the ‘No Music for ICE’ open letter, published by digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future. The group is also behind a recent campaign urging festivals to ban facial recognition technology.
The letter states that the signatories are “outraged” that Amazon “continues to provide the technical backbone for ICE’s human rights abuses”.
The artists pledge to boycott “Amazon-sponsored events” and “exclusive partnerships” until the company terminates existing contracts with ICE, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR); stops supplying cloud services and tools to organisations that “power the US government’s deportation machine”; and ends facial recognition projects and any others that “encourage racial profiling”.
“We the undersigned artists are outraged that Amazon continues to provide the technical backbone for ICE’s human rights abuses”
The boycott comes after DJ the Black Madonna pulled out of her appearance at Intersect, claiming that Amazon Web Services’ affiliation with the event was not made apparent.
“If you were shocked I’d play for Amazon, well that makes two of us,” tweeted the DJ. “Please be patient while I burn some bridges.”
Artists still confirmed to play AWS’ Intersect festival, which is taking place from 6 to 7 December in Las Vegas, include Kacey Musgraves, Foo Fighters, Anderson.Paak, Beck, Brandi Carlile, Jamie XX and HER. Weekend passes are available for US$169.
Amazon has attempted to tap into the live scene in recent years, with its streaming arm, Amazon Music, hosting Taylor Swift-headlined Prime Day concert in July. Other, albeit short-lived, forays into the live industry by the web giant include event ticketing operation Amazon Tickets and concert series Prime Live Events.
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Authenticity, AR, facial recognition: The future of ticket tech
From methods of tackling fraud to improving the visitor experience, ticketing firms are exploring a variety of tools.
High on everyone’s minds is the rapid rise of mobile tickets – as frequently reported in the market profiles throughout ITY 2019. But this is just the start of a mobile-first paradigm shift.
“We’ve got a generation of new consumers coming through now and they don’t just expect their services to be on mobile, they expect them to be mobile first,” says industry veteran Steve Machin, global director of ticketing strategy and innovation at FanDragon. “People are buying tickets now who don’t ‘go online’ to do something, they just use their phone. This move to mobile will make the shift away from CDs look like a slow meander.”
Security is the top priority, says international ticketing consultant Tim Chambers. “Unfortunately, prevention of fraud costs time and resources and all too often organisations fail to plan for worst case, without any regard as to how to recover post-incident, and assume they’ll continue to get away without specialised focus.”
He adds: “Related to this is the issue of combatting automated bots that impact site availability (DDoS), on-sale queueing, event webpage reload, ticket purchase and other operational factors. Unfortunately, as an industry, too little has been done with shared expertise, best practice or market intel.”
Maureen Andersen, president and CEO of the International Ticketing Association (Intix), thinks ticket authenticity is a significant focus for companies when considering how new technology can help them.
“As an industry, too little has been done with shared expertise, best practice or market intel”
“Tickets delivered to your mobile is well established, but what will be more important in this matter is that the distribution is tied to your mobile, for example, by using a barcode that’s refreshed frequently. Ticketmaster has now released SafeTix, which is not unlike other technologies out there, but that the largest ticketing company in the world has done this shows how important authenticity is.”
Launched in May 2019, SafeTix uses a barcode that changes every few seconds, meaning it can’t be copied or screenshotted. Fans can transfer tickets to friends or family using mobile phone numbers or an email address. A new digital ticket is tied to the recipient’s account and phone, each time a ticket is transferred or sold, making the journey of each ticket visible to organisers.
Of course, knowing who all the attendees are provides venues and companies with a rich source of data – an opportunity to track what experiences are valuable to any given consumer.
Generation Z is more comfortable with being tracked in exchange for a fast service, says Andersen. “They know they leave a digital footprint, but they want information right in their hand and they want it immediately. They understand they’re being tracked and they’re okay with it because they get served options and they’re all about options.”
She points to statistics showing that in Las Vegas while 68% of visitors attend a show or event, two thirds of them decide what to see after their arrival, and 60% of event tickets are sold within 72 hours of event. “This is because people are waiting to look at all the options that are fed to them before they make a decision. They’re in the moment. It’s only the older generation that’s worried about being tracked.”
