British star Ed Sheeran launched a "carrot and stick" program to face the the secondary market of concert tickets.
The carrot has the shape of Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program - requiring concert-goers to register in advance to purchase tickets for his upcoming Divide World Tour. The stick is 50,000 ticket cancelations aimed at scalpers, whose seats were revoked and then resold to fans who had already verified their identity with Ticketmaster.
Verified Fans' process works like this: prior to Ed Sheeran’s fan presale, an email was sent to fans encouraging them to register to purchase tickets in advance. Fans were required to provide Ticketmaster with an email address and a phone number, and then that contact data was scrubbed against a database of known resellers and accounts tied to scalpers.
The process takes about 48 hours and, according to Ticketmaster's Jared Smith:
gives us time to identify bots and be more thorough in how we identify fans. It’s very difficult to do that during an onsale, which feels more like a race against the bots" as thousands of fans and scalpers try to log in at once to purchase tickets.
Once the list had been scrubbed, fans were sent a text message with a unique code to purchase tickets during the exclusive presale period. The presale tickets sold out immediately but, despite the scrubbed lists, thousands were immediately posted on secondary sites like StubHub.
MTG’s Senior Touring Manager Haley McCollister says:
We ended up canceling over 50,000 tickets, which is very disheartening. It’s frustrating to see the real fans compete against so many bots and brokers, and that’s why we want to do what we can to make sure we’re giving them the opportunity to buy tickets. The 50,000 canceled tickets were then offered back to fans who had previously registered for the verification program, and McCollister said those tickets have also been resold.
As Patrick Ryan of Eventellect, a ticket pricing and distribution company, explains, this approach could drive up the price of tickets:
In some cases letting the market do what the market is going to do is in the fan’s best interest. By trying to control how much inventory flows onto the secondary market, Sheeran’s team is creating conditions where "the supply dries up, there’s no liquidity and prices rise to five times their original price. Sure, more fans got tickets at face value, but less were able to buy tickets on the secondary market at a reasonable price.