Olivia Rodrigo is proving that artists don’t need expensive technology or a sprawling staff to make sure their lowest-priced tickets end up in the hands of fans — and not scalpers.

Ticket brokers were crawling around Rodrigo’s website on Wednesday (Sept. 13), assessing their odds of scoring tickets for the superstar’s freshly announced Guts World Tour, which kicks off in February at Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, Calif. An early spring tour headlined by Rodrigo is a pretty good bet for ticket resellers based on the singer’s continued chart success: “Vampire,” the first single from her new album, Guts, is currently enjoying its 10th week on the Hot 100, while the set’s second single, “Bad Idea Right?”, debuted in the top 10 last month. Meanwhile, the album itself earned more than 126 million on-demand streams in its first four days of release. More importantly, her 2022 Sour trek was an underplay first run tour — Rodrigo had kept her ticket prices reasonable, averaging about $75 a ticket — that saw demand far exceed supply and drove prices into the stratosphere.

For Guts, Rodrigo is taking a simple, innovative step to protect what she is calling “Silver Star tickets,” a two-seat package she’s selling for $40 a pop to individuals her team can verify as fans.

Needless to say, scalpers will want to get in on that. A $20 ticket to a high-demand concert can generate a big markup and quick profits, especially compared to tickets priced between $50 to $200 — the price range for the Live Nation-booked tour. Tickets in the $50 to $200 range, meanwhile, will leave some room for markup on resale sites but make profitability less certain, especially on top-tier tickets.

To pull this off, like a game of cat and mouse, Rodrigo’s team must keep the Silver Star tickets out of scalper’s hands for the program to be a success. Few details about how this will work have been made public, but Rodrigo’s registration site hints that the singer’s team will directly select fans to participate. The real innovation, however, is a requirement that fans pick up their $20 tickets at will call on the night of the show; only then will they learn where their seats are located.

That’s not too different from how box offices used to use will call-only pick up to fight scalping, but where that strategy would typically aim to protect the most expensive tickets this time it’s being used on the cheapest. The limited number of tickets involved here will also help keep from overwhelming staff, whereas previously such a strategies became an unmanageable burden. Meanwhile, not knowing the section or row of a ticket makes it very difficult to sell it on secondary sales websites like StubHub, which requires scalpers to list tickets in the general vicinity of where they are located.

The plan isn’t fool-proof — when it comes to resellers, nothing is — but it places enough hurdles in front of scalpers that most will hopefully be deterred from taking advantage of a program that’s meant to get discount tickets into the hands of fans who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to see Rodrigo in concert. And if the strategy is successful, it’s easy to see it being duplicated by other artists, whose biggest frustration with ticketing tends not to be that their best seats are landing on the secondary market, but that seats affordable to their younger and less economically advantaged fans are ending up there too.

Dave Brooks
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