Unless you either live under a rock or don’t have a relative/friend/boss who’s a Swiftie, you know that Taylor Swift concert tickets went on sale this week. You probably also know it was a catastrophe, with the blood and tears of millions of Swifties on Ticketmaster’s hands. It was enough to divert an entire news cycle away from Elon Musk. I’m here to tell you how in the future, this sort of thing might not happen.
Here’s what happened: Prior to the presale, Swifties registered as “Verified Fans” through a partnership between Ticketmaster and Taylor’s management team, Taylor Nation. From Ticketmaster’s reports, over 4 million fans signed up. The night before the presale, 1.5 million of them were notified by text and email that they won the presale lottery and were given access codes to buy tickets the next day. If you bought merchandise from the Taylor Swift store using the same email address as your Ticketmaster account, this helped your chances. I am both simultaneously proud and embarrassed to say that I have dropped enough money on that website to score a presale code.
The events of the following morning will live forever as one of the darkest of days in the annals of Swiftie history. Over the course of the morning, 1.5 million fans tried to buy tickets simultaneously – along with 12.5 million other people…and resale bots. (If you want to learn about how these bots work, this is a good primer.) The site crashed in spectacular fashion, codes did not work, and many irate Swifties did not score tickets. Moments later, ticket resale sites like StubHub and Vividseats immediately showed plenty of inventory – marked up to $30,000 a ticket in some places. The whole point of fan verification was to prevent something like this from happening. So, what went wrong?
This is not a post about that. This is a post about how it could have gone.
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, have a bad rep in some circles because they are often associated with “tech bro” culture and extremely ugly AI-generated cartoon apes. However, they are useful for situations in which you want to tie a digital asset to its owner. If concert tickets are issued on NFTs, the organizer would have a record of the owner of the ticket on a blockchain, and more importantly, would know when that ticket is sold to someone else and how much it sold for. Keeping these records could limit price gouging, scalping, and ticket fraud. Because the ticket resides on a blockchain, the organizer could set resale cost limits and conditions.
There are other benefits to using NFTs for ticket sales. Because this technology moves quickly and efficiently, it may be less likely to crash a website. Artists could attach digital collectibles to tickets as souvenirs of the show. Tickets are potentially more securely stored digitally using ticket wallets tied to a single device. And paying for tickets could be more seamless, too. Ticketmaster sees the value, too, and has partnered with blockchain providers for other kinds of events.
It'll be a while before the world buys Taylor Swift tickets on blockchain, but there’s a good chance it’ll be better than not being able to buy Taylor Swift tickets at all. I, for one, am ready for it.
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