“The Boss” had a problem. Bruce Springsteen, nicknamed “The Boss”, has probably faced several problems, but the one I am interested in happened in 2017. In 2017 he wanted to play a smaller house for a more intimate experience. He chose the Walter Kerr Theater for a Broadway debut. The issue is the Kerr seats 975 people.1 That is a lot of seats, but not for Springsteen. In 2016 during his The River Tour he packed MetLife Stadium with 163,30 people.2 It would be a safe forecast that these shows would sell out. Given demand is way outstripping supply, one could simply let the free market have resellers sell the tickets for incredibly high prices. However, maybe you would rather give a chance to dedicated fans that do not have thousands to spend on a ticket.3 To solve the problem, you would have to determine who is a likely reseller bot and who is a “real fan”. The program that tries to do this is Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program.
Springsteen performs with the E Street Band in Libson May 20164
The system works by getting users to register weeks before the actual ticket sales. While exact details are unknown Ticketmaster uses it user data along with publicly available data, like social media usage, to verify identity. The system apparently has some real traction to. Ticketmaster estimates 30% to 50% of tickets get taken by resellers or bots on high demand shows. The resale on verified fan tickets is less than 5%. At the time of Wall Street journal article discussing, it less than 3% of the Springsteen show had hit secondary market.4
For the probably slightly younger fan base of Taylor Swift verified fans gets even more involved. Ticket prioritization is not simply that you are a person, but a true fan. Fans could get a “medium” boost from watching one of her videos or posting a photo on twitter showing her advertising on a UPS truck. They can get a “high” boost from purchasing merch. The idea is that ticket resellers will not have the time to engage in fan activity dissuading them from doing it.4 It also certainly is not accidental that all the activities that true “fans” have time to do directly benefit the artist.
These requirements for obtaining tickets can have a real time commitment for those trying to get tickets. For instance, one Springsteen fan took the day off work to be able to purchase tickets if they received a code. However, that seems minor compared to a Swift fan who is working to play her videos 40 times a day.4 While some of these fans may have to pay less monetarily, they can certainly have to pay for the tickets through the time spent.
This is also not to say the system has been without issues. This verified fan system created a submarket of people instead of selling the tickets, selling the codes. Offers as high as $1,000 dollars for a code to purchase up to two tickets to Springsteen’s Broadway show. There were also reports of ticket resellers creating dozens of Ticketmaster accounts and trying to spoof the system into getting more tickets. 5
Springsteen’s sign for his show on Broadway5
Moving ahead to the present large live events have certainly felt like a world away. However, there is indications we are starting to get to the point where some people can begin to safely attend concerts and sporting events. Despite some information indicating otherwise Ticketmaster is not going set protocols to enforce vaccines and/or mandatory COVID tests, that will be up to each individual organizer.6 That will be up to each organizer which depending on local regulation will also need to comply with capacity limits.
To dig into this a bit further let us take the local Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox can host fans at 12% capacity beginning on March 22nd. This would mean that a maximum of around 4,500 fans can be allowed in. While the ticket sale plan is not known yet, there is indications of a preference for season ticket holders.7 While demand for these tickets is uncertain, there seems to be at least a good chance that demand will again outstrip supply. This could be an additional complication that a lot of live events will face as they begin to reopen.
Facial mask sign at Fenway Park7
One ongoing conversation that I have noticed in the past year is the concept of fairness. In a lot of ways, are currently living in a situation where demand is outstripping supply. Whether it is a concert ticket, a new fridge, or even at some points toilet paper we all want distribution to go fairly. However, I think the verified fan program shows at practice this is a hard issue to resolve. Technology certainly can help alleviate some problems, but it can inadvertently cause others. I think the key thing to keep in mind is for fairness it is hard to get it exactly right. It is a destination that we might eventually go to. In the meantime, well, as Springsteen sang “we were born to run”.
Here it is, my moment of Zen. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxuThNgl3YA)
1 Riedel, M. (2017, June 16). Bruce Springsteen heads to Broadway this fall. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://nypost.com/2017/06/16/bruce-springsteen-heads-to-broadway-this-fall/
2 The River Tour (2016). (2021, January 20). Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_River_Tour_(2016)
3 Jordan, C. (2017, August 30). Bruce Springsteen on BROADWAY: Tickets on secondary MARKET minutes AFTER ONSALE. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.app.com/story/entertainment/music/2017/08/30/bruce-springsteen-broadway-tickets-secondary-market-minutes-after-onsale/616384001/
4 Steele, A. (2017, September 06). Ticketmaster asks: Are you a big enough fan? Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/ticketmaster-asks-are-you-a-big-enough-fan-1504636200
5 Steele, A. (2017, September 16). Ticketmaster tries to weed Out scalpers, and a new market is born. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/ticketmaster-tries-to-weed-out-scalpers-and-a-new-market-is-born-1505563201
6 Savage, M. (2020, November 12). No, Ticketmaster won’t force you to have a Covid vaccine. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-54920146
7 Ccotillo@MassLive.com, C. (2021, February 25). Red Sox will have limited capacity at Fenway park on OPENING Day; park will remain mass VACCINATION SITE. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.masslive.com/redsox/2021/02/boston-red-sox-will-have-limited-capacity-at-fenway-park-on-opening-day-will-keep-stadium-open-as-vaccination-site-during-season.html