Will blockchain rock the event ticketing industry?

By | 4 minute read | June 5, 2018

Avi Meyers, lead singer and guitarist of The Maxims. The band is an early adopter of the blockchain-based True Tickets app.

Since 2015, Glostik Willy, a “hippy metal” band based in Indiana, has gathered local acts and music fans for an annual festival called Willy Town. It’s the band’s signature event, attracting more than 1,000 fans from the region for three days of camping, music and art.

Jameson “Jay Moe” Bradford is the band’s lead vocalist and guitar player, and for the past three years, he’s run ticketing for the event through his own homemade system.

“I refused to use ticketing agencies because I hated their fees. I’d sell tickets on our website and put the names on a spreadsheet, then print it off,” he told IBM. “There was a lot of stress that went into that.”

When the band rolls into Troy, Ohio for the fourth edition of Willy Town this September, however, things are likely to be a lot less stressful. That’s because festivalgoers this year will be able to buy tickets through True Tickets, a platform built on the IBM Blockchain Platform, powered by the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric.

“It’s going to solve a lot of problems for us,” said Bradford.

Music fans gather at the music and art festival Willy Town. This year, Willy Town will use a blockchain-based ticketing system. Image via Glostik Willy.

Music fans gather at the music and art festival Willy Town. This year, Willy Town will use a blockchain-based ticketing system. Image via Glostik Willy.

Leveling the playing field

Matt Zarracina, Steven Dobesh, and David Piskovich founded True Tickets last year in response to some of their own frustrations with the event ticketing industry. But it wasn’t just the hidden fees in the primary market that bugged them, Zarracina told IBM, it was the secondary market—in which scalpers use automated bots to harvest tickets online and then resell them at a huge mark-up to genuine fans.

“Most ordinary fans simply don’t stand a chance. Within seconds of an event going on sale, the tickets are harvested in the thousands by a small but ruthlessly efficient army of [scalpers], many using multiple credit cards to bypass the limit on the number of tickets that one person can purchase,” wrote Rob Davies and Rupert Jones in The Guardian.

Blockchain is improving transparency and facilitating secure transactions across a number of industries, including film and digital advertising. While True Tickets is still in the early stages of its development, Zarracina believes its blockchain-based system has the potential to revolutionize ticketing, not only by reducing fees and eliminating fraud, but by turning it into a vehicle for more dynamic and personalized relationships between venues, artists, and fans.

First and foremost, the True Tickets app verifies the identities of all buyers and sellers, ensuring that both the tickets and the people buying them are the real deal.

“It’s all about making sure that ticket is valid and it’s getting into the hands of the right person,” Zarracina said.

From there, the app acts as an immutable ledger, allowing artists, venues, promoters and fans to track a ticket through each stage of its life cycle, from creation to its use at an event. The app also allows ticket creators to establish rules around a ticket’s resale, helps artists benefit from the secondary market and ensures prices never get out of control.

“A platform for connectivity”

Glostik Willy isn’t the only band getting on board with blockchain. This month, Boston-based rock band The Maxims will sell tickets to one of its concerts for the first time through True Tickets. Avi Meyers, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, sees the platform as key to a new way of engaging fans.

“It’s a platform that allows a transaction between a fan and the artist, but it’s also a platform for connectivity. The artist in the app has more tangible control over what goes into the ticket sales,” Meyers told IBM.

Eventually, Zarracina said, The Maxims, and other groups, could use True Tickets data to determine, say, their 50 most devoted fans, and then send out a special code to them for an exclusive, intimate concert. In this way, the app acts as a way to both encourage and reward loyalty.

In Bradford’s view, True Tickets won’t just improve the ticketing process at the festival, it will improve the experience of the festival on the ground. By analyzing the average attendee’s arrival time as reported by the app, for instance, he could determine how best to allocate event staff at the gate. Or he could send push notifications through the app to everyone at the festival to inform them of performance start times.

The end result of such interventions, he expects, will be an event that’s smoother, smarter and, ultimately, more likely to motivate attendees to return the following year.

“We can learn things today that we need to know for tomorrow,” Bradford said.