The Black Keys’ Wiltern Snafu Thrusts SafeTix Into Spotlight

The Black Keys
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– The Black Keys
The Black Keys perform during the
The Black Keys’ underplay show at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles Sept. 19 was supposed to be a treat for fans  a chance to see the band for only $25 in an intimate venue ahead of the duo’s arena tour, utilizing Ticketmaster’s SafeTix technology to combat fraud. 
However, hundreds of fans showed up at the venue to find their tickets were deemed invalid, and the band, Ticketmaster and secondary ticketing sites all found themselves defending their roles in the debacle.  
SafeTix, which was announced in May and will be rolled out on a broad scale by 2021, features a unique, encrypted barcode for each ticket purchase that refreshes every few seconds to prevent the ticket from being stolen or copied. 
To get into shows using SafeTix fans must have the barcode on their phones scanned. Printed tickets and screenshots of tickets are not accepted. Fans can use the Ticketmaster app to transfer tickets to a friend or use TM’s fan-to-fan resale to sell tickets, with a new barcode issued in the name of the buyer upon completion of the sale. While TM reps told Billboard that Safetix features an integration with StubHub and SeatGeek that has cut down on fraud in the NFL, most of the material available to the public about Safetix directs users only to TM’s resale platform.
Tickets for The Black Keys’ Wiltern show had the transferability feature turned off completely, meaning it was not possible to resell through TM’s platform and any ticket purchased via secondary sites like Stubhub, SeatGeek or Vivid Seats invalid (as well as tickets that might have been transferred to family or friends). 
Scores of fans didn’t get the memo about the restriction ahead of time, though. 
Pollstar was unable to find any mention that tickets purchased via the secondary market would be banned in any of the announcements regarding the presales and general onsale for the gig. Nonetheless, the band defended its position on ticket transferability. 
“Last night’s concert tickets were $25 and geared toward the fan club,” The Black Keys said in a statement provided to the Los Angeles Times. “This was our first show in over four years and the kickoff of the Let’s Rock Tour. Because we were playing a venue far smaller than the rest of the venues on the tour as a warmup show, we turned off ticket transferability to ensure that our fans got in the door at the low ticket prices we set for them.”
The band added, “Unfortunately, scalpers took this opportunity to defraud our fans and steal their money by selling tickets that were ineligible for transfer on scalper sites.”
An initial report from the Los Angeles Times claimed that hundreds of ticketholders were shut out, “causing chaos as the Wiltern.” The writer acknowledged that “there were reports that some eventually were let into the venue, although no one The Times contacted was allowed inside.”  
A statement from Ticketmaster noted that despite an initial hullabaloo over tickets, the venue ended up being nearly filled at 97 percent capacity (which works out to 2,231 based on a standing room configuration of 2,300). Of the 2,050 tickets sold by Ticketmaster, 1,645 were scanned as valid and 405 were deemed invalid, along with an additional 200-300 comp tickets. These figures were first reported by Billboard and verified by Pollstar.
A source told Pollstar that staff at The Wiltern worked with fans who stayed after being informed their tickets were invalid to verify their tickets and they were admitted into the venue. 
“97% of the tickets sold to this event were in the house,” Ticketmaster said in a statement. “This means the fans who had verified tickets did get into the show. We had event staff on the ground to help identify tickets that were equipped with the rotating barcode used in Ticketmaster’s fraud prevention technology, so anyone who did not have the proper digital ticket was ineligible for entry. As you know, our top priority is the safety and security of our guests, and given the high volume of fan entry and capacity, it’s clear that our fraud prevention technology was effective. As for further communicating the non-transferability process, we will ensure that this messaging is more prominently and frequently communicated moving forward.”
A representative for Ticketmaster said that tickets should never have been posted or resold on third party sites because resellers who tried to take a screenshot to resell their tickets would have received a pop up screen with messaging that warned that “screenshots and printouts will not be accepted at entry.” 
StubHub, which says it sold 542 tickets to the Wiltern show, had a different opinion on the topic. 
“Unexpectedly, Live Nation and Ticketmaster issued tickets for The Black Keys concert through rotating barcodes, which limit how fans can use tickets,” StubHub said in a statement. “This resulted in fans who purchased legitimate tickets on StubHub being turned away at the entrance. Fans should not be punished for giving away or reselling their tickets. We strongly disagree with Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s approach and the negative impact it has on fans. As part of our FanProtect Guarantee, StubHub is proactively offering full refunds, and given the exceptional situation, we’re also extending a $100 credit to affected fans.” 
A source with knowledge of the matter told Pollstar that Vivid Seats also issued refunds to fans who purchased tickets via the site.
With SafeTix giving Ticketmaster the ability to ban secondary sellers like StubHub, Vivid Seats and SeatGeek (while still potentially allowing fans to use its own secondary site), the Black Keys kerfuffle raises the old question about the concentration of power in the ticket industry. 
Beyond Ticketmaster versus the secondary market, the Black Keys ticketing chaos brings up the question of who should control the tickets. Should it be up to the artist to be able to turn off transferability? After all, it’s the artist putting on the show. Or should it be up to the consumer, to do what they want with the tickets, whether it’s selling them or giving them away, because they purchased the product? 
These questions have long been debated, now with other topics like the ethics of facial recognition technology. While that conversation unfolds, The Black Keys are now on the road, headed to much bigger venues with ticket prices to match.