Building Sport, Block by Block

The tragedy that was the attack on Manchester Arena should remind rightsholders and stadium operators that they must remain ever vigilant. To every cloud, we should seek a silver lining and it is with this in mind that blockchain may finally get a chance to overhaul the ticketing experience.

Though it would not have prevented the attack last month it is clear that the current ticket environment leaves a lot to be desired and that security of our venues needs to be at the forefront of the next technical revolution in access control.

The ticket experience has been stuck in the 1950’s for a long time (see this link for the previous commentary on the space https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-ticketing-companies-dying-michael-broughton) We are seeing some progress as larger companies like Ticketmaster open up their API’s to enable others to sell their inventory or even AXS’s latest arrangement with Spotify and this is admirable, if painstakingly slow, progress.

The arrival of Amazon in the ticketing world will not doubt begin to speed up the evolutionary process and the slick UX/UI of Dice.fm is a refreshing approach to an age-old issue. It is blockchain however, that could truly revolutionize this sector and allow the businesses that depend on ticketing to become infinitely more secure whilst also boosting their commercial profile.

There is no point in me going into the finer details about blockchain and how it operates — I am sure to mess up some of the terminology and others are doing a fine job putting out white papers demonstrating the key issues it can resolve. The most important of which is security.

It seems remarkable that venues still don’t know who is coming through their doors. Many argue that the touting and secondary ticketing market make it impossible to keep a track of these things but it happens at every level. I am going to a concert this Friday and purchased four tickets. The venue and organizer have no idea who the other three are (all family members as it happens). This leaves a massive hole in the security of any event.

A ticket needn’t be bought through nefarious means for there to be a gap in security measures. It would be perfectly simple to gain access through a regular ticket bought by a friend. When you then add on the fact that touting is illegal but rarely enforced — just go to any Premier League football match and you will see touts working right in plain sight of the police who willfully ignore it because they have plenty of other priorities to deal with on a game day.

Using a ticketing operation that is built on blockchain you will not become 100% secure but it won’t be far off. In my personal example, I would be required to allocate a ticket to an individual to a ticket. If one of my family can’t attend the ticket could be resold but again the transfer would need to be to an individual via the blockchain enabling the security and access control systems to accurately identify who was entering the venue.

From a pure security perspective upgrading to a ticketing system built on blockchain would be worthwhile. Nothing in this world can be guaranteed but just this one move would make your venue more secure and ensure troublemakers from all walks of life would find it harder to gain access.

If that isn’t enough for your business to make the leap then the commercial upside is also very compelling. Whilst security would know who is entering the venue so would the CRM system. Large gaps in the knowledge base would be closed enabling the rights holder, ticketing company, and venue operator to have a significantly enhanced view of who is attending, how often they come and what content drives them.

This new data set could be exponentially viable. Consider just the hospitality end of the market. Often one person/business will acquire a box or table at a venue and then invite their guests. The operator has no way of knowing who those guests are who said yes and therefore no way of following up — hence the various raffles you see or Wi-Fi systems being set up to try and capture some data. These are all potentially high-value customers that are swimming straight through your net. Closing this loophole could increase sponsorship sales, future ticket sales, hospitality value and even potential retail opportunities.

In addition, it would go a long way to solving the issue of touting bots acquiring mass tickets at launch. It is perfectly possible to use this underpinning technology to limit the capability of bots to make the initial acquisition but critically on the blockchain, you could set a minimum and maximum price to a ticket. In order to get wider distribution, it may be wise to pass inventory to secondary markets but by limiting the upside by setting the parameters of each ticket block then you limit the upside and propensity to ‘gouge’ the customer.

Sport has a wonderful opportunity to grab a new technology by the neck and be at the forefront of its future adoption. By taking the lead in this space they can make their fans and customers more secure, provide a better service and generate greater revenues off the back of the enlarged data set — what possible reason could you have to not embrace this modern world?