Nonetheless, we are moving towards a world where consumers will have more control over their data. That will affect not just the ticketing industry but all sectors of public-facing commerce, from the motor industry to travel.
“People are waiting to look at all the options that are fed to them before they make a decision”
“This means we will need to be able to deliver hyper-relevant services to individuals even when you don’t know who they are,” says Machin. “You’ll be tracking behaviour in an anonymised way. This is one of the benefits of blockchain.”
FanDragon’s ticket-wallet feature means while the person owning the wallet remains anonymous, their behaviour can be analysed. For example, if a wallet buys tickets every time a certain artist comes to their town, but suddenly stops, that sort of information might be interesting to the client. Similarly, if a wallet has 600 tickets in it, it’s a scalper.
“Tickets are no longer simply ‘a revocable licence to attend the event listed on the front,’ they are a personal communication hub,” says Machin. “Once you buy a ticket, you can have experiences, messaging or content delivered to your phone because the organiser knows you’re going and who you’re going with. It means the event experience can start much sooner. It’s a much deeper relationship but that requires greater responsibility not to impinge on people’s privacy and data.”
My face is my ticket
Using your face to unlock a smartphone has been commonplace since Apple launched FaceID in 2017 (other earlier phones used facial recognition but it could be easily hacked). But when Live Nation Entertainment invested in biometric company Blink Identity in 2018, the prospect of being able to walk into a venue without needing to get your phone or paper ticket out took a step closer to becoming reality.
Justin Burleigh, LN-owned Ticketmaster’s global chief product officer, says: “We didn’t want to have a database of millions of customers’ faces, so instead this technology uses the same mechanism as the facial recognition tech that unlocks many smartphones. By scanning a face and converting that information into code, it negates the need for storing images of people’s faces.
“Facial recognition will be able to create some really compelling experiences for backstage, or VIP personnel control. For example, if you’re carrying some beers and food it will mean you don’t have to reach into your pocket for your phone or ticket to gain access.”
“Facial recognition will be able to create some really compelling experiences for backstage, or VIP personnel control”
However, he adds, “We have a lot more to do in the lab before this gets rolled out. We want to get it right because we know if we get it wrong we won’t be given a second chance.”
It’s not just the world’s biggest ticketing company that’s interested in the technology. Former Ticketmaster CEO and later head of commerce at Twitter, Nathan Hubbard, recently announced a facial recognition-powered ticketing platform of his own, Rival. Its first client is Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, owner of Denver’s Pepsi Center (20,000-cap.), although migrating from AXS had some teething problems.
And while there may be what Machin calls some “ickiness” around the idea of facial recognition at music events at the moment, the technology’s use at airport security is commonplace. And as people become more comfortable with it in this context, that will smooth the path for its arrival in entertainment.
Enhanced real life
Augmented reality is becoming increasingly sophisticated and more common in live entertainment, so how will the ticketing industry respond to that? Andersen reckons the answer will be driven by how much consumers want to buy into these things and what they want to experience.
“Whereas a 50-year-old might want to come into a venue and sit down, buy a hot dog and watch the show, somebody younger wants to engage with technology that recognises them as an individual. You could be watching the game from your seat but also see it from the players’ perspective by looking at your device.”
Other examples include creating 3D virtual venue models that can be expanded using AR. This could mean being able to see a model of the venue before you go to a show and finding out where everything is, as well as seeing sponsorship activations, and even connecting it to a Facebook account to see where your friends are sitting. You could find out where the bar queues are shortest, or where to get your favourite pretzel.
“SafeTix is not unlike other technologies out there, but that the largest ticketing company in the world has done this shows how important authenticity is”
That’s the present situation. But what nascent tech or business models might we see in the near future?
Ticketmaster’s Burleigh says he is excited to see new hardware come online, such as more powerful NFC tech, which would mean people don’t have to take their phone out of their pockets to scan on entry. He would also like to see more powerful cashless opportunities across venues. Andersen suggests a subscription-based model could have potential in the future.
“Like a Netflix model, where you buy something today and have access to it later – for example, if you want to go to a big game or play-off you can get access to early booking because you’ve paid a subscription.”
