Ticketmaster announced today its acquisition of blockchain ticketing company UPGRADED.
UPGRADED turns traditional tickets into smart, blockchain-secured tickets adding new features and aiding the fight against ticket fraud. Tickets are converted into secure interactive digital assets using blockchain technology to encrypt ticket barcodes. The idea is that if the barcodes are encrypted, event owners can better prevent counterfeited tickets.
It's not confirmed whether Ticketmaster will exclusively use UPGRADED tickets, or what the availability of these tickets will look like for event owners or ticket purchasers.
The use of blockchain to underpin these smart tickets also allows data to be shared with event managers and ticket sellers. With this data, they will be able find out who has owned the ticket, if it has been sold, and who the consumer is that attends an event. Ticket sellers can also limit the ability of the purchaser to resell the tickets, or require a portion of the resale value to go to the event owner instead of the ticket owner.
This built-in tracking provides additional marketing opportunities. The smart tickets themselves, says UPGRADED, can also display digital adverts, again tracking clicks and recording purchases. For example, fans could purchase parking passes or merchandise directly from within the ticket.
UPGRADED tickets still use barcodes, the go-to security of today's events to prevent ticket fraud. However, these barcodes are "obfuscated" until the event doors open and the ticket holder is nearby, reducing the chance of any duplication. UPGRADED smart tickets are delivered to purchasers via email.
Sandy Khaund, founder and CEO of UPGRADED, said in the official press release:
"Ticketmaster is the unquestioned leader in live event ticketing and is the perfect platform for us to bring the unique promise of blockchain to millions of fans."
How this technology benefits fans is not particularly clear, though.
Other than being based on the Ethereum blockchain, UPGRADED doesn't appear to be revealing the extent to which its smart tickets are blockchain secured, based, or managed. Smart contract technology certainly has the capability to deliver the functionality UPGRADED describes.
However, one issue UPGRADED, and now Ticketmaster, may face is scalability. Ticketmaster sells 500 million tickets per year, something that the Ethereum blockchain might not handle at the speed Ticketmaster's customers would expect. According to Etherscan, the Ethereum blockchain recorded slightly more than 580,000 transactions on October 17, 2018. At its all-time high in January, only a little over 1.3 million transactions were recorded. And people already talk about network clogs.
It's possible that UPGRADED will be running its own sidechain or state channel, but again, no specs were provided. UPGRADED smart tickets might be ready for smaller volume use but not a complete rollout.
Another blockchain-based event ticketing solution recently went live on the Ethereum blockchain. The GET foundation is a little clearer on how it will use blockchain, confirming the need for a centralized database for ticket management and that it will gradually introduce more on-chain solutions. The GET white paper states:
"Currently, blockchain technology is too slow to accommodate a robust, competitive, and user-friendly instant verification ticketing system at times of such peak capacity."
That said, Ticketmaster's Justin Burleigh, the company's chief product officer for North America, only confirms that Ticketmaster is "exploring emerging technologies, and there aren't many that have the unique possibilities of blockchain." Burleigh adds:
"We think blockchain and UPGRADED will continue our progress to improve ticketing and create a safer and more seamless experience."
When and to what extent that progress might occur is not apparent. Ticketmaster's progress with UPGRADED and blockchain is certainly one development to watch. Perhaps investment from Ticketmaster will accelerate the development of smart ticket technology.