I just got off the phone with Michael Marion. He runs the Verizon Arena in Little Rock.
He does paperless for every show.
The 4,000 best seats, that’s the only way you can buy them.
If he scales the house down from its usual 18,000 seat capacity, he reduces the percentage of paperless tickets, like with Robin Williams, who played to 4,000, 1,500 were paperless.
BECAUSE HE WANTS PEOPLE TO COME TO MORE SHOWS!
That’s the goal of paperless. Building the business. Better fan experiences lead to repeat attendance, benefiting everybody.
So how did this happen?
Michael heard from Ticketmaster this was an option. He’s run the building since its inception, a little over a decade ago, and for the past four years every single concert has been paperless.
Ticketmaster provided the infrastructure.
But there wasn’t that much involved, just switching out the scanners.
Michael surveyed Taylor Swift fans. 88% said they’d do paperless again.
As for your grandma buying tickets, or having to go to a funeral… Just call the box office, tell your story. Michael’s the last resort, and only a couple of cases have gotten to him. Everything gets worked out. He tells grandma, and according to StubHub, grandma buys all the concert tickets, to send the kids down with her credit card and a copy of her I.D. Then they get in. Ditto if you can’t go yourself. You give this info to your brother or best friend.
This is a non-problem. And it’s proven to not even be a tempest in a teapot by Michael Marion’s experience.
But what about the learning curve?
Yes, there was one. Two or three shows.
What about the lines?
You can be scanned at any entrance. There’s no delay.
And the sliver lining is there are fewer tickets for Marion’s building on StubHub than at any other arena in the country. He’s beaten them at their own game.
But what about scalpers buying a ticket and then bringing four people in with him?
You can’t stop everybody. And L.A. and New York are more complicated. But in the rest of the country, this is not an issue.
Then again, there’s an anti-scalping law in Arkansas.
But the issue is not brokers outside the building, people buy their tickets online from brokers in Connecticut and other states.
But now they don’t.
But what about gift cards?
No can do. It’s got to be a real, regular credit card.
What if your credit card gets canceled or replaced?
They’ve got a window for that.
Marion does eighteen or nineteen concerts a year. These country acts come through every eighteen months. He wants to make sure patrons can afford to come again next time, that they had such a good experience they want to come, and can afford to come.
So why hasn’t everybody followed Marion’s lead?
Because they’re afraid to be responsible, they don’t want to have to answer to the acts for mistakes/problems.
But come on, if Taylor Swift, Michael Buble, Journey and Jimmy Buffett, all of whom sold out, Buffett in 90 minutes, have had seamless experiences with paperless, do you really think you’re gonna have a problem?
Paperless is the answer.
It’s not for every seat in the house, but the best. The most expensive. The ones everybody wants, including the scalpers.
Does it eliminate the scalping problem entirely?
No, but it goes a long way.
P.S. Marion/Verizon makes clear that the paperless tickets are non-refundable. Information is key, best to be clear.
P.P.S. Only those at the center of a conflagration really know what’s going on. To rely on government to solve scalping issues is ridiculous. This is a problem that needs to be solved in-house. Furthermore, if you think all those tickets on StubHub are from non-professionals, individuals caught in a bind, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Furthermore, if we can kill speculation by amateurs as well as professionals, that’s even better.
P.P.P.S. Just because StubHub/brokers yell loudly, that does not mean their take is correct. There aren’t always two sides to every story.
P.P.P.P.S. We’re going to paperless. It’s just a matter of when. Does the touring business have to be the record business, see untold hurt before it begins to change? Frustration at the inability to get good seats is the number one concertgoer complaint, shouldn’t this be addressed?
P.P.P.P.P.S. There are no pre-sales in Arkansas because of legal issues. I say good riddance. You can still do I Love All Access, but all regular tickets need to go on sale at one time, everybody’s got to have a fighting chance at getting the good seats. Inequality generates a bad taste in the U.S. The concert business should have no part of it.