Thursday, September 18, 2003

CAN I GET AN UPGRADE TO THE BACKSTAGE TOILETS?: We were a little surprised how they underplayed the genuine scoop the nme had about Glastonbury's plans to go ticketless by 2005. The idea, apparently, is to make touting impossible by taking the physical ticket out of the equation and going over to an airline system where you have to turn up with ID and your credit card to claim your wristband and entry into the muddy event.

And this is a good idea why, precisely? Airlines can cope with such a system because each ticket point is only dealing with, at most, a couple of hundred people at a time; and there are large waiting areas for those who still need to be processed. Even so, anyone who's ever checked in to a flight will know that its mostly a miserable process of shuffling forward a few inches at a time for a very long period. Even if you can process the ID and Credit Card information in, say, ten seconds, we calculate that it's going to take twelve days for a crowd of 100,000 to get through a single checkpoint; since there's only a finite number of entry points to the festival site, that's looking like a hell of a clog up on the Thursday nights when everyone starts to arrive. And ten seconds assumes that the system works, and works swiftly. Any need to rescan, or someone whose card doesn't register, or who wants to argue the toss, and the schedule is going to go to hell in a handbasket. If the computer network gets overloaded and goes down completely, you're looking at a major crisis - would the back-up plan be getting the doorchecks to scan through 100,000 names on a piece of paper? (These systems can and do fail even where they've been in use for ages - ask British Airways).

Even assuming the major logistical stumbling block can be overcome, is this a desirable way of handling tickets for Glastonbury? It means that someone has to have a credit card to go. At the moment, if Jimmy (aged 17) wants to go to the festival, he can get his Mum, Dad or other nominated adult to buy him a ticket on their credit card. In the new world, he'd only be able to do that if his Mum, Dad, etc accompanied him to the festival itself. Got mates who you've block booked with coming from elsewhere in the country? Up til now, you could send them on their tickets, and arrange to meet on Friday morning in the Green Field. Now, you'll all have to convene outside the festival so you can arrive along with the person who paid for the tickets. And if you bought tickets and then fell pregnant/burned your fingers on a microwave meal/committed suicide live on stage, you can't just sell your ticket to a mate who can make use of it - or even gift it to them. There'll need to be a big cancellation/refund kerfuffle. While nobody likes touts, why shouldn't people be allowed to pass their tickets on to friends if they so wish?

Airlines need security like this because of the dangers of planes crashing into people's soft heads. It's not clear why Glastonbury thinks that it's like an airline, unless it has dreams of becoming the Ryanair of the Summer.

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