Industry News

Ticketmaster digital chief hails ‘Verified Fan’

Data management strategies and technologies are being put in place to help steer more tickets into the hands of genuine fans, according to Ticketmaster’s chief digital officer and executive vice-president of data science and engineering, John Carnahan.

Carnahan, who has been with Ticketmaster since 2012, told the Amplify website that the company’s ‘Verified Fan’ technology is helping to tackle a “very inefficient marketplace”.

“Billions of dollars in margin that just sits out there,” Carnahan told Amplify. “You have to ask yourself why this exists. You look at things like the airline industry. They toggle prices and change prices in order to meet the demand. We don’t do that in the live event industry. I think a lot of people are realising that they’ve left a lot of money on the table.”

Ticketmaster recently responded to criticism from Australian rock band The Smith Street Band by claiming that tickets to see the group are being resold at huge mark-ups, because they are “under-priced”.

“Those front seats should be buying a tonne of stuff, but it turns out they don’t get sold on the secondary market,” Carnahan said. “Turns out they don’t get sold because a broker goes out and purchases 20 tickets and sells them for 10 times the value. If only a handful of those get purchased, they’ve made all their money back. They’re done. They’re just going to let them sit out there at that price and hope for the best that they get sold.”

Bots are only a part of the problem, the Ticketmaster executive said. There is other software designed to reserve as many seats as possible and hold on to tickets for hours. This pushes fans to the secondary market while very few tickets actually get sold through Ticketmaster.

“There is a separation between bad actors and bots, and I like to make that separation,” he said. “While it is the case that anyone who uses a bot is a bad actor, there are bad actors that don’t use bots. With that much money at stake, if we have a system that just identifies whether or not you’re using software to purchase tickets, that’s not enough.

“When I first started, our in-cart conversion (when an in-cart ticket gets sold) was less than one per cent,” Carnahan said. “We’ve been able to increase that to 20 to 30 per cent for high-demand shows. The goal is about 50 per cent since people get available tickets and they aren’t what they wanted, so they let them go.”

Ticketmaster is in the process of overlapping key features to get more fans into their preferred seats, cutting out the middle man and keeping the profits with those who put it back into the music industry.

Verified Fan is used when artists show an interest in the feature and a registration page is created for fans to sign up for a special presale. They will be required to enter a host of information to verify their identity, then based on a fan score, people will get a code that they can use for a specific presale, preventing them from competing with bots to get the best seats.

It was recently hailed as a success after minimising the scalping of Ed Sheeran (pictured) tickets.

“We take that information and behind-the-scenes we run our machine learning which scores those users,” Carnahan said. “It tells us the likelihood that the person is going to attend that show. We’re taking all the data that we have of which (concerts) this person attended and which ones they didn’t.

“The response is fantastic. Which makes people actually like Ticketmaster. A big goal of mine is to get people to actually like Ticketmaster again or ever.”

Ticketmaster is close to unveiling Presence, a product that will require every ticket purchased to have the holder’s name on it – but can be transferred via the Ticketmaster app.

Carnahan said: “In a lot of ways, we are eliminating the worst part of a live event experience which is buying a ticket. The association is between the artist and the fan and we’re just trying to make that happen. The more that we can step out of that, the more that we can just link up the fan and the artist together.”