Opinion: Ken Lowson Speaks On Ticketing

Ken Lowson, once one of the world’s most notorious ticket scalpers, has turned a new leaf and is heading a new company called Tixfan to help the fans he once scammed. Pollstar got him on the line for a chat about his perspective on the ticketing industry.

Jonah Light / Jonah Light Photography
– Ken Lowson
Ken Lowson of Tixfan

So Tixfan primarily serves as a consulting company to help artists get their tickets to fans?

I am about creative disruption powered by corruption removal for income generation and wealth accumulation, while at the same time making sure that our customers are taken care of through that effort. But for you, you can call me a consultant.

The primary directive from the beginning is bot elimination and professional scalper removal. So by us delivering a higher percentage of seats to fans directly, the whole idea is to free up fan spending power from a forced arbitrage – scalping – so that they can then entice that being redirected back to other direct-to-fan sales and tickets. We want the fans to be able to spend the money on what they want.

[We also] identify 140 income stream possibilities that can be generated from the surrounding  ancillary values. Forget the ticket values for a second, including business intelligence and data and all the rest of it, we can ID income streams that we don’t consider to be fan-conscious in the sense that we want the fans to love their artists; we want a superhero vibe between the artist and their fans. We take a look at the different incomes that could be generated and say, “Here’s the ones that are good, let’s grab ‘em all.” “Here’s the ones, let’s think about it, if you are about protecting your brand value.” Scalping your own seats out the backdoor and things like that, we don’t think it’s healthy for artists.

What about fan scalpers?

I’m about professional scalper removal. I don’t believe I can tell a fan who has a ticket what to do with it. …

We believe that it’s better in the end that a few thousand of your fans are making a few extra bucks each than for it to be dominated by relatively few people.

Why do fans keep losing on the secondary market?

The problem starts when it’s portrayed to the fans one way and then the business is done in another. We’re big believers in transparency, letting fans know what’s up versus fooling around and then fans being upset.

We’re looking at a zero-distance kind of revolution. Population demographics ensure sellouts nowadays. I think you’re gonna see a lot more effort to take things direct to fans.

Effectively you can get a better deal than what was going on before.     

From the first Greek tragedy, there has always been this model. Scalpers have been around since the first event. It’s not the primary/broker model, it’s a model that’s been around since antiquity. If you have 500,000 fans in a market and the show only has about 20,000 seats, brokers are not 480,000 people and are gonna feel special. You have that too.

Access, influence with people of importance. It’s always been around. Now is the first time that fans are empowered, through social media. … For the first time that shift or that power is starting to go toward artists and fans versus dealers.

Do you want to work with companies like Ticketmaster and AXS?

Every organization, system, has good and bad people. … For me, I like to think I’m a creative disruption guy that benefits marketplaces in the end.

If a company benefits artists and fans before they profit, I love them. If it’s about getting in the middle and using disinformation … to take advantage of each side, then no, I don’t think it’s healthy for the stakeholders. So that’s up to the organizations you bring up, which way they are gonna go. That’s up to them, not me.

Become transparent and not corrupt, or don’t. I’m about cleaning up the ticket swamp. Corruption removal is a big deal for me, whether it’s legal corruption or not. I don’t think things can change until those elements are rooted out.

So probably the boys over there are not too happy with me. What can I say?        

I have a standing offer to solve Ticketmaster’s bot problem if they would let me. If Ticketmaster would allow me to solve their bot problem, I would do that without charging them, absolutely….

If you are for the fans, act like it and prove it.

What do you think about Ticketmaster’s new verified fan system?

Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program is nothing more than a fan data-grab using the excuse of bots as the reason to do it. Ticketmaster could, no wait, my 9-year-old girl could stop ticket bots if Ticketmaster allowed anyone to look at purchasing records. …

The BOTS law signed by Obama was written by and for Ticketmaster to hurt StubHub and the other scalpers they want to put out of business. In the BOTS law it states that it illegal to sell a bot pulled ticket.

But bot operators are quietly told “Use the Bots. That’s fine as long as you list with our software. Then list your bot-pulled tickets to resell on our scalping platforms and we will leave you alone. If we catch you listing on StubHub or another competitor of ours then we will turn you into the Feds.”

By the way one of the biggest scalps of the year was the Trump Inauguration. When I checked it was $20,000. These are free tickets only given to the same law makers that approved the BOTS law unanimously before Obama signed.

So you tell me how far hypocrisy goes.

What do you mean when you say “The ‘Boardwalk Empire’ rules of the 20th century cannot survive in a Wikileaks world?”

The suitcases of cash method of acquiring 30-year contracts to exclusively sell tickets that TM has been using for 50 years cannot continue. Smoky back room kickback deals may be fun. But one fan, reporter or government investigator will find out and is that really worth the brand of an NFL Team?

So you can place flooring restrictions when the seats are low and scalp the seats when they are high? This is the image a sports team wants? I doubt it.

Whether [Live Nation’s Michael] Rapino knows it or not, Ticketmaster will be the weight that drags Live Nation to the bottom of the ocean….

When an artist takes more money for playing an event than the total income from the ticket intake, where else does Live Nation make this up? It’s why they bought the biggest scalper, oops I meant Ticketmaster.

No forget that, Ticketmaster is scalping and scalping is Ticketmaster plain and simple.

That seems both harsh and unfair. Ticketmaster’s model is to collect fees off the transactions as representatives of their artist and venue clients.

Tixfan knows that for years the ticket game has not been about the scalping. This is peanuts compared to the transaction values earned by Fortune 500 sites like StubHub, Ticketmaster and Viagogo. Think about it, they have zero inventory risk yet make twice as much on a ticket as the person selling it. Anyway, these transactional models are in trouble too and they know it. Everyone is looking for the next pot of corrupt gold. They may find some. But not if it’s my client because I know that once a forced arbitrage (scalping) is eliminated, fan spending is available for what fans want to spend it on. Merchandise, VIP plans, backstage access, etc.

So you think the industry is in a position to begin ending scalping but they have to do more?

Yes. Why should a real artist, a true-blue man with balls like Eric Church, have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in effort and time to find out which orders are scalpers?

Isn’t it his name on the ticket? Isn’t it his Fans in the seats? I salute Eric, he is a true hero, not just to his fans but to the world, because he actually gave up money to take care of his fans. That, my friends, is as rare as a politician that is not a narcissistic sociopath. …

Transparency in tickets is the most effective means to create equitable sales. This would take out the majority of the problems, knowing who owns a ticket and when. This can be done now.