New Legislation Could Help Event Professionals Beat The Bots

Just about anything a human can do on the web these days can also be done by a machine. These days, the bots are even ordering tickets for events, often to be resold at a price higher than face value. We investigate this new threat and what this means for event professionals.

Have you ever wondered why it is that when you attempt to buy tickets for a show or event, that they’re sold out before you even open a browser? Part of this is due to people getting there before you but in many cases, it’s not people at all, it’s an army of computers, in this case, “ticket bots”. These bots help their owners buy lots of tickets which can then be sold at profit on the second market.

Ticket bots are programmed to fill out online forms in the same way humans do but much much faster, and they can theoretically repeat the process thousands of times a second. Not only this but they can also load and complete thousands of instances of a form at the same time. Humans simply can’t compete.

New Legislation Could Help Event Professionals Beat The Bots

The Second Market

Some might argue that the ticket second market is a good thing and legitimate companies like StubHub are basking in it. By its very nature, due to high prices and ticket scarcity, this market drives demand. If you’re releasing tickets in stages, having them sell out quickly can drive up the price, but it’s no good if the profit is ending up in the hands of hackers rather than legitimate ticket brokers.

The second market is thriving and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon. These days it doesn’t just stop at tickets either. The second market is also moving in on merchandise, hotel booking and even getting to and from events. In some cases, it’s more advantageous to buy from a second market broker because they can offer you a deal on a hotel at the same time.

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Rise of the Robots

Recent figures show that last year, bots tried to buy 5 billion tickets, or 10,000 a minute, on Ticketmaster’s website. This left the masses little opportunity to get tickets to see gigs, sporting events and many other attractions. Like anything reliant on technology, you can only expect these numbers to rise. With more money ending up in the pockets of the hackers and none of the deluge going to the talent or event organizers, this can’t be good for the event industry.

Like most hackers these days, the bot owners are in it for profit. For this reason, only premium events with a monetary ticket fee seem to be affected but it’s worth bearing in mind that even tickets to free events are worth something if demand is high enough.

US Government Legislation on Bots

In December last year, President Obama signed a piece of legislation called the “Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016” or simply, the “BOTS Act”. The act means that the hackers behind these bots could end up with hefty fines to pay. Under the BOTS Act, the government can also step in and take legal action on behalf of the people missing out. Whether or not this will solve the problem or simply push the activity further underground remains unclear. And what of the bots running from overseas territories? Will the government be able to do anything at all?

Take A Stand

While the bots maybe too fast to outrun and too numerous to outpower, they aren’t as smart as humans. One way to beat the bots is to offer tickets through brand partnerships. For this year’s Joshua Tree tour, U2 are offering tickets to Mastercard customers first, to ensure that tickets end up in the hands of real fans. By offering named tickets only, and ensuring that the card used to purchase tickets is also presented on entry, there’s no way a tout can get their hands on tickets.

In Conclusion

Bots are here to stay and there’s nothing we can do about that. Event professionals need to be aware. It’s possible that US Government intervention will keep them at bay for a while but the future is uncertain. Watch this space for updates.

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Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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