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Ticketmaster Canada vows to fight bots so fans can snag hot tickets

Last Updated May 1, 2017 at 7:30 pm EDT

From concerts to sporting events, getting tickets for anything in the city is an exercise in frustration. It’s now become commonplace for tickets to be snapped up seconds after going on sale.

For example, when Ed Sheeran’s Toronto concerts sold out in in seconds, fans were left disappointed and angry — and they laid the majority of the blame on Ticketmaster.

In a very rare interview, the company that’s taken the brunt of fan ire is speaking out to CityNews.

“That blockbuster tour is not unlike other blockbuster tours. They’re international artists. The demand for those attractions outpaces supply by hundredfold,” Ticketmaster Canada’s COO, Patti-Anne Tarlton, explained.

“We do set up for the best opportunity for fans to get tickets to those events, but in all those examples of those really blockbuster events, there will be disappointed people because there’s just simply not enough supply for the demand that’s out there.”

She acknowledges that advancing technology can be both a blessing and a curse.

“The technology can … sell out stadiums in seconds so the speed of technology today is phenomenal,” said Tarlton.

“The challenge that we have is to use that for good. Our investment will be ongoing in getting technology that protects fans, protects consumers, to get tickets in the hands of those fans.”

A common complaint from fans is that too many bots — modern day high tech scalpers — are picking up tickets at lightning speed. Tarlton acknowledged the issue and said bots are a constant challenge in their business.

“It’s an ongoing arms race,” she explained. “Last year alone we blocked five billion – that’s with a B – in North America alone.”

But there is a lingering question of just how many tickets are available the day they go on sale. A report by New York’s Attorney General called the process “a fixed game” and found many tickets are never put up for sale to the general public in the first place.

For Katy Perry’s 2014 concert, the report found only 12 per cent of tickets went on sale to the public. The rest were generally pre-sold through the artist’s fan clubs, credit card exclusive presale offers and promotional events such as radio station contests.

“The marketing programs for artists today include presales. Maybe we should rename it from a presale because it’s really the new sale,” Tarlton explained. “All of those opportunities are ways to get tickets into the hands of fans.”

Recently Ticketmaster introduced “Verified Fan” where buyers can pre-register after proving they’re real people – giving them an advance way to buy tickets and foil the bots.

However, that still doesn’t guarantee tickets. Supply and demand still applies.

Bottom line, the days of simply waiting for a ticket to go on sale are over — fans need to do some homework first

“The message we always try to propagate for the fans themselves is ‘get ready’… Follow your artist and understand what their effort is to get tickets in your hand,” Tarlton said.

Ontario’s Attorney General is currently reviewing the rules around buying and selling tickets online. Ticketmaster hopes the government will make bots illegal so they have the right to cancel any tickets scooped up by the high tech scalpers.