Edited and prepared by Oscar Michel, Masters in Journalism, DCU.

Great guest post from TicketChain. Their main goals are to reduce touting & eradicate fraud in the secondary market ticketing industry.

Touting scandals have been hitting headlines recently, and all eyes were on Ed Sheeran this week to see if he has come up with a way to outsmart the touts. Artists such as Mumford and Sons, Rag’n’Bone Man, Adele and Chance the Rapper have previously attempted to enforce ticketing methods that address this pressing issue, but with limited success. The most recent iteration opted for by the Ed Sheeran team involves attaching a ticket to the original purchaser’s identity. This requires the purchaser ultimately to attend the event, in order for any tickets in the group to be allowed entry. Problem solved? Apparently not.

Although Sheeran’s approach has certainly reduced the extent of touting, a quick scan of secondary markets such as Viagogo will see hundreds of tickets on sale for 115% to 400% above face value. Evidently, the demand for the event and the subsequent profit margins remain substantial. Demand exists such that people are even willing to go to an event with a complete stranger or hope they will ultimately forgo checking IDs on the night.

Aside from not comprehensively addressing the problem, this method of ticketing presents other issues. Primarily, parents who wish to buy tickets for their young teenagers and do not want to attend the concert themselves may encounter issues with venue entry. Given that Ed Sheeran’s target audience consists largely of young people, this is certainly a contention point. It also remains unclear how these additional ticketing procedures will affect queuing times.

Ultimately, the presence of physical tickets limits the success of any anti-touting strategy. Unless you can completely control how tickets are transferred in a secondary market, there is always the propensity for touting. If paper tickets or e-tickets are in physical circulation, tickets and cash can still be exchanged outside of the system regardless of anti-touting measures. A comprehensive solution, therefore, should not contain any physical tickets.

As more ticket issuers migrate towards the use of email for issuing “e-tickets”, the opportunities for fraud have multiplied. The prevalence of peer-to- peer unregulated marketplaces has created an ideal environment for individuals to engage in fraudulent activities. This includes photoshopping fake copies of tickets, or simply selling the same ticket printed multiple times.

The growing ‘sharing’ culture on social media has also played a role in the rise of fraudulent activities. Innocent fans uploading photos of their newly purchased tickets risk them being stolen if they fail to obscure the barcode.

A novel solution to the issue of touting and fraud can be explored through digital tickets that cannot be printed. Secure digital tickets coupled with a secondary market controlled by the venue presents a powerful platform to eradicate touting.

Genuine fans unable to attend an event can resell their ticket on the hosted secondary marketplace, which restricts pricing to face value. Tickets can then be purchased by individuals remotely in an instant, for a fair price, and without exorbitant fees.

The benefits of this? No more printed tickets means no more trading in unregulated marketplaces. No more identity tied to tickets means transfers are possible, and no more static barcodes means fraud through ticket duplication is eliminated. Paperless ticket systems have been trialled in the past, but with mixed results. In a desperate move to beat touts, Ticketmaster opted to utilise their Ticketmaster Paperless offering for the West End show Hamilton and the U2 Joshua Tree tour. Tickets were permanently tied to the credit card used by the ticket purchaser.

The internet was flooded with complaints about these heavy restrictions, which made it near impossible to get refunds or transfer tickets. The additional identity checks and credit card swiping resulted in waiting times of around two and a half hours for U2, even causing some fans to miss the supporting act. It is clear that this approach massively impacted the overall fan experience.

A system without flexibility will always involve compromises from the consumer, but this does not need to be the case. It is at this point where digital startups are making themselves known. Startups such as Dublin-based TicketChain and London-based Dice are both leading the charge on secure digital ticketing solutions. In doing so, they are aiming to educate end users about the benefits of new ticketing methods and highlight the advantages of secure resale markets.

According to the FanFair Alliance in the UK, over £1 million was made last year by touts in the UK alone. A large percentage of this was also retained by secondary market providers. Therefore, it is clear there is a long way to go. However, with the advent of innovative paperless solutions and new approaches to validating tickets, the future of ticketing looks increasingly bright.

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