EXCLUSIVE: Ticketmaster's new 'Verified Fan' system is coming to Ireland

The new system was used in the US to sell tickets for Taylor Swift's latest tour

EXCLUSIVE: Ticketmaster's new 'Verified Fan' system is coming to Ireland

File photo of Taylor Swift performing at London's O2 Arena, 10-12-2017. Image: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire/PA Images

Ticketmaster is set to change the way we buy tickets for concerts and live events as part of its efforts to tackle ticket touting.

The global ticket seller has said it is introducing a new system aimed at getting tickets into the hands of fans and out of the reach of touts.

The company is introducing a new step in the ticket buying process which will attempt to verify that the buyer is a genuine customer and not a tout.

The 'Verified Fan' system was recently used in the US for the sale of tickets for the Taylor Swift tour and a number of other world-renowned performers.

Newstalk's Jess Kelly recently sat down for an exclusive interview with company's Executive Vice President and Head of Music David Marcus.

She asked him to explain  how the new system works:

“It is a system for distributing tickets that relies not on when you buy the ticket but on who the ticket buyer is,” he said.

“It is a fairly simple registration based system.

“Before the tickets are put on sale, an artist opens up a registration window. Fans are asked to come and register. The registration window is typically anywhere from three days to ten days.

“Fans are asked to provide name, mobile phone number and email address.

“With that data, we run a series of algorithms we attempt to predict the registrant’s behaviour  if they were invited to buy a ticket.

“Would they go to the show and use the ticket? or would they resell the ticket.

“If we predict that you are going to go to the show, you get invited to purchase the tickets in a pre-sale.

“If we think that you are going to sell it, we don’t invite you.”

Tickets for seven Ed Sheeran dates were sold out in less than one day last July

The algorithm looks for patterns in a buyers behaviour and the company has said it is aimed at targeting touts, rather than causing difficulty for true fans.

Mr Marcus said the company will not be releasing details about how the algorithm actually works.

“We don’t talk about the factors that we take into account because we don’t want those who have an economic interest in ticket arbitrage to be able to game the system.

“We are deliberately opaque about that.

“The system does not try to rank fans based on how big a fan they are. That question is not asked. It is simply do we think they are likely to resell.

“We are the biggest ticket seller in the world.

“We have got a lot of insights about what fan behaviour looks like and what reseller behaviour looks like.

“The last point I want to make is; it is not a guarantee of a ticket. It is an invitation to purchase.”

The system also aims to spread out the ticket-buying process over time – so there is no mad rush of fans looking to buy tickets when they go on sale at 9am.

Its use for the Taylor swift tour led to accusations it is simply another attempt to squeeze more money out of fans – as people who purchased merchandise, albums and singles would be ranked higher on the algorithm.

Mr Marcus said the decision on how to put the system into use will be left up to individual artists:

“It depends entirely on the artist,” he said.

“Verified Fan as I noted is a behaviour predictor – it really stops right there.

“For certain artists - and Taylor Swift is the one that we most recently and most visibly did this for – we can add a campaign layer on top of that.

“You take the pool of people who have been identified as fans; likely to go.

“Now you want to create a line, as a way of rewarding the biggest fans and so what we did for Taylor is we created a 12-plus week campaign that rewarded fans for their engagement with her new record campaign, she had a brand new merch-line that came out.

“The early knock-on was that, ‘Taylor is just doing this for the rich people, you have to buy stuff in order to maybe have a chance at tickets.’

“The reality of it was that of course we didn’t construct it that way. There were tonnes of opportunities to engage with it that weren’t commercial and at the end of the day, of the huge volume of people who participated only 25% actually spent any money.”

Jack White will use the new system to sell tickets for his upcoming tour

The company has insisted the system simply looks at the normal online activity and behaviour of the fans and rewarding it.

It has said it will never go down a ‘one size fits all’ route as all artists have a different goals – with Metallica fans interact with the band in a different way to the manner in which Taylor Swift fans interact with her.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has proposed legislation aimed at tackling touts – however, speaking to Newstalk last June, Ticketmaster Ireland MD Keith English claimed the plans would simply send second-hand ticket sales underground.

Mr Marcus said legislation “historically has proved in most business contexts to be an ineffective way of dealing with market challenges.”

“The interests of the players are significant enough that they are not going to let this go,” he said.

“Artists care that their fans can buy their tickets at the prices the artists sett – that is why they set those prices.

“Ticketmaster cares that fans can buy tickets ahead of touts using bots.

“You can’t legislate the supply demand dynamic away; that doesn’t make it go away.

“It is an industry problem and I think the solutions are there for the industry to solve it and I think that is typically the best way.”

As yet there is no direct timeline for when the Verified Fan system will be introduce in Ireland.

It will be up to the artist to decide if they want to use it. Jack White has just announced a new European Tour and will be the first to put it to use in Europe.

You can catch the full interview with David Marcus on Tech Talk with Jess Kelly, this Sunday at 6pm on Newstalk.