Date
19 July 2018
Scalpers are reportedly marking up tickets by as much as 1700 percent for the stand-up show by local comedian Dayo Wong Tze-wah, sparking a heated debate on how to address the issue of ticket touting. Photo: Dayo Wong/Facebook
Scalpers are reportedly marking up tickets by as much as 1700 percent for the stand-up show by local comedian Dayo Wong Tze-wah, sparking a heated debate on how to address the issue of ticket touting. Photo: Dayo Wong/Facebook

Can technology help stamp out ticket touting?

The latest stand-up show by local comedian Dayo Wong Tze-wah has raised the issue of ticket touting in the city, with scalpers marking up tickets by as much as 1,700 percent. While many are urging concert and show organizers to introduce a real-name registration system, with the name of the buyer printed on the ticket, can it really eliminate ticket touts?

The Hong Kong Economic Journal recently sat down with Paul Fung Tak-chung, a local tech expert and CEO of Photon Link, and Mike Ko, co-founder and CEO of Hong Kong-based startup Timable, to discuss how the latest technologies, like blockchain, can help address the issue.

Here are excerpts from that interview:

HKEJ: Ticket touting has again raised concerns in the city. What are your thoughts on the issue?

Mike Ko: Touts put huge markups on tickets to greatly awaited concerts and shows. And undoubtedly, among those buy the ticket at a high premium, many of them derive happiness from the fact that they can afford to do so. It’s a way of showing their social status. It’s a kind of conspicuous consumption.

There are many ways technology can help in the sale and distribution of tickets. I once tried buying tickets online via ticket bots. With the hyperlink to the online ticketing system, it is able to refresh automatically the web page of the online ticket vendor to update and snap up tickets. With the bot, buying tickets become so much easier than purchasing an iPhone in a flash sale.

Q: We have seen concert and show organizers adopting a real-name registration system for ticket sales and distribution. Is that a workable solution?

Ko: There are few cases that shed some light on the implementation of a real-name registration system. Mayday, a popular Taiwanese band, set up a real-name registration system for its concerts, with the name of the buyer printed on the ticket, and that name must tally with the person showing up at the venue. But the system was just applied on the “standing zones” in the concert, not for all the seats, and the reason is it is just too time-consuming to check tickets and their holders’ identities on site.

The Canto-pop singer Leon Lai also used that system with e-tickets issued for his concert. To overcome the “time-consuming” issue, the organizer extended the time of the event, allowing fans to enter the venue a few hours before, and offering snacks and drinks plus gaming facilities.

Paul Fung: Some suggest using QR code identification in an electronic ticket system for concerts and shows. In order to do that, the organizer provides each ticket holder with a unique QR code, which can be stored in a digital wallet application in a smartphone. The organizer can simply scan the QR code held by participants and verify their identity at the venue within a short period of time. No personal information is required from the ticket holders.

Q: For the real-name registration system, some say it prohibits ticket holders from transferring their tickets in case they are unable to attend.

Ko: Concert organizers in other countries allow ticket holders the right to transfer their tickets within a reasonable time period. Ticket holders may also get a refund for the full ticket price, and the organizer will then resell the canceled tickets.

Q: Is there any way that technology can help address this issue?

Fung: One thing we should note is that the online ticketing systems we are using have been in existence since 2010. These websites don’t have a cloud-based underlying infrastructure, nor can they perform network expansion and upgrade. But now, with digitalization in operations of various sectors, an advanced ticketing system built upon the latest technologies, like e-payment, blockchain, and even smart contracts, is quite a realistic project. It’s just that no one is willing to do it.

Say, for a 10-day show at Hong Kong Coliseum, the city’s only venue that can sit more than 10,000 guests for a performance, there will be around 100,000 tickets on sale. A high traffic website, which is now designed to receive millions of visitors every day, is undoubtedly capable to host these ticket sales in the city.

Ko: In Taiwan, there are ticketing websites that are capable of hosting a flash sale with 250,000 tickets sold in just 15 minutes. Imagine how convenient it would be to spend merely 15 minutes to buy a ticket for your favorite show, whereas in Hong Kong, fans have to spend a whole morning, or even more, to buy a concert ticket, which could cost tens of millions of dollars in economic loss.

Fung: It is not that difficult to build an advanced ticketing system. However, ticket vendors and sellers have no incentive to do that; they would rather stick with the system that has the lowest cost.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 6

Translation by Ben Ng 

[Chinese version 中文版]

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BN/CG

Hong Kong Economic Journal

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