AXS, an event ticketing platform like Ticketmaster, has come under fire recently from many season and single-event ticket holders. Yes, many fans complain vociferously about ticket prices and sold-out events before tickets even go on sale to the general public (which we’ll talk about in another post) — but ticket prices and sold-out shows aren’t the only challenges fans face. Fans continually encounter frustrating, sometimes costly problems simply accessing, sharing, donating and reselling their tickets. 

Why? Because many of AXS and other platforms’ attempts to prevent fraud, hackers and bots from wreaking havoc have created draconian obstacles for the every day fans.  In their attempts to solve security problems, ticketing platforms have created a potentially bigger problem — losing fan support, which sports teams and entertainers cannot survive without. Fans are becoming either so annoyed at the hassles they encounter or concerned that they’ll lose money (significant money such as season ticket memberships) that they are no longer buying. So, let’s delve into what kind of problems fans are experiencing from these security protocols.

1) Legitimate music and sports fans (meaning not ticket brokers or scalpers who only buy tickets for financial gain) are finding that they often cannot log into their accounts from desktop or mobile browsers, even with the AXS app. Sometimes access problems are due to fans using a VPN (virtual private network) to access the site. Yet, VPNs aren’t some super techy gadget only computer geeks use — thousands of businesses, organizations, governments and individuals use VPNs daily to access their work networks and the internet when protecting identity and data is essential. In fact, VPNs have become even more common with the recent surge in working remotely and the increase in cyber-attacks. Fans also run into problems on some Wi-Fi networks as well — again, something so common and every day that it shouldn’t be an issue. Security reasons are almost always the excuse given when fans contact tech support for help and are told to log out of their VPNs or Wi-Fi — not always practical or possible.

2) Buying event tickets often means jumping through endless loops, such as multiple captchas, required passcodes, rejection of legitimate payment forms (then double charges for the same transaction) and ridiculously long and often futile online “waiting rooms.” Then, even if fans can make a purchase, they never receive a confirmation email. So, when they arrive at the event, they are turned away. Or the platform processes their purchase, then moments later says the tickets have already sold. Many of these hassles are due to security measures that protect legitimate fans and block scalpers — but the measures are creating unsatisfactory fan experiences.

3) Many season ticket holders encounter problems reselling unneeded tickets. Most season ticket issuers require buyers to sign an agreement stating that they will primarily use the tickets for personal (self, family and friends) or professional (sales prospects and clients) use, not to resell for financial gain. However, season ticket issuers know that most buyers won’t attend every event. Therefore, they allow holders to resell tickets, but only on proprietary sites — and often, only a limited number. For example, if a team uses AXS for their ticketing platform, season ticket holders can only resell on AXS’ authorized resale platform — they cannot sell on StubHub, SeatGeek, Ticketmaster, Facebook, eBay or Craigslist. If they use a nonauthorized reseller site, they risk losing their season ticket membership. 

And it’s not just season ticket holders who encounter this restriction — many single-event ticket holders find out too late they cannot resell an unneeded ticket on unauthorized but legitimate reseller sites. For example, in February 2023, Rolling Stone magazine published a story about country singer Zach Bryan’s tour tickets. Bryan told Rolling Stone he tried to keep ticket prices affordable by using a non-transferable ticketing policy to prevent scalpers from gouging fans, but it seems to have backfired. AXS, the ticket issuer, told Rolling Stone that buyers can only resell tickets for face value via a Zach Bryan AXS Marketplace. Any tickets resold on other sites would be invalid, even if the tickets were legitimately purchased in the first place. However, resellers like VividSeats and TickPick had tickets listed at several hundred dollars above face value. Any fan who buys one will be turned away at the door, according to AXS. Yet another diminished fan experience at the expense of security as many unknowing fans will purchase what they think are legit tickets from a legit site.

Another challenge season ticket holders face is losing their memberships for reselling too many tickets. A team typically has a threshold for how many tickets holders can sell, often an arbitrary, unpublished number. If holders sell beyond this mystery threshold — even on approved reseller sites, the team often revokes their season ticket membership, usually without warning. This has happened to several Las Vegas Golden Knights NHL season ticket holders, many of whom were loyal early supporters before the newcomer team played its first game. AXS has said multiple times on various platforms that any Knights memberships they revoked were due to clear violations. However, many loyal fans recount alternative narratives, saying their memberships were canceled without notice or advance warning they were violating their membership terms. Regardless, the fan experience is clearly suffering as these ticketing platforms try to find a balance between reducing fraud and exploitation — and supporting loyal fans, performers and teams.