Troublesome ticket technology ruining live concerts

For those who love music, buying tickets online can be frustrating. For many gigs, and especially festivals, you get caught in a queue on the ticketing site until well after the show has already sold out. Other annoyances include being unable to get the tickets you want or simply getting kicked out every time you try to pay. If you ever have any issues like that over here at Ticketlab – do let us know and we’ll jump right on it! Why is it so difficult, and how do you avoid these annoyances?

One of the key problems facing the industry at the moment is that of ticketing bots. Normally this is a script executing on a server or computer, which has been pre-programmed to fill in ticketing site forms with the sole aim to block-book tickets to shows before the real humans can. These tickets are then sold on the secondary ticketing market on sites such as Seatwave and Viagogo. A 2012 Dispatches programme indicated that only a third of tickets sold on so-called fan-to-fan ticketing sites are actually from fans – the rest coming from professional ticket touts. Although this is illegal in some US states, it’s not yet in the UK. A Metropolitan Police report on Ticket Crime published last February says of the legality of ticket re-selling:

Under current UK law it is not illegal to re-sell tickets for concerts and sporting events (apart from designated football matches). However, it is an offence to sell items in the street without a street trading licence. Also, under the terms and conditions printed on the back of a ticket, concert promoters could choose to bring a civil prosecution against anyone reselling a ticket. Also, a person could be convicted under the Theft Act 1986, following the case of R v Marshall, Coombes and Eren 1998, for reselling a ticket to any event (proving dishonesty may be the only issue to resolve). It should also be noted that ticket touts can usually only purchase large numbers of tickets to events by employing dishonest or criminal means.

There are also stories of some sites or even artists that will also hold back their own tickets to try and encourage the sale of VIP tickets or give them to other parties to sell above face value.

Kid Rock last year admitted to doing this for his own gigs and Justin Bieber’s Nashville show in February last year, only seven per cent of tickets to the show were available to purchase at the general sale, meaning 93 per cent had already been set aside for other partners.

At Taylor Swift’s US concerts in the same year, just 15 per cent of tickets were available at the advertised on-sale date. For Miley Cyrus’ Hannah Montana tour, the numbers were similar, at around 15-20%.

The moral of the story? If you don’t have a ticket before the general on-sale, then you’re going to find it extraordinarily challenging to pick one up!

Beating the bots

One way to get to hear about tickets early, and receive word of pre-sale etc. is to sign up to record label, venue, or artist mailing lists. Laura Marling’s mailing list often features pre-sale details for fans. Similarly, the BST Hyde Park series of gigs, has a pre-sale announced via email for many dates. You could also try following promoters, venues, fan clubs and the artists on social media to pick up on pre-sales.

No pre-sale? No problem! If you’re buying online on the day of general sale, log on early and be in the system before the time the tickets go live. It’s normally worthwhile having a couple of browsers on the go. Check out our recommendations for Glastonbury ticket sales to get an idea of the general tips that help securing tickets. Importantly, don’t necessarily rely on one ticket provider to get your tickets. For the Jamie T come-back show at the tiny Tufnell Park Dome, we managed to get tickets through the venue’s own website, while the hoards were over on See Tickets pressing refresh. Be careful when using unknown ticketing sites however – Google around for reviews and ensure they’re a real ticket provider and if still unsure, check their WHOIS data which will tell you who owns the website in many cases.

If you’ve run out of options and are looking for a ticket in the secondary market, have patience. As it gets closer to the show, some get nervous and drop the price.

Bots are not just a problem in the ticketing world. Many bots are set up to spam websites or to try and extract valuable user data which can be used for fraud or sold on to other companies. Some sites are aware of these hazardous bot campaigns and actively combat them, for example Betsafe fair play. Betsafe was awarded the 2012 GA Fair Play award, which is given for the best security approach to safeguarding its members and their private details. As the web grows, more and more companies are going to have to take this approach to ensure their businesses and users are protected from bots.

As purchasing tickets online becomes more and more difficult, concert venues could witness a drop in attendance, with ticket technology making it almost impossible for music lovers to enjoy live performances, and many tickets going to waste. Make sure you’re prepared for the bots!

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