Science 5 min read

How TicketMaster Uses Your Data Against Buying Bots

How many of these people are robots? | Melis |

How many of these people are robots? | Melis |

Ticket Scalping has been around for years, but technology has shot up this old method with steroids. Brokers who use bots to purchase all of the tickets for events have created a billion dollar industry. Despite public objection, it is uncertain whether we will be able to circumvent our bot-ridden ticket sales system.

A detailed piece from Ticketmanager looks into the ticket resale business and how it is impossible to beat. Despite the millions of people who are against bots and brokers, there are key people who support the billion dollar industry because of the profits and convenience that it provides–for insiders, not consumers.

Ticketmaster's Verified Fan feature may fight back against broker bots.Click To Tweet

Services like Ticketmaster generally have low prices that are sometimes even below market value because it is a guaranteed way for them to sell out. Selling out is the ultimate goal for ticket sellers, who can then move on to capitalize on other financial aspects of events.

Weighing the costs of hosting an event (staff, security, etc.) versus profits that will come from concessions, merchandise, parking, and sponsorships makes it clear that the main objective is to sell out–even if that means cutting ticket prices.

Bots Are Bad, Mmkay

When tickets go on sale, ticket brokers use bots to buy up all of the tickets in a fraction of the time it takes a real person to buy a single ticket. Often times, the managers of these bots aren’t even aware of for what they are used.

This story has the makings of a modern tragedy.  The business tycoon that picks on the little guy (who just wants to see his favorite team play) so that a select few can rake in billions of dollars.

Ticket brokering is a business that targets customers, but also one that has maintained success over the years because of that same very unfortunate detail. The nastiness of the business model is what makes it so successful, and brokers have made so much money that they have become integrated into the mainstream aspects of the business.

Selling Out

Bots are unbeatable unless you’re on the inside. Industry insiders (teams, venues, performers, and promoters) all have a clandestine symbiotic relationship with brokers.

Although brokering might be considered unfair, insiders feel that it is necessary for them to make profits off of all of the tickets that they receive and can’t possibly use. Insiders are able to save face by anonymously unloading premium tickets onto brokers who can then resell them.

People on the inside are technically discouraged from reselling their tickets, and it would be, and has been, a scandal for them to try to sell exclusive seats.

The brokers give them a shield of privacy, and the insiders give brokers their extra seats. This is just one example of some of the many deals between brokers and insiders. When brokers and executives have an established professional relationship, a broker might provide special favors for an executive, and executives also rely on brokers to resell tickets to events that have not been able to draw a crowd.

Will Tech be Enough to Beat The Bots?

Further, companies like StubHub and BUJKG have gone semi-legitimate, fostering public partnerships with teams and businesses so that they no longer have to use back door deals to accomplish their means.

There are so many levels to the ticket brokering business, but the biggest challenge is circumventing the bots.

Last year, congress passed the BOTS Act, which makes it illegal to use bots to gain an advantage in ticket purchasing. Lawmakers believe that outlawing bots will level the playing field and be able to help fans who are stuck in this “fixed game.”

Illegalizing the bots will probably not be enough to stop them. Technology, however, may be able to get around any existing loopholes.

Ticketmaster has recently begun using anti-bot technology coupled with users personal data to confirm that customers are real people and not bots.

The software “asks fans to provide personal information including their phone number, email and social info, like their Facebook account. Then Ticketmaster takes time to figure out if they’re human, looking for clues like past ticket-buying history and social posts, and lets ticket-buyers know if they’ve made the cut.”

So far, the verified fan sign up has been successful, and in its recent trial for presales of tickets to an Ed Sheeran tour, 1% percent of tickets had ended up in secondary ticket markets. Ticketmaster is only using the method for presales, but if they opened it up to general sales, this might be a good way to mitigate bot activity

On the other hand, this verified fan system makes it harder to guarantee that all of the tickets will sell out. Inevitably, if events can’t be sold out, the profit drive will strike back at customer satisfaction with the ticket buying system.

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