Live music is one of the most profitable industries in the music business. Ticket prices for shows are ever-increasing as labels and artists try to make up for declining profits in other areas such as record sales. However, the live music industry has one significant problem that it is constantly at war with: ticket resellers and the bots they use to buy large numbers of tickets for events.
Michael Rapino, CEO of Live Nation, the world's biggest live music promoter, talked to The New York Times about this very problem. Companies in both the US and foreign countries use computer programs to buy large amounts of tickets before real people have a chance at them. The programs, or "bots," can click through pages and fill out forms at speeds impossible for people. This results in the bots buying up the tickets before everyone gets a chance.
The companies use these bots to get the tickets for the sole purpose of reselling them at vastly inflated prices. But because the shows sell out so quickly due to the large numbers of tickets going to ticket resellers, customers are forced to pay these new prices, which can be several times the original price of the ticket.
Ticketmaster, the world's biggest online ticket seller, which is also owned by Live Nation, has been coming up with ways to combat against the bots. They have seen bots buy up to 60 percent of tickets for major shows, and seen hundreds of thousands of tickets go to bots every day. The system of entering hard-to-read text into a box to prove your humanity, called the CAPTCHA system, is one of the first lines of defense against bots. But one can easily find websites that sell the keys to the CAPTCHAs, so these don't always work.
Ticketmaster also watches the behavior of customers who are buying tickets. If one seems to be moving at inhuman speeds, Ticketmaster will determine that it is a bot and bump it to the back of the ticket-buying line. They do not, however, prevent them from buying the tickets eventually. Live Nation says they have nothing against ticket reselling. They even have their own company for it, called TicketsNow. Shapiro told the New York Times “I have no problem if you bought a Justin Timberlake ticket and you decide to go sell that ticket to somebody...We would first and foremost want to make sure that the first ticket sold, that the fan has a shot to buy that ticket.”
Ticket reselling is said to be a 4 billion dollar industry worldwide. With that much money at stake, the resellers aren't about to go down without a fight. Live Nation is lobbying for national anti-bot laws, but because many of the bots are based in foreign countries, it is not known how much good this would do.