It’s not without precedent. In the cinema industry, MoviePass allowed people to go see films for a monthly subscription fee. Currently, the venture is in difficulty as the company behind it struggles to control its cash burn. However, US cinema chains AMC Theatres and Cinemark are also running subscription models with some success. AMC’s programme, which allows customers to see three movies a week for $19.95 a month, has over 900,000 subscribers. Could that model be transferred to live? While it’s unlikely to work for the largest companies and artists, it could be more viable for grassroots-level venues and promoters.
Whatever the future holds for ticket tech, Chambers predicts that the fragmented nature of all the options means there will need to be open-API schemes to ensure that a seamless customer delivery service is provided: multiple backends but unified consumer experience.
“This is increasingly evident in [London’s] West End theatre or with the NFL ticket retail and distribution agreements, and will inevitably spread to other sectors and territories to become much more commonplace,” he says.
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Festivals pledge facial recognition ban
Organisers of music festivals including C3 Presents-promoted Austin City Limits (ACL), Live Nation-owned Bonnaroo, independent UK event Shambhala and Pitchfork Music Festival have stated they will not use facial recognition technology at their events.
Other festivals to commit to the ban include Live Nation’s Bass Canyon, Latitude 38 Entertainment’s Bottlerock, Excision’s Lost Lands, USC Events’ Paradiso, Madison House Presents/Insomniac’s Electric Forests, and a handful of independent events in the US, such as Wanderlust, Sonic Bloom and Lucidity.
A representative from Live Nation, which bought into biometric identification company Blink Identity in 2018, told Digital Music News that facial recognition technology is not currently used at any of its events, with any future use of the tech being on a strictly opt-in basis.
The push for a ban on biometric identification technology, which has been introduced at some events in the past few years for security and ticketing purposes, is being led by digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future, who believe the technology is discriminatory and an invasion of privacy.
“We just launched a new scorecard showing where major music festivals stand when it comes to using invasive and racially biased facial recognition technology on fans”
“We just launched a new scorecard showing where major music festivals stand when it comes to using invasive and racially biased facial recognition technology on fans,” explains Fight for Future’s deputy director Evan Greer.
“Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Electric Forest and others have committed to not using biometric surveillance, while Coachella, SXSW, and Riot Fest have refused to make the same promise.”
The campaign has garnered the support of artists including Tom Morello, Speedy Ortiz, Amanda Palmer and Atmosphere, who have all spoken out against the use of the technology at their concerts.
Matt Bettenhausen, senior vice president and chief security officer at AEG, last year commented that he was “not there yet” on the benefits of facial recognition technology as a security feature.
Bettenhausen will share his thoughts on live event security at the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S) at London’s Congress Centre on 8 October, where the role that facial recognition plays in event security will be discussed in more detail. To register for the event, click here.
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Anti-facial recognition campaign gains artist support
A coalition of musicians including Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and band Speedy Ortiz have joined a campaign to oppose the use of facial recognition technology at live music events.
Biometric identification technology has been used at live events over the past few years, in a bid to speed up entry into shows and detect troublemakers.
Digital rights group Fight for the Future is leading the charge against the technology, which it deems inaccurate, invasive, discriminative and dangerous.
On Monday (9 September) the group launched a campaign to mobilise “artists, fans and promoters to speak out against the use of facial recognition technology at live music events.”
“Music fans should feel safe and respected at festivals and shows, not subjected to invasive biometric surveillance,” writes Fight for the Future, warning that the use of the technology at live events could lead to deportation, arrest for minor offences, misidentification and permanent data storage.
“Music fans should feel safe and respected at festivals and shows, not subjected to invasive biometric surveillance”
The group argues that there is “no evidence” that the technology will keep fans safe, adding that “mass surveillance is largely ineffective at preventing violent crimes.”
Artists including singer Amanda Palmer, hip-hop duo Atmosphere, rock band Downtown Boy and Slovenian producer Gramatik have all voiced their support for the campaign, as well as the team behind Summer Meltdown, an AEG-promoted festival.
However many, including event security platform Vertus Fusion, state the technology could be integral for enhancing the safety of fans.
A hidden facial recognition camera was used to detect stalkers at Taylor Swift shows in 2018 and the technology was used to screen guests at this year’s Brit Awards. Live Nation-backed biometrics company Blink Identity recently began to roll out its facial recognition system in a pilot programme for Manchester City football club.
