Jul 21, 2023 - Business

Boston startup takes on digital ticket scalpers

Illustration of a ticket stub with cash symbols printed on it

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A Boston-based software startup is taking on ticket brokers that jack up prices to profit off of desperate fans.

Why it matters: True Tickets says its blockchain technology has the potential to rein in abusive ticketing practices on a larger scale.

What’s happening: Smaller venues across the country are using True Tickets’ software to track their customers and limit resale activity, the startup's co-founder and CEO Matt Zarracina tells Axios.

  • Some venues have already used it to block scalpers from ticket resales for "Hamilton" and Neil deGrasse Tyson, he says.

How it works: The technology plugs into venues’ existing ticketing systems and sets rules to limit sales activity, including how many times a customer can transfer a ticket to someone else.

  • The technology also controls when customers receive tickets and automatically updates the QR codes every 30 seconds.

What they’re saying: Amy Aldrich, director of patron experience for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, tells Axios the nonprofit has seen suspicious reseller activity plummet since it contracted with True Tickets in 2021.

  • "It’s a game of whack-a-mole, you’re always going to be up against them."
  • But thanks to True Tickets, "I think a lot of the old school, deceitful practices of double printing tickets and copy and pasting information — that kind of stuff is totally gone," she says.

Context: Large-scale marketplaces such as Ticketmaster and SeatGeek have faced outrage for letting scalpers and bots run rampant on their sites, most recently when tickets for Taylor Swift’s tour went on sale.

  • One Somerville dad said he spent nearly $21,000 on four tickets to Swift's show.
  • The chaos prompted Massachusetts lawmakers to file a bill outlawing dynamic pricing and requiring ticket sellers to be more upfront about surprise fees.

Zoom out: Ticketmaster earlier this year urged Congress to pass a law that bolsters artists' control over ticket sales, including restricting some third-party sales.

  • Some Senators, however, suggested it might be time to break up the highly-consolidated industry.

Reality check: Small venue operators tell Axios True Tickets is stopping scalpers in their tracks, but it's on a much smaller scale than what larger sellers handle.

Yes, but: True Tickets' record proves the model has promise, Zarracina says.


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