If you’ve gone to a baseball game, concert, or play in recent years — possibly any live event you have attended — you’ve probably bought a ticket online.
The annual market for digital tickets sold is estimated at many billions of dollars. But with the rise of digitized sales, new problems have emerged. Scammers and scalpers have warped the way live events are able to curate an audience, for example.
In the middle of this digital storm, Boston-based True Tickets was born.
“What’s broken in ticketing, specifically, is the delivery part of the journey,” said CEO Matt Zarracina. “For the longest time it was all about just getting the tickets sold.”
What the industry realized, because of the resale market and frequent digital ticket fraud, is that there’s “a ton of value that’s essentially being lost,” he said.
True Tickets, founded in 2017, is helping event organizers keep better track of the identity of their ticket buyers and prevent scammers from selling fraudulent tickets. The moment you buy the ticket on a website that uses the service, True Tickets takes over custody of the ticket.
The company tackles fraud using myriad techniques, such as issuing tickets with dynamic screens or blocking off access to the ticket until a specific time before the event. This prevents scammers from selling counterfeit tickets, or selling the same ticket to multiple buyers.
“What we do in ticketing is work to establish trust,” Zarracina said. “Trust in ticketing is two things. One is identity: Who has that ticket? And the second one is accountability: Are they adhering to the terms and conditions?”
The company’s technology also tries to solve a huge problem in online digital sales: large volumes of tickets bought by people who upsell them for a profit in the ticket resale market. This isn’t necessarily illegal, but it hurts event organizers who can’t make money off those sales and customers who unfairly pay for an overpriced ticket.
True Tickets’ software allows event organizers to track the ownership and number of tickets purchased by any buyer and can cancel large orders after confirming it’s not all for one party. The company also has rules and limits on how many times a ticket can be transferred to another person.
The company is still small, with 13 fully remote employees. But it seems to be gaining traction. True Tickets passed the 5 million ticket delivery mark a few weeks ago and said it has triple-digit percentage growth in annual revenue since 2020. Its service is used by 24 live venues in the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada, and its biggest client is the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
True Tickets is also trying to help the live event industry compete better with online entertainment such as Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services.
For Netflix, say, collecting data on users from their location, the kind of shows they like to watch, and how many hours they spend on the app, is much easier than it is for a live venue. That data helps streaming companies draw in a larger customer base and tailor their services for existing users.
“The majority of live experience organizers ... know almost a third of their actual audience,” Zarracina said. “How are you going to compete against Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Marriott, Delta, if you maybe know 1 out of 3 people coming in your door?”
To tackle this problem, True Tickets allows live event hosts to carefully track whose hands their tickets end up in. This allows venues to gather data on their event attendees and adjust future marketing strategies.
“Those who are creating those experiences, those who are taking the risks of putting on those performances,” Zarracina explained, “are now able to better monetize them.”
Amy Aldrich, director of patron experience at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, said that True Tickets is at the forefront of such technological advances.
“The BSO loves True Tickets,” she said. “They are affording us the ability to provide a fantastic digital solution for our ticketing.”
This story was updated to remove a reference to blockchain technology, which the company’s software initially used but does not currently use.