Music Industry

Battle Ticket Bots with Blockchain? Why Not?


The solution to those terrible ticket-buying bots that keep scooping up tickets to all the best concerts mere seconds after they go on sale? It might be blockchain.

The same platform that some in the music industry believe could revolutionize the way copyright, credits and royalties are logged, not to mention the way artists and fans interact, might be the tech-savvy, iron-clad, corruption-free way to ensure fans get the tickets they want.

Bryce Weiner, founder of the Tao Network, a blockchain platform for music distribution, thinks the way to eliminate the allure of bots is to make a more equitable, egalitarian system for selling tickets.

Others have tried, and failed, to ensure fans get a fair shake when it comes to buying tickets. Pearl Jam famously fought Ticketmaster all the way to Congress, arguing on behalf of their fans and others against service fees and other practices they deemed unjust. It didn’t necessarily work, but they made a clear point.  Unfortunately, at least in Weiner’s estimation, it also set the band back years in terms of their success.

“It was an incredibly valiant effort, but it pretty much killed the band for a little while,” he says. “If you can take a band like Pearl Jam and reduce them to that level of, quite frankly, servitude to ticketing systems, which is what they were fighting—there’s a tremendous amount of power in the ticketing industry. It becomes so slanted toward the ticket providers that it’s obscene. There are a number of applications out there that seek to address this.”

Some artists use websites or apps like Bands in Town to alert fans to when their favourite performers are playing nearby, but it’s decentralized – not all bands can utilize the functions in the same way or to the same extent. That’s where blockchain comes in.

His idea is to decentralize ticket buying by moving the whole process to a blockchain, in which only a certain number of tickets are made available at a given time. Once that batch of tickets is purchased, another group will be released. And there’s no way to game the system because each and every transaction will take the same amount of time to process.

“The issue has always been that when 10,000 tickets go on sale, 9,000 of them disappear in the first few seconds because of automated systems,” Weiner says. Converting ticket sales to a blockchain would solve that problem from the start “simply because there is no way to resolve all 10,000 of those transactions within five seconds. It’s possible it will take at least seven-and-a-half minutes with the Tao network to be able to process a block or batch of those transactions, which means there’s still a large number of transactions that are left in the queue.”

The queue can be reordered, which Weiner says is “an advanced sort of blocking technique where the queue has a memory pool. The first transactions into the memory pool are the first ones out. There are sorting rules based in there based on if you pay a higher fee that sort of thing.”

There’s no way for scalpers, bots or other less-than-above-board to force through large numbers of ticket purchases instantly. “What we’re going to do is we’re not going to disrupt Ticketmaster. We’re going to disrupt the scalpers,” he says. “The idea is to slow down the buying process so that bots can buy tickets all at once and give people who don’t mind waiting a little bit more of a fair chance of getting the tickets they want for the bands they want to see.”

Selling tickets on a blockchain would still allow for reselling of tickets and, again, that type of transaction would be secured as an exchange of cryptocurrency, unable to be faked. “The aftermarket scalping is going to be completely gutted because now we’re going to turn everybody into a scalper, essentially. It’s not going to be these huge ticket houses buying five blocks of 10,000 tickets. We’re going to make it harder for them to compete in the purchase of tickets.”

And if someone tries to beat the system and override the blockchain’s algorithms to buy more tickets at a given time?

It won’t be possible to hide behind a computer screen like bot operators do. “You can’t fake it, you can’t spoof the data” and try to cloak any transactions to remain secretive, Weiner says. “Everybody is going to see that you’re a ticket scalper and we’re going to build all these mathematical metrics in order to determine who is and who is not a ticket scalper and then address the problem from where it stands.”

Moving ticket sales to blockchain won’t eliminate bad behavior, nor is Weiner trying to suggest his solution is a silver-bullet to solve all the ills of ticket selling. But it’s a new technique that will make it harder to cheat fans out of their opportunity to see their favourite bands. At the very least, it’s another attempt to help rectify a crummy situation.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

Amber Healy has 521 posts and counting. See all posts by Amber Healy

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