Yesterday the news of Ticketmaster’s new ‘verified fan’ system coming to Ireland was all over the internet. The company brought this system into play in 2016 as a response to the difficulties that fans have been facing when trying to buy gig tickets – over loaded servers, ticket touters and programmes designed to gobble up tickets as soon as they go on sale. But will it work?
The system is based on accurately (or as accurately as possible) figuring out if the ticket buyer is someone who will attend the gig, or a buyer who has no intention of attending and will sell the ticket. In an interview with The Examiner, the company’s Executive Vice President and Head of Music David Marcus said:
“It is a system for distributing tickets that relies not on when you buy the ticket but on who the ticket buyer is”… “Before the tickets are put on sale, an artist opens up a registration window. Fans are asked to come and register. The registration window is typically anywhere from three days to ten days” (From The Examiner)
You must provide your name, email and phone number. Then Ticketmaster runs an algorithm to predict your behaviour. Are you going to attend, or sell? If you are determined to be someone who will attend, you’re invited to purchase the tickets in a pre-sale. If not, then you’re not invited and you have to wait until the general sale.
So far the artists that have signed up to the Verified Fan system for their gigs are Taylor Swift, Jack White, Bruce Springsteen, Dead & Company, and Hamilton. These gigs have, or have had, a certain number of pre-sale tickets set aside specifically for verified fans.
If you’re verified by the algorithm you will be sent a text message with a code. You enter this on the sales page and you might end up with tickets before everyone else. Good news?
People’s experiences speak of disappointment. One fan wrote an article for Billboard about their experience as a verified fan for Hamilton. This fan entered their code and ended up repeatedly facing server errors and couldn’t make it to the payment page. They ended up losing the six tickets that had been allocated because the gig sold out, and they bought tickets on a different day instead. Luckily those tickets were still available.
Other complaints, according to The National Post, are to do with the algorithm itself. Apparently many fans who had attended gigs of their beloved through Ticketmaster in the past did not get verified. And some that did claimed that they were never sent a code via text message. But it doesn’t really work that way anyway.
There seems to be an issue with accurately selecting fans who will attend the gigs. According to David Marcus, the system does not determine how big a fan you are, but whether you are likely to resell the ticket. And it isn’t a guarantee of a ticket either.What the algorithm does is combines the information you input into the site (your name, email, phone number) with insights that the company has into customer behaviour. It’s unclear whether or not your previous purchase history of either tickets or fan merch will have an influence on this process. The algorithm – like Google’s – is somewhat of a mystery.
You can listen to the full exclusive on Newstalk here.
I can tell you every song My Chemical Romance ever wrote and released, and I own a limited edition DVD of their Black Parade concert in Mexico City with a special message from the band. But I’ve never attended a gig, and probably never will because they parted ways years ago. Let’s say they reunited for a tour and came to Ireland. What are the chances that this algorithm would recognise me as a non-scalper? I have no idea.
The system at least represents an effort made on behalf of Ticketmaster to fight against re-sellers. But it doesn’t solve the problem of fan’s access to tickets, which also has a lot to do with the ethos and behaviour of Ticketmaster itself. Seatwave is a secondary ticket seller which is owned by Ticketmaster. Its purpose is to resell tickets, and it does so at enormously high prices. It’s unlikely that Ticketmaster is trying to punch itself in the face by actually doing something effective to combat ticket touters. Or that the company has grown a social conscience. The prediction for this system in Ireland: certainly, give it a go. But don’t be surprised if it’s just more of the same.