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The Three Commandments of a Truly Open Ticketing Platform

For the past two years SeatGeek has been banging the drum for an open approach to ticketing in the United States. “Openness” within ticketing is at the core of SeatGeek Enterprise’s mission. We are incredibly excited about the recent industry shift toward openness, validating our vision for happy fans, teams and venues.

That said, frankly any primary ticketing company can claim to be open (and now they do!). But, what does it actually mean to be an open ticketing company? And what does it actually mean for content providers and their fans?

We wanted to clearly define what “open” means and how a truly open ticketing company operates. At SeatGeek, we see three key pillars: zero-cost access, control over distribution, and freedom from fraud. An open ticketing company can’t just touch on one or two of these: it must excel at all pillars in order to create an ecosystem that drives the maximum value and experience for ticket sellers and buyers. 

Commandment #1: Teams, artists and venues have full control

Simply put, in a closed system, primary tickets belong to the ticketing provider; in an open system tickets belong to the team, artist and venue. We believe the content holder should decide where their primary tickets are distributed. This is the norm in many European markets, but the legacy ticketing model in the U.S. gives control to the ticketing system, not the team or artist. That means ticketing companies make decisions in their best interest versus that of the team, artist and fan.

In an open system the power is shifted back to the hands of those teams, artists and venues. They decide if and where they want to push their ticketing inventory, based on demand and audience. In our minds, the more places a ticket can be, the better, but ultimately that decision is up to the rightsholder. A team or venue should have endless opportunities to surface tickets in the channels that make sense to them and their fans. What makes more sense than an artist offering tickets to their next show directly to fans singing along to the latest album in their favorite music streaming app?

Commandment #2: Free access

Once a team or venue decides where they want to distribute tickets, primary inventory should be available to any distribution partner that completes the requisite API integration–absolutely free of fees to the team or venue. Equally important, a primary ticketing company should not add incremental fees to inventory sold on third parties. Legacy primary ticketing companies require upfront fees to distribute tickets outside of their platform, and that tax placed on distribution partners and violates our “free access” principle.

Free access is a major win for content providers and fans, which is why we are absolutely passionate about it. Venues and teams stand to gain tremendously by tapping into a larger distribution network. Fans win even more, because all of the sudden they have a number of sellers competing for their business, all innovating to top one another, creating a constantly improving fan experience.

Commandment #3: All resold tickets in an open system are verified

A fan’s worst nightmare is to show up at an event and get denied at the gate because their ticket isn’t valid. While it happens to a minuscule number of fans, even one invalid ticket is one too many–and the possibility of such an experience is so traumatic that it dampens consumer demand. Fans now have to second guess whether they want to to buy a ticket because they are worried about authenticity.

As our eVP of Sales, Jeff Ianello, blogs, “legacy ticketing companies love fraud,” a realization that is sad but true. The next generation of fans should never have to think about whether a ticket is real or fake. Every resold ticket across every platform should be verified / reissued by the ticketing company at no charge so that the buyer is fully confident they are the only holder of such a barcode. It is critical that ticketing companies do not charge for this access. Otherwise, it creates a negative incentive where barcode reissue is withheld for the highest bidder or to prop up a ticketing company’s marketplace. In the end, the fan suffers.

Improving the customer experience also requires changes among e-commerce companies and ticket marketplaces. Once inventory can be verified, there should be no unverified listings sold on a given marketplace.

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The way primary tickets are sold hasn’t changed much in more than 20 years when Ticketmaster first sold tickets online, ushering in a new epoch of ticketing. Let us, as an industry, take advantage of the promise the Internet provides. Open distribution allows the best experience for fans through lower prices, better discovery, and an improved user experience. We see openness as the future of the industry, and we will continue to bang that drum until the future is here. 

–Russ D’Souza, Co-Founder of SeatGeek