How to Solve The Ticketmaster Problem

News broke this week that some Taylor Swift fans are actually suing Ticketmaster after their recent ticket buying trauma.

Some of the problems which occurred on that day have been brewing for a long time: buying tickets now involves navigating a confusing and complex system of presale codes and ticket sale opportunities, all of which allow bots to buy tickets and resell them for inflated prices. It’s wrong and it has to be stopped.

The good news is that one part of the solution to this issue has already been found (as I detail in this previous post about Glastonbury festival). The bad news is that Ticketmaster don’t seem to want to use it. Why should they care if the system is flawed, as long as they sell the tickets?

What the Taylor Swift fans also encountered on that day is another wider issue, one which Glastonbury goers have been frustrated about for a long time.

That is the battle royale of trying to log on to buy tickets at the same time as hundreds of thousands of other people. Systems crash. People get angry. You hit the refresh button for hours. You get thrown out just as you think you are about to buy the tickets. It’s unfair and unsustainable.

The solution to this second issue is also clear. A lottery system is necessary for big events like this, which fans should enter in advance of the on sale date. Successful fans should then be sent codes to buy tickets, which should be time stamped so that not everyone is buying tickets at the same time. Stagger the sales so the website can cope with the traffic and allow every fan who ‘wins’ a lottery code to buy a certain amount of guaranteed tickets.

If fans change their minds or don’t buy the tickets in their time window then the codes should expire and the lottery runs again until all the tickets are sold. If you have a Glastonbury-style registration and identification system in place then ticket touts can’t buy these for reselling. If you can’t make the gig you return your ticket by a certain date and then the lottery can run again.

If you can’t make the gig after the resell date is past then the ticket goes to waste but again maybe there could be some kind of donation system where if you can’t make it you let the venue know and they hand them out for free, first come first served on the night.

Sure there are some pitfalls to this system. It is a pain to get all the registration details to buy tickets for other people. A lottery is never fair and it would need to be regulated so that it couldn’t be tampered with. Some people may try to sell their codes, but if you have a registration system then only the person whose name is on the code can buy it. Systems could still crash but at least they wouldn’t collapse under the weight of a million people logging in at once.

It took me all of five minutes to come up with this idea. It’s just one possible solution. Anything has to be better than what we’re dealing with right now.

Furthermore what the Taylor Swift fans need to understand is that this is not just Ticketmaster’s fault, even though they are clearly terrible. Truth is the only person with the power to instigate these changes is the artist themselves.

And that takes us back to the whole Bruce Springsteen and the dynamic pricing debacle. Ticketmaster have brought in these systems, yes, but the artist agrees to use them. Only the artist themselves have the power to overrule the pricing system. Paul Heaton has shown, on his recent tour, that the artist can take back control. Every seat for sale on Ticketmaster for his tour was £30. From the front row to the back, everyone paid the same. No ‘VIP’ nonsense, either. He is now the gold standard for fairness and equality for live music fans.

I understand Springsteen and Swift etc are in a difficult position. They will never be able to meet demand unless they play every minute of the day for the rest of their lives. Culture has narrowed so much that the big artists have monopolised the attention economy to unprecedented heights. They want to make money and maintain a lifestyle, which is understandable. But how much money does a person actually need? How can it be right to put your fans in this position when you have the power to change things?

And I believe fans have a responsibility here too. We must refuse to buy from unofficial resellers. We must also refuse to buy overpriced or VIP tickets or packages that exploit our emotional connection to the artist at the expense of our budgets. If we don’t get tickets to preferred events then we must spend our money on tickets for smaller artists, many of whom are struggling because of the financial pressures of touring.

I hope the court case forces through the necessary changes. Together we can solve the flaws in the ticketing system: fans, artists and ticket agencies working together to find a solution that is fair for all.

Of course we could just return to the old fashioned way of queuing outside the venue or ticket shop to buy our tickets in person. I can just see the Swifties now, rivalling the epic queues like Wimbledon’s or to see the Queen’s coffin.

Or we could just let them fight to the death, I suppose.

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