We Will, We Will Rock You - New Radio Technology Takes on Ticket Touts

Tony Fratelli, manager of top Scottish band The Fratellis, is on a mission to kill off ticket touts with his new social networking website. Cyberdrum meets Fratelli to find out how he is using new radio technology to bring the curtain down on touts.

But maybe a new music orientated social networking site, Tickall, has found the answer.

Tickall is a social networking site with a difference. While its mission is to force ticket touts out of business through the use of cutting edge technology, the site’s purpose is to build membership and encourage regular use and interaction through the promise of discounted access to events and gig tickets. The more you use the site the better the deals get.

The basic premise is that visitors to tickall.co.uk register and create a personal profile, which includes the upload of an image of themselves. Once a confirmed user, they are able to pay to attend gigs, the details of which are then added to their personal account. Each registered user is issued with a credit card or wristband featuring Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology that contains all of the information stored on the user’s profile including their picture. Once verified, this allows them access to to the venue. Simple.

Co-creators of Tickall, Tony Fratelli and Paul McGlynn of Eventual Ltd, (managers of The Fratellis and Figure Five), explains that the whole process aims to put the ticket touts, who often make more money from tickets than the official retailers, out of business and to ensure that gig lovers are not fleeced by being forced to pay well above the face value for tickets.

“We had the initial idea around four and a half years ago when Paul and myself were at a software company,” explains Tony. “We’ve always been very interested in music and when you go to gigs you have to walk past all of these guys outside selling tickets which we found quite annoying. More and more people were touting things about. The Government was supposed to be stepping in and doing something about it, but they’re reluctant to do anything, so it was almost inviting someone to come up with a bit of technology which is what we’ve done.”

More Money

Already signed up to participate on the site are acts such as The Fratellis, The Pigeon Detectives, Figure Five, Sandi Thom, Shed Seven and Sergeant. Test gigs have gone ‘without a hitch’ apparently, so much so that it has seen Tickall take on the Edge music festival this year as it looks to prove to venues and promoters that it can kill off touting, make everyone in the music industry more money and provide a new type of service, which can enhance the music lover’s experience of a gig.

According to Ross Laurie, managing director of Line, the digital agency that helped create the site and the technology over an 18 month period, the challenge was to make a system which was simple enough for the general public to use and understand.

“We’re looking to make it simple enough for the public to join up so that we can reach a critical mass of users. At the moment you’ve got to go and sign up, which someone might find a pain in the ass to begin with, but fundamentally it’s still quicker than having your tickets delivered by Ticketmaster,” proclaims Lawrie.

Lawrie continues by explaining that while Facebook allows people to buy their friends a virtual pint, Tickall allows its members to buy the real thing through the site and redeem it at the gig.

“The list of things we can do with the site is enormous, but fundamentally we have to get it working first, tested, proven and get people using it.”

That will come as phase two of the site comes into place as music fans become more aware of Tickall and its popularity grows.

Fratelli admits that the pair were aware of an Edinburgh company called Mobius which uses a similar idea through mobile phones, but points out the flaws in using mobiles, texts and bar codes as a vehicle for replacing tickets, despite the company’s success.

“There’s a very simple issue which seems to have been overlooked which is that if your phone goes dead, you’re not going to get in. And it doesn’t really address the touting issue, as you could buy a ‘Pay as You Go’ phone, buy a virtual ticket then sell the phone. Mobile phones don’t cost that much these days.”

The music-loving pair set about implementing their own idea, which would see the use of RFID technology which is used in Oyster cards and more recently bank cards, storing information and meaning that no pin number is necessary.

“It’s a simple idea bringing together a few different things,” says Fratelli. “We just felt it was a useful, futureproof technology that we can do other things with. We can track the people around a site, so there’s also security aspects which could come to the fore.”

He goes onto explain that the site is not all about buying tickets, it is about creating a community to join together and share their experiences with the rest of Tickall’s users and write gig reviews and leave feedback. Users are encouraged to do so through the incentive that those who contribute to the site will move ahead in the queue to be able to purchase entry to the highest in demand gigs. This is also true of those who attend gigs the most, recognising it’s users passion for music. However Fratelli admits that while the system has proven to be free of ticket touts, there is no real beating the touts until Tickall is the only system used by music fans, gig promoters and venues alike.

Dominant Force

“Realistically, we’re not going to get control of the box office for shows for a while, we don’t control all of the tickets, but if we can show that we can take an allocation from the promoters and sell it at good prices, then slowly we’ll move towards that. Ticketmaster is the dominant force and has been for some time with a variety of deals set up. They do have a stranglehold of the market but everyone agrees that they’re not doing anything to stop touting, in fact they’re making it worse by buying up secondary agencies and by taking a piece of the action on the secondary market as well. So for a good proportion of the tickets it’s selling, it’s making a profit on twice.”

Lawrie, who describes the whole process as ”an enormous job”, highlights another challenge in the development of the system.

“The fundamental problem is getting over the message that people don’t need a paper ticket. They just have to prove they are who they say they are. They don’t need a card or anything to identify themselves, but if they can log on there and then, and through their profile prove who they are, then they can get in. Through the use of the RFID route we can introduce some sort of access device. The technology was used at the Olympic Games and on the London Underground. So the technology is there, we just needed to use it in a durable device for the wristbands and the cards and ensure that it could be read easily to prevent long queues appearing.”

The company has barely marketed itself thus far, although it initially brought in Glasgow PR company Burt Greener to handle its launch. It has since relied on word of mouth to grow its reputation and encourage people to join. There is also an advert currently running in the Edge festival’s programme, but the ultimate aim seems to be for promoters to name the system through their own marketing of events on posters and tickets.

“I don’t ever see us working on major campaigns,” says Lawrie. “Most of it will be done digitally, we’ve got a small viral, it’s your classic member to member stuff, but fundamentally it’s being promoted by DF Concerts through its normal promotions channels.”

Tony says that the reaction to the system has already been pleasing and believes that the 1,000 members who have joined in the last month can only grow as that good word spreads. That good word would have been helped enourmously recently when one band was forced to cancel a performance having ‘gotten stuck’ in Australia.

“When that happened we were able to refund all of our members their money, but people who bought through Ticketmaster, who would have got refunds had they bought through Tickall, were told by Ticketmaster that they don’t refund tickets. So people who got in touch with Ticketmaster would then be told to get in touch with the promoter who would pay them back, in theory,” Lawrie explains.

This is only the beginning for the system, which, if it takes off as its developers believe it will, could be introduced into sporting competitions, as has been seen with the recent Olympics. It could potentially revolutionise not only the way tickets are purchased, but introduce something tangible to the social networking phenomenon that up until now has had little reward for its users other than to be pestered by old school friends they hoped they had long since got rid of.

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