Paperless gig technology is still practical

In a report on BBC Newsbeat this week, Amelia Butterly claims that “Paperless tickets could help combat touts but many venues still do not have the capabilities to support them, say independent music promoters.”

The argument from Anton Lockwood, Director of DHP Group which owns a number of UK venues including Rock City, and Rescue Rooms in Nottingham states that “It only works where the cost of introducing the system can be spread over high ticket prices.”

in the last year I have been to plenty of shows at larger venues the majority of which are using barcode scanning terminals for checking tickets on the door. I can imagine that these custom built handheld ticket readers are indeed expensive to implement  but that’s because these handhelds are being produced and manufactured by the large ticket companies namely, SEE, and Ticket Master. So who is to blame for this high cost to entry for paperless tickets, well to no surprise the companies who make money from printing physical tickets because they charge the client more for printing which has to be factored into the overheads for the promoter and thus ticket prices are higher. This is why I get so annoyed by these same companies because they have the balls to charge you extra for postage (it is not averaging £2.50 per ticket to be posted), and if you do pay for e-tickets when they’re available they find another means of increasing the cost of the ticket when of course in theory the overhead has reduced.

Well let’s just take a small (very small) step back here and think about that last claim. Is there a reduction in cost just because it is online? No not really, there still needs to be a system to produce your e-ticket, it still needs to be maintained, supported and tested. But Surely, a reliable system ensures a reduced risk of error and still should be considerably smaller. One of the positives for paperless billing and paperless tickets has been the fact that the cost of printing is passed onto the client.

There are several payment services and banks right now developing and testing alternative payment techonologies to reduce the cost of entry for small business to accept card payments and to do away with the card terminal. This is being met with huge success rates. How is it being done? By building web apps that are capable of running on any mobile device with a connection to the internet. What does that mean? It means whatever you have in your hand if you’re working on the door could be checking, those tickets and getting people into the venues, infront of the bands and having a great time.

In another section of the article a nameless Spokesperson from Ticketmaster said that paperless tickets are an artist led and it’s up to the musician and then cites Robbie Williams show at the O2. This is a great example of ignorance in the industry. If this clown from Ticketmaster honestly believes Robbie Williams himself has ever said to his manager ‘oh are we doing paper tickets this tour’ then Mr Ticketmaster Employee has no idea how the business works.

Yes there are exceptions. The holier than thou’s of the industry, the Radiohead’s and Trent Reznor’s who are trying to take control of what happens to fans at shows, but anyone who has read any of the reports from either camp will know the problems they faced in doing so, mainly by cutting out the Ticket Operator they were faced with disgruntled venues and also had to buy the tickets back and resell them, all to avoid touts. Trent Reznor on NIN Summer Tour 2009

But it is a double edged sword for venues and promoters. I know first hand how hard it is to sell out a show when you’re reliant on telephone bookings, and physical tickets being available in independent retail shops in your local area. The Forum in Tunbridge Wells celebrates 20 years of live music in 2013. From 1999-2002 I worked as a booker at the venue, we had good shows and bad shows like any other and were very much reliant then on a message board on the website to generate interest and ticket sales from the shops. We printed our own tickets, had 3 shops that you could buy from and would over subscribe our telephone reservations list (we couldn’t take payment by phone) because we would have an average drop off of 60% people not turning up. Every Friday and Saturday night was a gamble. We could never afford to use a service like SEE, Ticketmaster, or Wayahead back then because their rates would mean our average ticket price of £4/5 would have to double and we knew people wouldn’t pay that.

Now, the Forum uses MusicGlue, a service which has been created to do away with the big players in ticketing. These smaller services are what will change the face of paperless ticketing. As soon as they start to think about mobile application development seriously, venues around the country could be beeping you at the door.

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Andy Parker

User Experience Designer, headbanger, biker, skater, gamer from Brighton UK.