Will Taylor Swift’s New Controversial Ticket Policy End Scalping?

Taylor Swift’s controversial new loyalty based ticket policy could help fans gain access to tickets before scalpers but at what cost to fans?

Taylor Swift just announced a new way to buy tickets for her upcoming tour that will supposedly allow fans to beat the scalpers’ bots. “Taylor Swift Tix”, powered by Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan scheme, gives fans a greater chance of getting pre-sale tickets by way of proving their loyalty in a number of ways. One of the ways for fans to increase their chances is by buying merchandise. This means fans that spend more will have a greater chance of acquiring tickets.

Will Taylor Swift’s New Controversial Ticket Policy End Scalping?

Some Fans Will Miss Out

Making the extra purchases won’t necessarily guarantee tickets. According to Ticketmaster’s website, “Registering as a Ticketmaster Verified Fan does not guarantee you will receive a Verified Fan code and there is a limited quantity of tickets.” Inevitably, this will leave some fans feeling cheated and it’s already leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of some fans.

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The Second Market Problem

The ticket second market in itself is not an issue. In fact, tickets selling out quickly, and guaranteeing a full venue are very good for everybody involved. From an attendee point of view, it’s also good to know that if you can’t attend an event, it’s possible to sell your ticket on to someone else. Several websites exist where attendees can do this, giving the opportunity to others who may have missed the initial call.

The problem comes from touts or “scalpers” who buy large numbers of tickets to sell on at an inflated cost. Because each event only has a limited number of tickets available, once the official ticket sellers have sold out, that leaves pricing in the hands of the touts. It’s a seller’s market because the high demand drives high prices. That, in turn, lines the pockets of the touts and the (commission based) websites selling the tickets. The talent and the event don’t see a single cent of that extra high demand profit.

Ticket Bots

You might think that technology would have a solution for this, and perhaps it does, but technology currently favors the tout. Bot technology allows touts to scrape ticket websites, buying large volumes of tickets in a fraction of the time it would take a human. The process of using bots for this purpose is now illegal in the USA, thanks to the BOTS Act (Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016) but due to a lack of transparency within the industry, finding the culprits is not easy.

How Will Taylor Swift’s New Model Beat the Bots?

Firstly, the scheme is underpinned by Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system. The Ticketmaster system allows fans to pre-register for tickets before they are released. Normally, the pre-sale tickets are awarded to successful registrants on a first-come-first-served basis but in this case, purchasing merch gives the fan a “boost”, pushing them up the queue with each purchase.

Unlike the Verified Fan system, Taylor Swift Tix attacks the touts on two fronts. The extra loyalty aspect will definitely give fans the edge over touts but the issue of fans paying more still remains.

While the new system may have come as a shock to some Taylor Swift fans, the new method could have a bright future. Getting a boost can also be achieved by watching her latest video online. There needn’t be an extra monetary cost to the attendee at all. Queue-jumping, in the future, could be achieved by video views, social media advocacy, or any number online actions that can be performed for free.

Other Tactics for Beating the Bots

Named Tickets

One almost surefire way to beat ticket bots is to issue named tickets. On arriving at the event, the attendee shows their ticket and the card they purchased the ticket with to gain entry. The system definitely works but comes with its own set of issues. Checking everyone’s ticket and ID will cause a slowdown at the point of entry and could lead to greater staffing costs because somebody has to check the tickets.

On-Site pre-sale Ticket Vending

Pre-sale ticket vending is commonly used by movie theaters for the sake of convenience. This works by allowing movie fans to purchase tickets online and pick them up at a vending machine on-site. The tout-killing aspect is that tickets have to be picked up from the machine using the same card as was used to purchase the tickets. The downside to this method is that there is an equipment cost and a new set of queue lines to think about. Not only this but there’s nothing to stop a ticket tout turning up at the event, collecting their tickets and selling them on the day.

Paperless Ticketing

Paperless ticketing has proven successful for many acts in the past. Similar to the above, the attendee gains entrance by showing the credit card and a form of ID at point of entry. Again, there is an impact on queue lines and staffing.

Paperless Ticketing 2.0

Paperless ticketing is evolving. Through the use of a digital ID, attendees can gain access to events by activating a digital ID stored on their mobile phone or a wearable device. Where most bot-beating tactics add more process and more for eventprofs to do and think about, digital tickets could ultimately improve the process by being linked to payment systems at the event.

Is There a Conspiracy?

Scalpers and ticket bots help to sell out venues quickly which is a huge bonus for everyone involved except the fans. By creating a situation where the product is in such high demand, it also becomes much more desirable, adding to the sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).

If you’re wondering why Ticketmaster isn’t doing more to stop this, the reasons are quite straightforward. Ticketmaster is part of the Live Nation Entertainment group which owns several premier concert venues. It also owns two of the biggest secondary sellers in the market, Seatwave, and GetMeIn, effectively profiting directly from the scalpers. Ticketmaster won’t be rallying against the second market anytime soon.

In Conclusion

Is Taylor Swift’s new scheme about getting a better deal for the fans or simply making more money? With the other options available, it seems like the latter. While some fans are unhappy with the extra cost, the idea itself seems solid and could see some interesting applications in the future. Despite disgruntled fans, this still feels like a step forward in terms of making the second market a fairer place to operate. The next step is to do that at a reduced cost to the fans.

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Julius Solaris
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