Mark Miller, co-founder and CEO of TicketSocket, weighs in on the recent Burning Man ticketing fiasco, and offers some suggestions for what the festival should have done differently.


What are the risks of using in-house ticketing technology, or technology unsuited to large amounts of traffic?

With high-demand tickets, it’s extremely important to allow people to pre-register and create accounts to make the purchase process faster and easier. Without this type of system in place, too many concurrent users all log in and try to buy at the same time, which can create a number of huge potential issues, as we saw with the Burning Man fiasco.


What is the solution?

Setting lottery mechanisms in place is an effective tool in order to help limit difficulties when large numbers of customers are concurrently trying purchase tickets. This mechanism also creates an equal opportunity for fans to access tickets.

Ticketing technology must be engineered to hold a queue of over 1 million people using the latest cloud scaling technologies, to throttle customers and to give them an enjoyable and equal opportunity to purchase tickets.

Often, event organisers forget that it’s better to extend the ticketing buying process to be over 30 minutes long, in order to weed out bots and customers who are not as willing to wait in the line, as certain, more dedicated ones are. In most situations of this nature, communication is always the most important thing. As soon as any customer logs in, either one minute before tickets go on sale or one hour prior, they should all be treated equally.

Their sessions should be logged via the lottery and queueing mechanism. Customers need to understand that if there are 500,000 people trying to buy 20,000 tickets concurrently, that they may not get a chance to buy them and this needs to be clear up front. What customers do not understand is that they may still have to wait, even if they were not randomly selected by the lottery and queue. If this is communicated right away, it can greatly avoid confusion, wasted time and frustration down the line.


What specifically went wrong with the Burning Man ticketing situation?

Burning Man’s ticketing fiasco demonstrates what can happen when the queued traffic for ticketing registration doesn’t implement the lottery mechanism mentioned earlier and too many concurrent users try to all buy at the same time. In this case, there were more people trying to buy then than were tickets for sale. Therefore, in order to avoid anything like this happening again in the future, they need to completely rethink the structure of their system and its capabilities, to ensure they have a process in place to set expectations properly and handle traffic at scale.


What are the big trends and developments in the ticketing sector? Where do you see the industry going in the future?

In the ticketing sector, the biggest trend we’re continuing to see is a preference for control. Event vendors want to control all aspects of their finance, data and more. A lot of attention has been brought to ownership of data lately. This doesn’t mean people understand all of the ramifications of data possession, but the fact that they are keeping it in mind is a good sign. If we pay more attention to who’s collecting data, what they’re doing with it and why, that has a direct impact on how we expose ourselves. This is affecting business on a holistic level in regard to marketing, e-commerce and more.

We’ve also seen a shift in the ticketing sector to a more organic, influencer-based marketing strategy. Companies are not using ad agencies in the traditional manner and are using a more organic approach based on the power of digital influencers. They’re trying to leverage them on a much larger scale than in the past—and this is happening in all industries, not just ticketing.