NY Weighing Paperless Tickets

If you want a fully paperless ticket in New York State, you might be in luck.

Right now, it’s the only place in the US where 100% digital tickets aren’t available. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature is under pressure to change course and embrace the ticketing method.

Ticketmaster supports the move, of course. In fact, Ticketmaster sent Cuomo a letter on July 19 urging him to prioritize paperless ticketing as the legislative session ends.

“New York should lift its antiquated ban on paperless ticketing,” the company said, according to the New York Daily News. “This option, available to entertainers in every state in the country except New York, makes it easier for face-value tickets to get into the hands of real fans.”

Ticketmaster also calls on the state to prohibit resellers from putting up for sale tickets they don’t actually own. (Anyone who tried tickets to last summer’s Man Machine Poem knows this frustration well.) The company also wants the governor to take other steps to eliminate “deceptive marketing by resellers and reject a push by some to require the public disclosure of ticket inventory, which Ticketmaster says would give scalpers an unfair advantage.”

Ah, but that might be Ticketmaster’s way of preventing audiences from seeing how many tickets are really available for a show, a contentious issue at times. It’s common for a large portion of tickets to be withheld until just before a show starts, sometimes within hours. This is a way to drive up demand and to give the false impression of a band or venue feeling generous.

But that’s neither here nor there at the moment.

So why would New York be opposed to digital-only tickets?

What’s the benefit?

Wouldn’t paperless tickets be kind of a burden?

It ultimately comes down to transferability, explains Gary Adler, executive director and counsel of the Washington, DC, based National Association of Ticket Brokers. “Paperless ticketing can offer a convenience for those who prefer a mobile-friendly version of their ticket, and paperless is perfectly fine so long as it doesn’t come with onerous restrictions that make it difficult to transfer or resell your purchased ticket if you desire to do so.”

Earlier this year, a state legislator in Virginia encouraged that state to pass a law prohibiting restrictions on when customers can resell tickets. In that scenario, unless a concert was sold out, certain events prohibit the resale of tickets to anyone for any reason. Customers can use Ticketmaster’s resale platform for this, but there are limits and hurdles to clear. Virginia passed that law changing the practice back in February.

“Whether a ticket is in paper or electronic form, buyers should always be given the option of purchasing a transferrable ticket,” Adler says. “Sadly, however, some in the primary market advocate for restricted paperless tickets under the guise of fraud prevention when in reality it’s intended to control and profit from what you do with your ticket even after you have paid for it.”

Which approach is better for the fans?

The problem is this: If you have a paperless ticket, and cannot attend the event, how do you transfer it? Can you transfer it without having to give personal information or a credit card to the person who’s going to use the ticket? Can it be done simply and easily or is it just another pain in the neck?  And does Ticketmaster, or any other ticket selling body, have the right to make you jump through those hurdles for a ticket you can’t use anymore?

“Restricted paperless ticketing usually require the original ticketholder to present their credit card and photo ID before gaining entry to the event,” Adler says. “This has caused major problems at events where the venues were not equipped to handle the long lines, resulting in frustrated fans who missed some or all of their events while waiting outside.” Such was the case at one of the early stops on U2’s current Joshua Tree tour.

“It is entirely anti-consumer and anti-competitive to restrict the transferability of tickets,” Adler concludes.

Last year, Cuomo preceded President Barack Obama by a few weeks, signing into law prohibitions of the use of software “bots,” those little bastards that buy up dozens upon dozens of tickets for hot item shows the instant they go on sale.

But it’s possible ticket resellers and Ticketmaster alike are being less than transparent.

“New York does not currently have a ban on paperless ticketing,” writes Sean Burns with Ticket News. “New York merely requires that ticketing companies give customers the option of receiving a printable or paper ticket rather than the credit card-only system which makes transferring a ticket a burdensome practice for the consumer.”

Ticketmaster is a publicly traded company, making it responsible to its shareholders to bring them a profit. “Given its near-total control of the primary marketplace via exclusive venue contracts in much of North America, its options for continuing growth are scares in that direction. So, growing into the secondary marketplace is a natural goal—and it appears that the company hopes to clear out existing companies in that space by rewriting the laws that govern who can sell what and how in a way that benefits only them.”

Stay tuned…

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