Major events, from sporting to musical, are a significant part of most people's lives, bringing individuals together to enjoy a shared interest. Unfortunately, ticket touts (scalpers) and secondary websites are taking advantage and extorting the event ticketing industry. With big names such as Mumford and Sons, Coldplay, Adele and Ed Sheeran speaking out about this problem, the issue remains. The U.K. government has introduced legislation that aims to prevent the use of bots from purchasing tickets to resell them at inflated prices. Still, more than 21,000 people in the U.K. have reported falling victim to ticket fraud in the last three years with the majority of these reports concerning secondary ticket markets, according to research.
In order to solve the issues around fraudulent tickets and the high prices associated with them Edinburgh-based Citizen Ticket, the ethical 'David meets Goliath' event ticketing platform backed by blockchain technology, was created by CFO Harry Boisseau and COO Philip Shaw-Stewart. During their time working in the events industry for the past 10 years, the pair has worked on everything from large-scale music events and pop-up food events to underground concerts and charity fundraisers.
In partnership with Get Online Safe and the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), the City of London Police's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) found that over the last three years more than £17 million ($22 million) has been lost to ticket fraudsters.
In April, the three organizations undertook a series of Facebook flash sales, which saw over 1,500 people attempting to buy music tickets from a fake ticket website called 'Surfed Arts.' Purporting to be a secondary ticket website, the adverts were aimed at certain locations where concerts were taking place over the summer but had sold out. The research found that women over the age of 65 and those who reside in London tried to purchase the most fake tickets; however, men and women aged 35-44 and those living in Birmingham were the least likely to click on the fake advert.
Those who did click on the Surfed Arts website were told they could not buy the sold out tickets before being informed on how they could better protect themselves from becoming a potential victim to ticket fraudsters. According to the NFIB, the idea was to get people to change their online behavior and to consider whether secondary ticket sales are legitimate.
Social media is also becoming another avenue for ticket fraudsters to advertise ticket sales. Data from Action Fraud found that in 2015 there was a 55 percent rise in ticket fraud with major sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup and the Premier League football accounting for a quarter of all incidents of ticket scams. Fraudulent tickets for gigs and festivals represented 15 percent, costing the U.K. public £5.2 million ($6.75 million).
Those who do purchase fake tickets can find that the nature of them can vary. They either don't materialize, never existed or charge hyper-inflated prices through secondary ticket websites than what's listed on a primary ticket website.
A Blockchain Solution
With the help from fellow team member Colin Palmer, CTO, Boisseau and Shaw-Stewart brought to fruition the recent launch of BitTicket, the first digital event tickets on the blockchain for public events, using the cryptocurrency Ethereum Classic. The idea was dreamt up while searching online for Ed Sheeran tickets on a secondary ticket website with high costs.
The team found that not only were there large quantities of tickets being hoarded by secondary ticket websites with increased prices attached to them, but that primary ticket websites were sending them, in bulk, to the secondary ticket websites before they went on sale. However, that wasn't the only problem the team found.
"The event ticketing monopolies own primary ticket websites and secondary ticket trading websites," said Shaw-Stewart, speaking to Bitcoin Magazine. "The secondary ticket website allows the monopolies to collect event tickets from their primary ticket website, then charge highly inflated prices for the tickets on their secondary website under the pretense of being a platform created to allow fans to resell tickets."
As an example, they cited a Robbie Williams concert that was held at the O2 Arena in London. On a primary website, the tickets were being sold for £40 ($52). However, according to Shaw-Stewart, the primary site proceeded to sell 80 percent of their tickets to the umbrella company's secondary sister site. There, the same tickets were being sold for £300 ($390) each.
"There is a problem in the industry we believe to be unethical, the resale of event tickets by secondary ticket websites, often at highly inflated prices."
With the use of the blockchain, BitTicket is aiming to provide a secure and transparent system which is resistant to fraud and counterfeiting. With every ticket sale publicly verifiable on the blockchain, it locks and guarantees the value of the ticket in a way that is unmatched by private databases and paper systems, says Shaw-Stewart.
It also has inbuilt anti-fraud sales rules to ensure that no secondary ticket website can hoard tickets to control the supply that allows them to charge inflated prices. If the resale rules are broken by secondary ticket websites or ticket touts (scalpers), the fraudulent accounts are frozen and the tickets are made invalid.
Still in the early stages of launching Citizen Ticket, the team is planning on rolling out a large-scale marketing campaign in the coming months to target event organizers and event goers.
The first ever event to use this new blockchain application was the Scottish Street Food Awards in Edinburgh, which took place on May 12. Utilizing the BitTicket platform, the event proved to be a success for the Citizen Ticket team, who said that the platform had performed exactly as they had expected.
"From a customer's point of view very little changed; they purchased and presented their ticket like any other digital ticket," said Shaw-Stewart. "They were asked for ID at the door to confirm ownership of their ticket and that's it, they were in."
In keeping with the company’s commitment to ethical practices, Citizen Ticket also works with two charitable partners: the Movember Foundation and SkatePal. Through ticket sales made on the platform, donations are made to these two charities.
With an array of events already listed on the platform, as well as its fundraising initiatives, the team is hoping to level the playing field for the industry with BitTickets.
"We hope that the launch of BitTicket will usher in a new era of ethical event tickets where both fan and artist are protected from the unethical practices of ticket touts and secondary ticket websites," concluded Shaw-Stewart.