WHO’S THERE? Knowing who is filling the seats in a venue can become a necessity in an emergency. (Getty Images)

Data available from companies like True Tickets can benefit patrons in a crisis

Generally seen as an important marketing tool, the ability to understand just who is attending live events has taken on added relevance amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a ticketing blockchain technology company president says.

News that a part-time usher who worked at two Broadway theaters had tested positive for the virus made clear that information gathered about guests can serve a crucial public safety purpose by facilitating the notification of others potentially exposed, according to Matt Zarracina, co-founder and CEO of Boston-based True Tickets. The company has launched a pilot program to provide its ticketing solutions to the ticketing division of the Shubert Organization, which owns and operates 17 Broadway theaters. 

Matt Zarracina

Most attendees of shows worked by the usher who found out about their possible exposure did so through the news media, Zarracina said, but “knowing who’s coming into a venue and being able to notify them of something like this is not going to be viewed as a luxury, it’s going to be viewed as a necessity in the future,” he said. “The current situation has really taken the need to know who has attended my venue and how to contact them to the next level.”

The technology offered by True Tickets, which entered into an agreement last year to integrate its secure digital delivery ticketing service into targeted components of Shubert’s ticketing operation, significantly increases a venue’s capacity to do that, he said.

The capability comes with inherent privacy risks, Zarracina conceded, but protecting personally identifiable information can be achieved through ticketing system architecture, he said.

In the case of True Tickets, the architecture was built with provisions of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, enacted in 2018, and California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, in mind, Zarracina said.

“We are able to provide this information in a way where we are not capturing personally identifiable information,” he said. “Finding that balance on being able to provide this information but in a way that protects privacy is critical. I think we’ve architected our solution with that in mind very well.”

That doesn’t mean the identifiable information isn’t available to True Tickets’ clients, however.

“It depends on where you’re capturing that data,” Zarracina said. “For one of our clients we work with their system such that when someone buys a ticket, receives a ticket, transfers a ticket, accepts a ticket on a transfer, all that information is provided to their database. The primary issuer of the ticket is getting that information. True Tickets is mainly a facilitator of that and an enforcer of the rules around that ticket or that license. So you can do it in a way where True Tickets doesn’t need to be exposed to personally identifiable information.”

The understanding that venues are gathering data on who their guests are has become, for many consumers, a compact with which they are comfortable, in much the same way they are OK with an airline knowing exactly who its passengers are.

“One could argue that by choosing to attend a performance at a venue, that is the tradeoff you are making,” Zarracina said, adding that allowing yourself to be known, whether it’s through facial recognition, fingerprint scan or some other means, is part of developing a relationship.

“If you’re part of a Pearl Jam fan club or a Foo Fighters fan club or a Taylor Swift fan club, you’re essentially saying, ‘I want you to know me,’” he said.

Zarracina stressed that while the coronavirus poses a serious trial for the live entertainment industry, it will pass and what results can be a more safe and responsible way of conducting business. 


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