Nokia’s high-profile mobile ticketing trial at last night’s Guns’n’Roses gig went seemingly without a hitch, which is more than can be said for the band’s arrival on stage. Billed to start at 9pm, Axl and chums didn’t appear until 10.40pm. I sincerely hope this was due to a backstage strop due to too many brown M&Ms or not enough cocaine-toting dwarves, rather than anything mundane like traffic.
Anyway, getting into the gig with my m-ticket went swimmingly – a quick scan followed by wristband attachment – and as a bonus, it also involved jumping the queue of paper ticket-holders. According to Nokia, 60% of the people who bought tickets for last night’s gig through the Ticketrush website chose the mobile option.
Meanwhile, Nokia UK’s head of marketing Simon Lloyd reckons that m-tickets could eventually kill off the hated ticket touts who hang around outside gigs. “It’s removing the element of ticket touts,” he says. “It’s a secure environment, so you can’t pass these tickets on and can’t hack in. Paper tickets are always open to abuse.”
Surely if the m-tickets are sent as an SMS message, you can just forward them onto a friend? Or someone you’ve just taken £100 from outside a venue. Well, yes you can. However, each ticket can only be scanned once – so if you were to distribute it to a bunch of friends, only the first person to arrive would get in.
It might not stop touting altogether then, but would you want to give a tout your phone number and run the risk that they hadn’t already sold the same m-ticket to 20 people? Me neither.
So what happens if you buy a ticket, then can’t make it to the gig so want to sell it to a friend? “You can go back to the site and set it up so the ticket can be sent out from the main site to your friend,” says Lloyd.
In theory this means you can still sell tickets for a premium on eBay, but again trust is a big issue in terms of paying over-the-odds for a ticket that might leave you stranded outside.
At the moment, you can only buy tickets from the website, but Nokia is already plotting its next move. “The next stage is to pay for the ticket in one seamless transaction on the mobile,” says Lloyd. “We want to move to total mobile ticketing, where you’ll get an SMS alert about a gig, and then buy tickets on your phone.”
Nokia also has ambitious plans for how the m-ticketing service can develop – although sadly not a feature for the crowd to send text messages direct to Axl Rose’s phone telling him to get a move on. Instead, Nokia wants to offer gig-goers more goodies.
“Because it’s mobile-oriented, we have people’s number and know they’ll be at the gig,” says Lloyd. “We can push offers down to them, like another barcode to get a free drink at the bar, or a free t-shirt or even a free song or ringtone download from one of the acts that’s playing.”
A key part of the service is that it works on ALL handsets, not just Nokia mobiles. However, Lloyd doesn’t rule out launching some kind of VIP features for Nokia users in the future. “You could have a separate queue for Nokia users, or more free drinks,” he says.
“We can play it a little bit, but the important thing is that it doesn’t prohibit, say, a Samsung user from buying a ticket and going to the gig. We wanted this to be available to all.”