Analysis

Eventbrite working on bot-busting tech to beat the touts


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Ticketing firm Eventbrite is developing and testing technology that will prevent mass ticket purchasing by bots, as part of a wider industry kickback against the growing secondary market.

“It is definitely a problem area for promoters and for artists not getting the share that they deserve,” Renaud Visage, co-founder and CTO of Eventbrite, told Music Ally. “We’re seeing how we can make our product evolve to prevent mass buyers from actually buying tickets.”

Eventbrite joins companies like Songkick and Dice in trying to tackle the issue of touting, although their approaches differ. Where Songkick has been developing technology to block humans who it has identified as touts, Eventbrite is focusing more on identifying ticket-buying bots.

“[Prevention] is the first barrier that we want to put in place and we’ve already invested quite a bit on the product side. It’s about fraud detection and understanding if the buyer is a real person or a bot,” said Visage.

“We have deployed a lot of machine-learning algorithms to detect that and to block them right there and then when they’re trying to purchase. This will allow as many people who are legitimate buyers as possible to buy the tickets that they want for the events that they want. That is quite sophisticated. It is invisible to the buyer, except for the ones that are bots – which we are blocking actively.”

He added: “It’s an area of interest that has already proven benefits for several organisers who have actively prevented mass buying of tickets at events using this technology.”

Eventbrite is also exploring the potential for selling tickets through social networks, building on its long-time partnership with Facebook. Movie ticketing firm Fandango announced plans to sell tickets directly on Facebook last month, but Visage said Eventbrite has been planning a similar feature since April.

We are one of two companies doing that with Facebook – and the only one providing an end-to-end purchase solution entirely on Facebook,” he said. “You get a barcode within Facebook and go to the event with that Facebook barcode; it is fully integrated.”

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Visage also hinted of a major distribution initiative coming in the next few months that will see Eventbrite offer similar functionality across other platforms – allowing customers to buy tickets without being forced to move outside of the client or browser to do so.

Which ones? He is, for now, not saying. Music Ally reeled off a number of possible platforms that might want to push deeper into ticketing and become “full-stack” offerings – Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music among them – but he remained resolutely poker faced.

Think of all the big names in music, and hopefully we will be integrated with them,” he said.

The proof of the concept will really only come when Eventbrite’s Facebook tests move out of the pilot stage. This is, for now, in the lap of Facebook.

“A lot of the work is on the Facebook site,” said Visage. “They are controlling the experience and enhancing the experience. They are deciding where it makes sense to surface recommendations, for example.”

Is Visage concerned that Facebook could just replicate this and do it themselves? Or could the social network ultimately buy a company like Eventbrite to provide the technology in-house?

“We have a lot of robust features that would take Facebook a long time to replicate,” said Visage, of the first potential scenario. “That’s not how they make their money. They make their money through advertising.”

What about the second scenario, where Facebook likes Eventbrite’s technology so much, it buys the company? “The ticketing business has a lot of nitty gritty details that I’m not sure Facebook wants to get into. They may want, of course, to make money at some point from transactions, but whether they want to add customer support and deal with organisers is another matter.”

Stuart Dredge

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