Blockchain is being embraced across the live music industry, from tout-proofing tickets and enhancing cashless systems to potentially transforming the content of merch desks forever. Access investigates.
Perhaps best known as the record-keeping technology that underpins cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain is increasingly being used by the events industry for an array of purposes from providing the bedrock of secure digital tickets and cashless systems to tracking and recording the completion of tasks and safety protocols on event sites.
Essentially, blockchain enables the storage of historical records that can be added to but not altered. Or, as Syniverse Technologies’ Monique Morrow eloquently puts it, “It’s a ledger for storage, a database connected together by blocks that is immutable – it’s a single source of truth providing you with complete transparency.”
“It’s a single source of truth providing you with complete transparency.”
Blockchain is an obvious fit for the ticketing industry and its battle against touts and counterfeiters. Among the many services to make use of the technology is Eventbrite, while Ticketmaster has made significant steps into the field not least with its acquisitions of blockchain ticketing platform UPGRADED in 2018.
Meanwhile, cloud-based ticketing engagement platform SecuTix and its mobile ticketing application TIXnGO are becoming increasingly widely used across the events industry. West Bromwich Albion FC is the latest client win for the white-label B2B service, while others include Lancashire Cricket Club, the Paléo rock festival in Switzerland and UEFA.
TIXnGO’s blockchain technology creates a unique, encrypted, ticket for smartphones that is completely traceable. It removes the risk of counterfeit tickets and makes it easy for fans to transfer or resell securely. The platform also provides an option for Covid self-certification.
SecuTix Northern Europe, UK & Ireland MD David Hornby says that one of the greatest advantages of using blockchain-supported ticketing technology is the value of the data and security it provides: “It means you know who everyone in the venue is and from a security perspective the tickets will have a bar code that is activated at the venue, so it illiminates touting and fraud.”
SecuTix, the ticketing arm of Swiss software development company ELCA, has been around for almost 20 years but its TIXnGO blockchain technology is a relatively new development. A SecuTix client for more than a decade, Paléo was one of the first festivals to use TIXnGO.
Hornby says Paléo is attended by nearly 250,000 people over six nights: “Among them are 10,000 stakeholders on site; everyone from caterers to production people. They all get tickets for the event, and for many years those tickets were used as currency – they were seen as part of the deal. The event owners wanted a way to better manager that process. TIXnGO manages the ticketing distribution, tracks the ownership and where they go.
“When the tickets are delivered you have a time stamp code that is registered in the blockchain. Because it is in blockchain it means other people can see who owns the ticket and when it was purchased. The blockchain allows you to set rules around who can own the ticket and what they can do with it, the promoter is able to set those terms.”
Intelligent Venue Solutions director Paul Pike says that the industry is moving away from RFID (Radio-frequency identification) cashless solutions and the focus is now very much on the use of mobile phone apps.
“I’ve always felt that preloading wristbands is just a bit archaic, especially now we are coming out of the pandemic, and everyone is used to using their smartphones for transactions,” he says.
With that in mind, Pike has partnered with EPOS (electronic point of sale) company Bleep on the creation of a blockchain-supported cashless payments app that has been tested at event this year including Wilderness, Latitude (pictured), Download Pilot and the Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Pike says the app has been developed with the aim of to not only enabling the swift purchasing of food, beverages and merch but to provide a platform for promotions and discounts via sponsors.
With the app not due to launch until next month, Pike is tight lipped about the branding, but he says a “large international promoter is set to adopt the system”.
“It is a cashless app tied to a digital wallet that uses blockchain technology,” he says. “It will not only enable event owners to gain a better understanding of who is at their events but will benefit event-goers and sponsors by enabling promotions and loyalty rewards. It has been developed in partnership with Imagination and Dave Birch of Consult Hyperion.”
Pike believes one of the app’s biggest advantages is the fact it gives promoters and event owners the ability to gain a clear picture of exactly who is attending their shows.
He says, “At festivals, none of the organisers know who’s walking through their doors, which in this day and age is incredible. The success of companies such as Tesco’s is based on the fact that they have developed ways of knowing who their customers are, what they’re interested in and what they buy.”
“At festivals, none of the organisers know who’s walking through their doors, which in this day and age is incredible.”
Pike says the app will enable promoters and event sponsors to have a much closer relationship, to the benefit of both parties and their customers: “You have got sponsors spending a lot of money on activations. With an app like ours it enables them to use the data to create a relationship directly with the attendees who have opted in, and extend the activation programme beyond the event.
“Potentially it could also help the promoter get additional revenue out of it because instead of the sponsor having to employ an agency, it could employ the promoter to handle it. There’s always been a disconnect between selling sponsorship and activating it but if the promoter has the opportunity to say ‘this is what it is going to cost you to be the brand partner, and we will drive it for you’ it become a two-way street. I’ve always thought that’s the ultimate goal.”
Mentions of NFTs or non-fungible token have become hard to miss in the media, and barely a day goes by without their use in the music industry hitting headlines. Essentially, an NFT is a physical asset that has become digitised, with its value largely based on the fact it is unique data stored on blockchain.
Recent uses of NFTs in the music industry include Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons launching hip-hop’s first collection of NFTs in the shape of recordings and artwork from acts including Public Enemy.
Among the many NFTs sold have ranged from sound recording and publishing rights in songs to video game applications. While the buzz around NFTs has diminished somewhat since its peak in Spring this year, many event professionals are convinced they have a future in the live events industry, not least with concert ticketing for the tout-busting reasons mentioned above. But, with blockchain enabling the creation of scarcity for a digital product, or NFT, and then authenticating ownership and transactions for them, it’s perhaps unsurprising that someone has launched a marketplace for limited-edition digital music collectibles.
Serenade is the brainchild of Australian tech entrepreneur and former artist manager Max Shand (pictured), who says his mission with the marketplace is to enable artists to build closer relationships with fans while creating dynamic new revenue streams for artists of all sizes.
“The idea is that Serenade creates opportunities for artists to deliver merchandise to fans that is truly reflective of their music and artistry – potentially much more than just a black t-shirt at a gig,” he says. “There are also wonderful opportunities to leverage that epic concert that happened two or 20 years ago – that encore or that beautiful bridge – where there was a great performance there’s an opportunity for collectors to want to own that.
“Going forward there’s also an opportunity to give concertgoers the opportunity to walk away with a recording of the show that they just attended, that’s something that we’re working on.”
When it comes to selling NFTs on the merch desk at concerts and festivals, Shand says that functionality is also very much in the pipeline: “You could have a QR code on a merch table that distracts me from buying yet another black band T-shirt and allows me to walk away with something that is closer to the creative heart of that artists, whether that be music, some wonderful artwork or a recent or historic live recording.”
NFTs are not limited to collectable products, they can also be used to acquire live event upgrade experiences such as meet and greets with performers.
“We are enabling artists to link money-can’t-buy experiences on their product page, such as an exclusive access experience that unlocks when you are in the venue,” says Shand.
Music industry veteran Mike Smith’s long and impressive CV includes being managing director of Columbia Records UK and president of two Universal Music UK labels – Mercury Records and Virgin/EMI. Currently the global president at Downtown Music Publishing, Smith is convinced NFTs will have a considerable part to play in the future of the live music business.
He says, “An NFT can be displayed as a work of art in a very traditional sense as well as something that only lives on your laptop. Imagine if you had the opportunity to buy the view from behind [former Led Zeppelin drummer] John Bonham’s drum kit after a gig. Now obviously you can’t get that anymore but you could have the view from the stage at a gig you have just watched. What was it like during the IDLES gig that you’ve just watched? I think people will want that.”