A paperless war on scalpers

Saving a ticket stub from a memorable concert may soon be a thing of the past.

Bands are fighting back against scalpers by issuing non-transferable e-tickets to concerts.

MONTREAL — Saving a ticket stub from a memorable concert may soon be a thing of the past.

Metallica, Tom Waits, AC/DC and Canada’s Tokyo Police Club are among the bands that are fighting back against scalpers by experimenting with “paperless tickets,” which allow fans to gain entry to a concert with a swipe of a credit card or a scan of their cellphone.

Tokyo Police Club used the new ticket system last year for a show at a Pittsburgh venue and said they would do it again to foil scalpers and cut down on paper production.

“We hate scalpers, and the opportunity to defeat these villains and help Mother Earth at the same time is truly one to be cherished,” band member Graham Wright, who plays keyboards and does vocals, said in an email.

Ticketmaster’s first use of paperless tickets in Canada will take place at Metallica’s show at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre on Oct. 12.

The show was sold out in less than an hour on April 4, with about 20 per cent of the venue’s roughly 15,000 seats offered via paperless tickets, said Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of the MTS Centre. He said the better seats were sold through the new technology.

Rogers Wireless subscribers can buy paperless tickets and receive them on their cellphones for select Live Nation concerts in Canada. And in the U.S., Tickets.com and ShowClix have also allowed consumers to buy paperless tickets on their mobile phones.

Brian Pike, Ticketmaster’s chief technology officer, said the technology allows the company to control who gets tickets.

“It’s trying to make sure that the person who bought the ticket wants to attend the concert,” Pike said from Los Angeles.

Concertgoers have to present photo ID when they arrive at the venue, since the tickets are non-transferable and can only be picked up by the purchasers. If the tickets were emailed to a cellphone, an encrypted text message or bar code on the phone is read by a scanner.

The system isn’t, in fact, entirely paperless. Fans at the venue get a small slip of paper — about half the size of a regular ticket — letting them know where their seats are located, Pike said.

And the fact that the tickets are non-transferable has been the subject of criticism.

A YouTube video chides Ticketmaster for various scenarios, such as a purchaser who falls ill and cannot go to a show to pick up a ticket. Also, tickets cannot be given as a gift and collected at the venue by recipients.

Pike said Ticketmaster is looking into a refund policy or setting up a way for consumers to resell tickets if they can’t make it to a show.

“One of the things we do hope to create is a legitimate secondary ticket market that’s very, very controlled and validated and secured, where the artist knows who’s going to their show.”

He also said Ticketmaster is also considering allowing those who have received tickets as gifts to go to a venue’s box office and pick them up.

Ticketmaster has come under fire for its past practice of redirecting online customers to its TicketsNow resale subsidiary when tickets to an event were sold out. There were complaints — never proven — that Ticketmaster was deliberately holding back tickets and selling them at inflated prices on TicketsNow.

Ticketmaster’s practices have generated two class-action lawsuits in Canada and investigations by the federal Competition Bureau, the Ontario government and the state of New Jersey.

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