Ticketmaster has been quietly testing a new product designed to weed out scalpers and ticket bots during high-demand on sales. Using a customer’s own data, Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform helps artists ensure their tickets go directly into the hands of fans.
The concept is fairly simple — have fans register to buy tickets in advance (typically 48 hours before tickets go on sale) and then once all of the emails are collected, scrub out any believed to be connected to scalpers. Once the list has been cleaned, TM sends out unique codes to individual fans inviting them to purchase tickets during a general on sale.
The program gives Ticketmaster more time to identify scalpers and ticket bots, “differentiating what bots look like versus what actual human beings look like is a very difficult thing to do when you’re getting crushed with the traffic,” Ticketmaster President, North America Jared Smith told Amplify. By taking an extra 48 hours to sift through the emails, Ticketmaster can eliminate a much higher concentration of tickets being purchased by resellers than they would be able to if they were attempting to weed out scalpers in real time. So far, Verified Fan is only being used for ticket pre-sales, although the technology could be used for general on sales in the future.
Asking fans to preregister to buy tickets isn’t a new concept — fan club ticketing platforms like Songkick have used similar models for artists like Adele. What differentiates Ticketmaster (and every other ticketing company) is the proprietary technology they use to identify and block scalpers. Ticketmaster did not reveal to Amplify how it honed in on resellers, but Smith said Ticketmaster retains proprietary information and historical data that includes “indicators to show who is a fan versus who isn’t a real fan,” adding “it’s always changing. Some people refer to it as an arms race, and others compare it to a game of whack-a-mole. We study all kinds of different buying habits to change and program around it.”
Will the Verified Fan platform completely stamp out ticket resale for participating artists? Not likely — as Patrick Ryan with Eventellect pointed out in a recent Billboard article I wrote, attempts to keep tickets off resale markets typically only lead to a partial reduction in secondary ticketing inventory, which in turn result in higher prices and bigger profits for sophisticated scalpers.
“The most nefarious brokers are the ones who are most able to look like a fan,” Ryan said at the time. Sophisticated brokers would likely be able to procure tickets for high-profile shows, even with Verified Fan protections in place. But slowing the process down and requiring fans to register in advance will make it more difficult for bots to invade an on sale and give some artists tools to make sure more of their tickets go directly into their fan’s hands.