Categories: Ticket Trends & News

The Battle Over Selling Paperless Tickets Has A New Front

The battle over selling paperless tickets has a new front - the performing arts industry. Earlier today, a respected industry publication took note of the war between eBay's StubHub and Ticketmaster over paperless tickets. The issue is not as black and white as you may think. Rather than making it an "all or nothing" proposition, both ticket mediums can co-exist.

The War

Earlier today, Dave Brooks wrote in Musical America that the issue of selling paperless tickets has caught the attention of the performing arts industry. The rigmarole has been concentrated mostly on professional sports and concert tickets because of the gigantic secondary market surrounding both types of events.

Brooks writes  re-cap on the battle over paperless tickets:

The growth of paperless tickets in music and sports has prompted an interesting debate in the arts community - who really owns the ticket and what limitations can be placed on a patron’s ability to resell that ticket?

[The] advent of sites like StubHub (owned by eBay) and TicketNetwork, where anyone could list tickets and sell them easily, made it nearly impossible for Ticketmaster to keep up the volume of resale in the marketplace. Season ticket holders used the site to unload tickets for unwanted events—suddenly, scalping tickets was an accepted practice, and some buyers were going to directly to StubHub in search of deals.

To fight the practice, Ticketmaster rolled out its new Paperless Ticketing system for a series of Tom Waits concerts. The system made it much harder to scalp tickets, because if they had been bought online, they could only be redeemed with the credit card used to purchase them, and only at the door of the venue. Ticketmaster also looked to develop smart-phone-powered tickets that could not be resold.

Scalping-related fraud dropped dramatically, and as a side benefit, the paperless tickets were seen as a green alternative to traditional stubs. End of story, everyone is happy, right?


Given how many theater owners read Musical America, their position on the sidelines may soon change to become active participants in the battle over selling paperless tickets. While it may have a lower profile than concerts and sports, the performing arts industry represents a considerable mount of money. Broadway musicals alone are a billion dollar business, so the stakes are nearly as high for the performing arts as they are for concerts and sports.

A debate about selling paperless tickets often starts with so-called scalping. Of course that is a valid concern if tickets to an event are highly sought after. But paperless tickets are just one countermeasure venues can use to control unauthorized re-sale. Some venues go so far as to encourage person-to-person resale, letting it function as a form of word-of-mouth advertising.

Selling Paperless Tickets Is Your Choice

Selling paperless tickets has been a point of contention for quite some time and not just between eBay and Ticketmaster. But it is important that you choose a policy that makes the most sense for your business, even if it is on a event by event basis. Rather than treat paperless ticketing as an "all or nothing" proposition, use a ticket software that supports both mediums and see what generates the most value to you.

You can get your feet wet by selling paperless tickets for an event that has historically sold well in order to lower costs. Or you may already have a concern about unregulated resale manifesting itself in your events. If person-to-person re-sale is not a concern, especially if the majority of your ticket sales are walk-ups to a ticket booth, then you can simply continue to sell paper tickets.

What is important is that you get to make the choice.

ThunderTix supports the most popular thermal printers and paper ticket stock, most likely what you are already using in your box office now. Our paperless ticketing technology is includes virtual box office management, Print-at-Home PDFs and custom email confirmations. We can help you make use of one medium, or the other, or both! To see if ThunderTix is cost effective for you, check out the online calculator and "do the math!"



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