The role that facial recognition technology plays in event security will be discussed at the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S), which takes place on 8 October at the Congress Centre, London.
Blink Identity wins Manchester City FC pilot
Blink Identity is to deploy its facial-recognition technology in a pilot programme for Manchester City FC, after winning the recent City Startup Challenge in Manchester, UK.
The five-day competition, organised by City Football Group, the Abu Dhabi-based holding company that owns the English Premier League champions, saw Texas-based Blink impress club bosses with its biometric security solution, which can identify people’s faces at full walking speed.
Over the coming weeks, Blink Identity will work with City Football Group on their VIP and Academy access solutions, in order to improve “both the overall experience and guest security”, says the company.
“We’re thrilled to have been chosen to work with the City Football Group, integrating our facial-recognition-at-walking-speed solution into their elite programming,” comments Mary Haskett, CEO and co-founder of Blink Identity.
“Our state-of-the-art biometric technology … will improve dwell times, overall and specific security issues”
“Our state-of-the-art biometric technology has high throughput rates and accuracy, which, combined with our ‘privacy first’ policy, will improve dwell times, overall and specific security issues, and also back and front of the house operations for this prestigious organisation.”
Blink Identity last year summer received US$1.5 million in seed funding from Sinai Ventures and Live Nation, with the latter’s CEO, Michael Rapino, describing how Blink’s tech could be used to “associate your digital ticket with your image”.
The technology made its public debut at the KNOW 2019 conference in Las Vegas in March, with guests entering the event by simply walking past Blink’s sensor.
Facial recognition tech keeps concerts safe
Vertus Fusion, a new events security platform, is using biometric identification and social media monitoring to enable event organisers to detect and ban concertgoers who post offensive internet content.
The platform, “created with the intention of bringing multiple technical security disciplines under one banner”, is available for use by venues, artists and ticketing providers.
Buyers must upload a photo of themselves upon purchase of event tickets. Facial recognition is then paired with social media monitoring algorithms to determine whether fans have committed hate crimes online or engaged in any other offensive behaviour.
Event organisers can instantly withdraw tickets from the recipient through the Vertus Fusion platform, which allows all digital content to be securely disseminated, viewed and tracked.
The platform also alerts organisers to buying behaviours synonymous with touting, such as the bulk buying of tickets.
“We have developed a secure ticket platform which can work with ticket providers and venues,” says Richard Ryan, co-founder of Vertus Fusion.
“Details are sent from the ticket provider, we can verify their [the buyer’s] identity and we can remove that ticket if they have given another identity or if they have posted hate material or inciteful things.”
“We can verify their [the buyer’s] identity and we can remove that ticket if they have given another identity or if they have posted hate material or inciteful things
Ryan, the director of security technology firm SentiGPR and a former barrister, believes Vertus Fusion could be integral in preventing terror attacks such as the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017.
“Terrorists want to put this information out there to say what they are going to do. We can put a geo-fence around any arena in the world, in any language, and monitor it,” says Ryan.
A geo-fence uses GPS or radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to place a virtual boundary around a real-life geographic area – such as a concert venue – allowing monitoring of those within the “fence” and alerting the user when a subject enters or leaves the designated area.
“If someone comes up as a threat, we analyse that person’s profile by going to different places on the web where we can make a decision on risk,” explains Ryan.
The use of biometric identification is growing in the concert business, for both security and ticketing purposes. A hidden facial recognition camera was used at a run of Taylor Swift shows in 2018 to detect known stalkers.
Blink Identity, the biometric identification start-up backed by Live Nation/ Ticketmaster, debuted its facial recognition technology at international identity tech conference KNOW earlier this year.
LN-backed Blink Identity debuts facial recognition tech
Blink Identity publicly debuted its facial recognition technology at KNOW 2019, the international identity tech conference, in Las Vegas on 24–27 March.
The Texas-based biometrics company – which last year summer received US$1.5 million seed funding from Sinai Ventures and Live Nation, whose CEO Michael Rapino described how Blink’s tech could be used to “associate your digital ticket with your image” – has already held early pilot programmes for the technology, but the deployment at KNOW was its launch to the public.
“This was our first public demo and people were blown away at the simplicity of our solution,” says a Blink spokesperson.
