Social ticketing?

There’s likely to be much debate in the coming days (on U2 email lists, if nowhere else) on how ticketmaster could more effectively handle hugely popular ticket sales without more debacles like Saturday’s (we didn’t get tickets, btw, despite having 4 browsers across 2 computers searching for close to an hour). In the quest to find an email address for the CEO of in order to register my disgust, I found myself thinking quite a lot about the inadequacies of that service.

It’s not just their lousy HTML (surely server load could be reduced with judicious use of CSS) or the massive accessibility issues (as documented in the excellent Defensive Design for the Web) that I kept coming back to, but the serious lack of imagination they’ve shown. I’ve entirely lost track of the number of emails from Ticketmaster that I’ve deleted because they weren’t customised to the sorts of acts I search for on that site. By contrast I’ve learned of a number of albums I wouldn’t otherwise have known about thanks to Amazon’s recommendations system.

If someone were to break the monopoly that Ticketmaster holds in the US, it’d be great if they could build a site around the notion that music is a social undertaking. They could begin by noting which acts people buy tickets for and who they search for, building recommendations based on matching that with the geographical data they’ll already gather. I’m far more interested in the U2 show in Chicago that they didn’t tell me about, than seeing Cher in Kalamazoo, and that shouldn’t be hard to work out.

But what I’d really enjoy would be if they began to look at services like audioscrobbler and built not just their recommendations, but their queueing system on that. How much I listen to a given artist is probably a pretty good indication of my interest in them. At any rate, it’s one of the best measures we have. So given some idea of a person’s commitment, and combining it with knowledge of where they live, you could begin to build a fairer way of distributing tickets than ‘who has the most computers to hand?’ or ‘who has friends who work at ticketmaster?’

Then, of course, you could add more ‘social’ options. Build up a ‘friend of friends’ system (perhaps using FOAF) and you could make your queue more sophisticated by including the possibility that people might want to take in the show while visiting family or friends. And if the show sells out and people legitimately end up with spare tickets, there could be a simple way for them to sell those spare tickets on to people based on their position in that friends’ network, or perhaps some other ‘reputation management’ system?

It’d be a huge undertaking to begin to rebuild online ticket sales, but a lot of people would be very grateful.




  1. I wouldn’t like to have my ‘commitment’ to a particular band judged on the basis of audioscrobbler. What about those people who just listen to old fashioned CDs?

  2. d’oh! When I was talking this idea through with Kari before I wrote it, I thought to add a note saying that this would only really work if an audioscrobbler-like system were available that worked with ordinary CD players, in-car listening, and all that sort of thing. And then I totally forgot to write it in! 🙂