Miley's "Paperless" Tickets: Not So Fan Friendly


Tickets for this fall's Miley Cyrus concerts are now available, with a paperless twist. Will this anti-scalping measure mean a better experience for fans? 

"Paperless" tickets already exist on a smaller scale, but Miley's tour will be the first to be all-paperless. In order to attend a show, fans arrive at the venue and take out the same credit card they purchased the tickets with, which is then swiped at the gate or turnstile. They then receive a printed seat locator. (Which renders the label "paperless" rather false.)

“It reminds me of returning your rental car,” says Michael Marion, the general manager of Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, Ark., an 18,000-seat venue that's been a test site for for Ticketmaster’s paperless tickets (Stock Quote: TMTK), beginning with a Brad Paisley show in January. Alltel, which has sold paperless tickets for subsequent shows, including AC/DC, has been employing the new method to peddle the best 3,000 to 4,000 seats in the house.  Their goal was to cut down on scalping.

So far, the paperless route is working, Marion said. 

Promotional paper tickets might still make it into the hands of the scalpers, which probably can’t be helped, and he is not overly concerned with the scalping of lower end tickets. 

“At the end of the day, they are not scalping section 200, row 18,” he says, adding that he does have some concerns about the issue of transferability.  

A concertgoer needs to arrive with the credit card he used to purchase the tickets, akin to an air traveler with e-tickets. This is what tamps down scalpers who, without a tremendously cumbersome entourage in tow, can’t buy inventory in any meaningful bulk.

But what if you decide at the last minute that you can’t go to the concert or ballgame and would rather poke yourself in the eye than loan your credit card to that co-worker you gifted the tickets to?

That remains a thorny issue and stands as another reason why, for now, Alltel is sticking with the high-end tickets only.

“These are the people who will be there come hell or high water,” he says, allowing that the issue could be problematic for others.

Marion says the paperless tickets don't cause traffic jams at the gates. With or without paperless, Marion says that Alltel opens up 90 minutes before show time and everyone gets seated in time.

“If there is a problem with an individual credit card scanning,” he says, “we don’t examine it for 20 minutes, while everyone waits.”   The card holder is sent to the side, to talk to a manager—and that happens infrequently.  In terms of timing, Marion calls the process “seamless.”

To date, Ticketmaster has used the system to move some 200,000 tickets to individual concerts from the likes of Metallica, AD/DC and Tom Waits.

Yeah, OK, but…
StubHub, a San Francisco-based company that essentially serves as sanctioned scalpers, says that Ticketmaster is trying to poach business from scalpers at the cost of public convenience.

“How many Miley Cyrus fans own a credit card?” asks Sean Pate, a StubHub spokesperson, pointing to the inconvenience faced by parents who will have to accompany their teens to turnstile, unless they want to risk handing their cards over. StubHub, of course, could lose considerable business if the ticketless system caught on.

And bequeathing tickets is not the only potential issue.  

“The biggest complaint we get” is lack of more authentic souvenirs, says Pate, speaking about StubHub's print-from-PDF tickets. Could the seat locater, which has all the charm of a car rental receipt, be the new equivalent? Only future scrapbooks will tell.

Are Paperless Tickets the Future?
Ticketmaster says paperless ticketing is still a work in progress and that the decision on whether to go paper-free rests with the concert artists and promoters. Stay tuned!

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