Paperless Tickets and Ticketmaster’s Guinea Pig

Paperless Tickets and Ticketmaster’s Guinea Pig

As a Wall Street Journal article from last week correctly suggests, Miley Cyrus is Ticketmaster’s guinea pig; will the test be successful? Though there is not enough information on hand to know for sure, it is clear that the decision to sell “paperless tickets” for all of Miley Cyrus shows has raised the eyebrows of fans and resellers alike putting Ticketmaster on the defensive while ticket resellers try to figure out how to carve a market in a paperless ticket system. I have read a good amount on the topic over the past week and have a couple observations.

Ticketmaster executive David Butler claimed on CNBC that Ticketmaster was not trying to thwart ticket scalpers, but “to give more tools to artists to control their relationship with fans.” Later in the interview he stated “the fans decide what the right arrangement is…” but then goes on to say that “Miley believes that her fans are best served by [paperless tickets].” Miley may have had good intentions when supporting the concept, but the brains behind the paperless tickets is Ticketmaster, and at best the concept is half-baked.

Paperless tickets are great for fans who have a credit card, valid photo ID and the complete confidence they can attend the event for which they are buying tickets. But those requirements disqualify a huge portion of the ticket buying population, including kids without credit cards or ID’s, those who buy tickets and later wish to sell them if the cannot go, those who wish to gift tickets and those who buy ‘okay’ tickets for one date and then get better tickets after a second date is announced. All of these cases are quite common and paperless tickets easily restricts the buyers choice. To Mr. Butler’s comments, I am not confident most fans would choose paperless tickets given the option. So Mr. Butler, if “fans decide what the arrangement is” where is the choice? And what mis-guided artist management would push Miley to be a guinea pig in this half-baked idea unless the management was owned and controlled by Ticketmaster… oh wait, it is! And let me guess who will have the sole right to resell the tickets? TicketsNow – the reseller owned by Ticketmaster?

Don’t get me wrong, paperless tickets are a great option – but they should be just that – an option, not a mandate. Miley Cyrus management team should have recognized this, but they did not and the fan banter on Twitter and elsewhere suggests that people are more frustrated than happy.