After watching Ticketmaster refute a report that it would be tying access to events to consumer personal health data following a blistering negative reaction, AXS boss Bryan Perez says his company isn’t planning to do so either. The company is searching for any way that it can improve fan safety while COVID continues to rage, but doesn’t believe the path to safety involves requiring that invasive of a ticketing ecosystem, since it would be near-impossible to implement even if consumers were willing to accept it.
“We’re not headed down that path right now,” Perez told Rolling Stone last week. He elaborated that the patchwork of local and state regulations that define what events can be held and how access is managed would make it difficult for a national operation to sort out in practice. “And then we feel like there needs to be, in some respects, a clearing house for the types of tests you administer, because not everybody accepts every type of test,” he adds.
Ticketmaster reportedly was considering a system that would repurpose its SafeTix anti-resale system to lock fans into mobile-only tickets to restrict transfer rights. Then the company would require opt-in for third-party health information access to its digital platforms, which would then allow verification of whether or not consumers had received a COVID vaccine, or had a negative test result within a window of time prior to an event. The privacy and consumer rights questions caused an immediate backlash, one severe enough for Ticketmaster to say it had no intention of unveiling such a program – though it did indicate that event organizer partners could put such requirements in place. And, less than a week after its refutation of the story, Dave Chappelle shows in Houston at a Live Nation venue required fans show a negative COVID test to attend.
It is unclear whether or not AXS had any designs on implementing such a privacy-shredding system of its own prior to the Ticketmaster backlash. But it is clear that the company wanted to distance itself from the concept after the negative headlines slamming its primary competitor flooded newsfeeds last week.
“It’s not entirely clear if [ticketing companies] are the best suited to be in that game,” Perez said.
Even if a customer gets a negative test result, it doesn’t always mean it’s accurate. “We haven’t been convinced that it’s effective from a safety standpoint,” Perez says. “People can get infected in the last 48 hours. People can get false negatives. And to the extent that it’s not coupled with additional safety restrictions, we think there’s a lot of risk involved. You want to fill a building with 10,000 people without any kind of physical distancing because you believe that you’ve gotten everything under control with testing? You don’t.”
As COVID cases spike nationwide in the predicted fall surge, many restrictions are returning to live event access after some were loosened after the initial case spikes in the spring and summer. But news of successful vaccine trials being readied for consumer distribution have stoked hopes of a return to a much more robust live entertainment space safely in 2021.