Bruce Springsteen may have solved ticket scalping

Glory days.
Glory days.
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri
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The Boss has spoken.

Bruce Springsteen’s one-of-a-kind Broadway show, announced earlier this month, will be a series of gigs running from October to November in New York’s tiny Walter Kerr Theatre, which seats only around 900 people at a time. The performances go on sale online today and, in order to prevent scalpers from seizing any of the coveted tickets, Springsteen has set up a process to verify that buyers are indeed fans.

If you want to attend one of the shows, you had to pre-register before this week (sorry) and enter a lottery to receive a special code. Only a select number of people will actually get text messages with the codes today, which is the only way to get a ticket (sorry again).

Why such an arduous affair? It’s because ticket scalping—people buying tickets to live events en masse and then reselling them at much higher prices—has become a behemoth of a problem in the live entertainment, be it music concerts, sports games, or theatre shows like Hamilton. There is so much ticket scalping, especially via automated bots, that the US government has stepped in. Artists like Adele have attempted to help fight scalping. Springsteen, who partnered with Ticketmaster’s 10-month-old Verified Fan program to set up the ticketing for his Broadway performances, is the latest.

Yet there are drawbacks to Verified Fan, which Ticketmaster says has cut scalping more than 75% in trials. Here’s how it works, according to Ticketmaster vice president David Marcus:

You give your basic information, your name, email address, mobile phone number to Ticketmaster, and Ticketmaster applies a bunch of algorithms to that limited data set and it can determine if you’re likely to go to the show, or if you’re likely going to sell your ticket. Verified Fan is not intended to prevent or eliminate resell. What it’s intended to do is made the first distribution of tickets fairer.

That “bunch of algorithms” is far from perfect—it factors in details such as the number of concert tickets a buyer has purchased from Ticketmaster in the past. Springsteen fans in this case who have never gone to a Springsteen show before are rightfully angry about being disfavored.

“Springsteen on Broadway” premieres Oct. 3, and Springsteen will perform five shows a week for eight weeks.