Friday, April 02, 2004

A MODEST PROPOSAL: We did ask last year why Glastonbury didn't just accept that some people will want to pay through the nose for tickets and pass the whole lot over to Ebay to deal with anyway - and at least Ebay has the technology to cope with people buying stuff in large numbers.

It's easy to have the benefit of hindsight, but there was also a whole bunch of foresight that could see this way of selling tickets would be a problem. We'd like to propose some changes for next year.

First, remember that Glastonbury is meant to be a charity event, and take some steps to maximise the cash made for the charity. Place five hundred sets of two tickets on sale with Ebay (less than one per cent of the whole allocation) for the highest bidder. Thousands of extra quid thus raised would go to the charities, not touts.

Of the leftovers, split them into two tranches. The first half will be sold online, but instead of flinging them all up and deciding who'll be going by who can be closest to a computer when they go live, and who has the best refresh button, for a week everyone is welcome to apply for pairs of tickets. You leave your name, your credit or debit card number and after the week, a random number generating computer selects the lucky winner, debits their accounts and sends out tickets. To ensure the applications are genuine, every applicant pays a pound - all of which goes to the charities. The unlucky applicants records are kept for a second wave of selection after returns and rejected cards, etc, are taken into account.

The second half allows Glastonbury to reconnect with its roots, and allow people who don't have access to phones, credit cards or the internet to be in with a chance. Each Oxfam shop in the country is given a number of tickets (probably in proportion to their turnover, so busier stores get more than the quieter ones.) The individual stores are allowed to decide how to work with their tickets - they could sell them at a small mark-up (perhaps an extra GBP20?), or arrange a raffle for them (providing they can ensure they'll at least break-even on the deal), or use them to promote the store's other services - if you want to buy a pair of tickets from Oxfam's Leicester store, they might charge you the face value and ask you to do eight hours volunteer work. Any tickets unsold by the end of, say, a month before the festival would be passed back for random allocation to the people who applied for the second tranche.

We think this would work well - people with more money than sense could still get their tickets through waving their cash about, but it would go to good causes, not Private Walkers; individual branches of Oxfam would get a boost in terms of people visiting the shops, and could choose to raise money or volunteers, genuinely helping the efforts of Oxfam branches nationwide; and nobody would have to stay up until five am constantly hitting redial or refresh - the online ticket distribution would still be random, but everyone would have an equal chance of getting the tickets. Plus, all those quids would make even more the charities concerned.

All the technology to do this exists already. All that's needed is the will. Of course, if we've misread Glastonbury and it is now a huge cash cow designed for making money for ticket agencies, then it's just foolish to even hope anyone would implement this system. We also believe the side effect would be that the cross section of people you'd get at Glasto would be a lot more interesting than the broadband and credit card monkeys who'll be there this year.

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