by Romy Oltusky
Mounting tensions between artists, policy makers, and ticket brokers made news earlier this year when Eric Church voided a whopping 25,000 tickets to his Holdin’ My Own tour that the singer’s team identified as having been purchased by scalpers or bots.
“The cancellations were to crack down on mass harvesting of tickets for the sole purpose of resale for profit,” the country artist’s manager, Fielding Logan, told TicketNews.com. “The crushing artificial demand generated by professional ticket buyers crowds out real Eric Church fans.”
Church’s team invested in software to detect secondary exchange sales consistent with both ticket bot (automated programs that buy tickets with the goal of reselling them) and broker activity. Church invalidated flagged tickets, making them available for individual fans to purchase.
However, there were also some regular fans that were falsely identified and had their tickets revoked as well. “Out of all the tickets we cancelled, we had around approximately 80 orders where we mistook a real fan for a broker and sent a cancellation notice,” Fielding says. “Eric’s customer service team took care of those fans and reinstated the orders.”
For the most part, Fielding says, “There was no backlash from fans.” Instead, he explains, they “overwhelmingly showed support of Eric’s efforts to fight ticket scalpers on their behalf.”
Multiple brokers, though, who followed ticket exchange guidelines, abiding by the 6-ticket limit established by the tour, and still had their tickets voided were not as understanding. “They argued that they weren’t violating the stated ticket limits and they weren’t breaking the law,” says Fielding. “Eric feels that the cumulative effects of ticket scalpers big and small crowd out real fans, so he takes them down to 0 regardless of whether they are over the limit or not.”
Fielding says that all of the tickets that were voided were done so legally. Neither the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (who last year released a report condemning and vowing to crack down on scalpers) nor the office of Senator Charles Schumer (who supported the Better Online Ticketing Sales (BOTS) Act that Obama signed into law in December) responded to TicketNews.com’s inquiry about whether there was an investigation conducted around the ticket cancellations.
Eric Church’s is not the only incident in which artists or ticket vending platforms have voided tickets in the name of anti-scalping efforts — and ended up punishing fans in the process. Multiple fans have complained about Ticketmaster cancelling tickets, in some cases well after the purchase date, once they had already invested time and money into their plans. One mega-fan had her VIP Taylor Swift concert tickets voided by Ticketmaster just days before the show, even though she received earlier confirmations of her purchases.
In another case, a Minnesota schoolteacher booked tickets to “Hamilton” for a group of more than 20 students to reward them for exceptional schoolwork. Once the group had arranged to take time off of school to travel to New York and booked flights and hotel rooms, she was notified that the tickets were voided. People responding to the teacher’s message board post speculated that Ticketmaster’s had most likely identified the teacher as a scalper. The teacher had placed multiple ticket orders for the same show from a single IP address but using different credits because Ticketmaster places a limit on how many seats each buyer can purchase. Such activity often points to bot or broker activity.