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Forget politicians: The biz must take control of ticketing

This year we’ve seen lawmakers around the world commit to the banning of ticket bots, marking a positive stride in the fight against firms that hoover up primary tickets with the intention of reselling them at four or five times the face value.

Laws against such practices will make it harder for these large-scale ticket touts to operate, but, as the record business has learnt over the past decade in its battle against piracy, the legislative route is often long, littered with pitfalls and usually only provides a partial solution.

Record execs will remember the headaches that surrounded the implementation of the Digital Economy Act in 2010 and are more likely to point to platforms like Spotify and Apple Music as the primary drivers of legitimate music consumption in a new digital landscape – although work to stamp out copyright infringement is, of course, still ongoing.

Legislation is a positive show of intent but its practical effectiveness hinges on how it is implemented and enforced in the real world. The Tixserve team has a history in the card payment and mobile top-up sectors, and we’ve seen how the targets of anti-abuse measures will often find ways to circumvent checks and blocks to continue earning their ill-gotten gains.

We also need to think about who is going to build the fences that keep touts out. Again, look to similar discussions elsewhere in the music biz, with rightsholders, legislators, ISPs and platforms such as YouTube constantly bickering over whose job it is to make sure copyrights are protected online. The job of enforcement is often passed on to parties who are less than willing to allocate resources to the task, reducing what could be tough legislation to lame-duck lip service.

But the music business doesn’t have to rely on outsiders to reclaim ticketing revenue while creating a compelling user experience. We’ve seen Team Sheeran recently track down and cancel thousands of tickets being flogged by online touts. But our industry is seeing the emergence of next-generation ‘track-and-trace’ paperless ticketing that can stamp out abuse and fraud from the off, regardless of legislation.

While the backing of lawmakers is welcome, the music business’s most effective response to challenges has always been to take matters into its own hands

Tixserve’s paperless ticket-fulfilment platform uses a triple-lock system that links the ticket to a buyer’s name, their phone and their phone’s unique ID, leaving no way through for touts/bots and fraudsters. And it provides this cast-iron security while improving the experience and flow of fans as they pass through the gates at venues without the hassle of having to produce credit cards and photo ID.

Crucially, Tixserve is a white-label platform, which means we put our technology into the hands of rightsholders, venues, ticket agents, D2C platforms – whoever wants to manage their ticket fulfilment in a modern, intelligent, secure and streamlined way. Tixserve technology allows the rights owner(s) of an event to permit ticket resale or not. Any resale would be controlled and regulated in a transparent and ethical manner by the right owner(s) via the configurable Tixserve platform. Unlike existing paper tickets, the secure Tixserve digital tickets cannot be resold or transferred without the permission of the rights owner(s).

But security isn’t the only factor the live business needs to consider when it comes to reclaiming control over the ticketing sector. With the right tech, the live industry can go a step further and redefine what a ticket is in the modern era.

Through branded apps and portals powered by technology, fans are able to connect with artists and gain access to exclusive opportunities and merchandise. Meanwhile, ticket sellers are able to capture an unprecedented level of consumer data allowing for direct marketing that will drive further sales and revenue.

The music industry, as a whole, has faced challenging times in recent years, as outsiders have sought to use new technology to scalp revenue from creators and the teams that support them. While the backing of lawmakers is important and welcome, the music business’s most effective response to these threats has always been to harness technology itself and take matters into its own hands.


Patrick Kirby is managing director of white-label paperless ticketing platform Tixserve.

Non-transferable tickets outlawed in Connecticut

In a move billed as “protecting consumers who purchase e-tickets”, the US state of Connecticut has legislated to prohibit the sale of non-transferable paperless tickets.

A growing number of major artists – including, prominently, Iron Maiden – are opting for named electronic tickets, which generally require proof of ID to enter the venue, in a bid to minimise secondary sales.

However, Connecticut house bill 7114 (HB 7114) – An act concerning the sale of entertainment event tickets on the secondary market – which was signed into law on Tuesday by governor Dan Malloy (pictured), outlaws the practice unless “the purchaser of such tickets is offered the option, at the time of initial sale, to purchase the same tickets in another form that is transferrable”.

It also prohibits venues from denying admission “solely on the grounds that such ticket has been resold”.

HB 7114 mirrors a similar piece of legislation in Virginia, HB 1825, which was introduced by local politician Dave Albo after he was unable to resell his ticket for the aforementioned Iron Maiden tour.

“This new state law will give people choices when purchasing tickets,” says Connecticut senator Kevin Witkos, who backed the bill. “It also seeks to prevent against problems when entering a venue if an individual has a ticket that was resold to them.

“This is consumer friendly legislation that updates state law to apply to modern technology and practices of purchasing tickets online”

“This is consumer friendly legislation that updates state law to apply to modern technology and practices of purchasing tickets online.”

The passing of the new legislation was welcomed also by ticket brokers’ association NATB, whose Protect Ticket Rights campaign is committed to an “open” secondary market free of restrictions on resale.

“This new law will protect consumers from unfair and restrictive practices that companies like Ticketmaster and others in the primary ticket market employ to restrict the purchase, sale and transfer of purchased tickets,” comments NATB (National Association of Tickets Brokers) executive director Gary Adler. “These restrictions lead to a market with less choice and higher prices, and we applaud the Connecticut legislature and Governor Malloy for protecting ticket rights.

“This important new law will stop practices like restricted paperless ticketing that harm consumers and the function of a fair and level secondary resale market for tickets. In an open market, if you purchase a ticket, you can do whatever you like with it – including selling it for less or more than you paid – depending on what the market and demand will bear, without onerous strings attached.

“Paperless ticketing is presented as a measure to reduce fraud, but fraud on resale exchanges is not a pervasive problem. While paperless on its own is perfectly fine as a convenience, in practice there are usually restrictions that are designed to prohibit or limit the ability to resell tickets. It is just one example of how large, powerful players in the ticketing system overreach, and this legislation will help to loosen their chokehold and protect consumers.”


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Going paperless reduces Maiden touting ‘by 95%’

Proving once more than artists can eliminate touting if they actually want to, Iron Maiden’s decision to go paperless on their The Book of Souls UK arena tour has been credited with reducing the number of tickets appearing on secondary sites by more than 95%.

According to promoter Live Nation, by implementing extensive paperless ticketing – and mandating that all other tickets carry the name of the purchaser, and require their credit card and ID at the door – the number of tickets for sale “at inflated prices on secondary platforms plummeted by over 95% compared with the band’s last UK arena tour, in 2011”.

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.

StubHub also followed suit.

“Iron Maiden and their management should be commended for their innovative approach to tackling touts”

Maiden manager Rod Smallwood comments: “We are delighted that the paperless ticketing system and other measures we instigated here in the UK have proved a massive deterrent to touts and counterfeiters. We want to thank our fans for their enduring support and patience.

“We appreciate that our stringent policy has meant fans having to jump over one more hurdle in the ticket-buying process, but the results speak for themselves, and I think everyone can agree this was well worth it. On the first day of public sale, we sold over 100,000 tickets nationwide direct to genuine fans through the proper legitimate channels. This is an incredible achievement, and a victory for concertgoers – not least as this is a full 12-date UK tour we’re undertaking, not just a couple of dates in the bigger cities.

MP Nigel Adams, a prominent anti-touting campaigner in parliament and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music, adds: “Iron Maiden and their management should be commended for their innovative approach to tackling touts. For too long, genuine fans have been fleeced by professional, well organised and greedy large scale touts who use secondary ticketing sites to profiteer. With both industry and government beginning to take action against the touts, I am hopeful we will see a fairer ticketing industry sooner rather than later.”


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