As can be seen in the above video from KNOW, Blink’s access-control solution identifies people at full walking speed. In addition to controlling access to live entertainment, the ‘military-grade’ tech has applications in a variety of sectors and industries, says the company.
Facial recognition security tech used at the Brits
This year’s Brit Awards used facial recognition technology to enhance its event security, deploying the technology to screen guests at multiple entrances to the O2 in London.
Surveillance and security technology provider, Digital Barriers, partnered with Super-Recognisers International (SRI), a company that trains staff to identify faces in crowds, to provide the facial recognition security at the Brits.
The Digital Barriers facial recognition system linked to mobile apps, which enabled specialised SRI staff members to make secondary face-to-face identity verification checks.
The same technology was previously used at the O2 for the National Television Awards in January.
“The O2 is the world’s most popular music and entertainment venue and we’re continually reviewing our security measures,” says Paul Williams, senior security manager at the O2.
“The use of facial recognition is proving to be a valuable enhancement to the security and safety of the venue, its guests and staff”
“The use of facial recognition is proving to be a valuable enhancement to the security and safety of the venue, its guests and staff,” adds Williams.
Digital Barriers and SRI have now agreed to partner at any event that requires the combination of facial recognition with specialist operators. “This is a unique offering anywhere in the world,” says SRI co-founder and chief operating officer, Kenny Long, who has now joined the Digital Barriers team.
Digital Barriers chief executive Zak Doffman says that the successful O2 deployments and addition of Long to the team “attest to the world-class quality of our technology.”
“We work with government agencies around the world, and our technology is field-proven in the hardest operating environments,” adds Doffman.
The use of facial recognition technology in growing in live entertainment, with artists such as Taylor Swift using biometric technology to screen concert crowds for known criminals and other undesirables.
The Garden adds biometric entry with Clear
The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has signed a partnership with secure identity service Clear to offer fingerprint-based biometric entry to its Madison Square Garden arena in New York.
The 20,000-capacity Garden becomes Clear’s 14th venue, joining sports and entertainment destinations such as Citi Field and Yankee Stadium in New York, Oracle Park in San Francisco, Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, T-Mobile Park in Seattle and AmericanAirlines Arena and Marlins Park in Miami, as well as international airports across the US.
A dedicated Clear lane at Madison Square Garden will offers fans fast, frictionless access into sports matches, concerts and other live events held at the world’s second-busiest arena, with Clear staff on site to assist patrons with enrolling into the biometric programme and generating their ‘Clear ID’.
“Launching at MSG represents a major milestone for Clear”
“We are pleased to welcome Clear into the Madison Square Garden family,” says Ron Skotarczak, executive vice-president of marketing partnerships for MSG. “Like MSG, Clear is committed to enhancing the customer experience, and we look forward to providing CLEAR’s growing membership with unforgettable Garden memories.”
“Launching at MSG represents a major milestone for Clear, and we look forward to making our members’ experience there more efficient, easier and more predictable so they don’t miss out on what they came to see,” adds Clear CEO Caryn Seidman Becker.
“By adding the Garden to our growing New York City ecosystem, Clear members can now enjoy frictionless experiences at three iconic sports and entertainment venues and three key local-area airports with one biometric ID.”
Taylor Swift uses facial recognition to ID stalkers
A kiosk showing film clips was surreptitiously fitted with a facial-recognition camera in order detect stalkers at Taylor Swift’s recent show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
A special kiosk that broadcast footage from rehearsals – while concealing a camera which IDed viewers’ faces – was set up for Swift’s 18 May concert at the 90,888-seat stadium. The images were then sent to a ‘command post’ in Nashville where they were cross-referenced with a database of the star’s known stalkers, according to Mike Downing, chief security officer of Oak View Group.
“Everybody who went by would stop and stare at it, and the software would start working,” Downing, who attended the Live Nation-promoted show, tells Rolling Stone’s Steve Knopper.
Thought not without controversy, the use of biometric identification is growing in the concert business. Live Nation/Ticketmaster earlier this year invested in Blink Identity, whose technology, said CEO Michael Rapino, could enable a concertgoer to “associate your digital ticket with your image, and walk into the show”.
Swift’s Reputation stadium tour recently became the highest-grossing in US history.