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BY Langston Thomas
July 28, 2022
For the better part of a decade, concert and festival goers have foregone ink and paper in favor of storing their event tickets on their phones. As ticketing has transitioned from paper to PDF and the age of digital credentials, a new wave of post-pandemic performances has started to shake up the live-event ecosystem via — you guessed it — NFTs.
Although it can sometimes seem like digital art and avatar NFTs are the only use cases for NFTs that have longevity, this just isn’t so. The truth is that NFTs can be used in far more ways than they currently are. And one use case from NFT history that generally goes overlooked is nonfungible ticketing.
First introduced years before Bored Apes sent the creative world into a tizzy — tokenized concert and festival passes have remained an interesting yet underdeveloped facet of the NFT market. Yet as the weird wide world of nonfungibles continues to grow, giving birth to a wide variety of advancements and innovation, NFT ticketing has reemerged as a promising contender in the race for real-world NFT utility.
But what is the state of the NFT ticket market, and what will it take for this burgeoning technology to become commonplace? Let’s explore.
NFT ticketing is precisely what it sounds like: tickets in the form of an NFT living on a blockchain that act as access passes for any live (or even virtual) event. How is this different than digital tickets? The blockchain factor really sets NFT tickets apart from their barcode or QR code-based counterparts.
With NFT tickets, ticket issuers and recipients can benefit in several ways. Issuers can keep a more in-depth record of attendance numbers by utilizing the blockchain as a ledger, while simultaneously interacting with ticket holders in a new and innovative way via NFTs.
Issuers can send out notices, host surprise giveaways, create token-gated sites and services, and more simply by collating data associated with holders of a specific NFT ticket.
Similarly, NFT ticket holders don’t simply receive a ticket to an event, but an immutable and often interactive digital asset that grants their entry into a show or festival. These tickets also grant holders access to exclusive experiences, including fan clubs made up only of holders of similar NFT tickets.
OpenSea CEO @dfinzer was asked the Web3 use case question:
"Why would I want an NFT as a concert ticket?"
He explains that NFTs make OpenSea like StubHub, but better, because the blockchain / DeFi enables you to take out a loan using your concert ticket as collateral. pic.twitter.com/Qtgn2dNxwL
Imagine a parallel between PFP NFTs and NFT tickets. PFPs come in varying degrees of rarity; they act as member passes to a variety of communities, they communicate an NFT collector’s special status, and they can accrue value over time. Yet, PFPs are explicitly geared towards crypto and NFT enthusiasts and often come with the caveat of their association with financial gain/loss and price speculation.
NFT tickets, on the other hand, are a new extension of an existing and robust network of concerts, festivals, conferences, and other live events. Imagine tickets to a metaverse of in-person events, where offers abound: for example, a PFP-like perk to holders added to the existing experience involving a musician, music festival, nightclub, etc.
Blockchain-powered events gained notoriety in 2021 and 2022, but NFT ticketing, while less familiar as a concept, has been around for years. And if we look at NFT history, the will to create tokenized experiences has persisted despite cases where the technology and know-how hadn’t reached maturity.
In 2018, superstar producer/DJ and blockchain music pioneer 3LAU set out to help lay the groundwork for blockchain-powered events with his single-day concert, Our Music Festival. However, the festival itself didn’t implement NFT ticketing for attendees — which likely would’ve been difficult anyways, considering the lack of exposure to NFTs and software wallets at the time. So 3LAU and co. created a tokenized experience that allowed festival goers to accrue tokens that could reimplemented for real-world purchases while at the event.
If NFT ticketing had been a viable option for 3LAU in 2018, there’s no doubt that the DJ would’ve implemented token-gating for his inaugural fest. As NFT tech has developed over the years, 3LAU has taken on other endeavors to aid in the democratization of the music industry, but other artists and festivals alike have taken up the NFT ticketing cause.
Originally, NFT ticketing began with startups. In 2020, NFTs hadn’t achieved the popularity they inevitably did by the end of the following year. Yet developers were already delving into potential music industry use cases for the novel technology.
Early on, two primary value propositions were set forth for NFTs. The first was that they could potentially provide a more robust and verifiable form of identity to link with tickets, effectively reducing scalping and bot activity. Secondly, NFTs could create a direct channel for attendees to remarket, and maintain community engagement after an event (as mentioned in the previous section).
Startups like GUTS Tickets began working on building NFT technology to curb scalping by tying a ticket to an person’s wallet or identity, while simultaneously giving artists a cut of secondary market revenue. Yet, organizations like GUTS are still far from becoming mainstream, so from 2020 on, blockchain ticketing efforts seemed to become localized efforts from festivals and artists.
Coachella is potentially the most notable of these more localized efforts. With Coachella Collectible NFTs, AEG Worldwide presented a novel case for NFTs use cases as both memorabilia and lifetime passes.
Introducing Coachella Collectibles NFTs 🎡 Lifetime festival passes, digital collectibles redeemable for physical items & more available Friday at 10am PT at https://t.co/D8v4cD04wc
Explore our debut collections👇 pic.twitter.com/eEPdVvxPhg
Although the Coachella collection received mixed reviews, it opened the door for others, like Las Vegas’ Afterparty, and Swedish music festival Way Out West, to launch endeavors of their own.
With Afterparty, Soin Holdings Inc. delved into a venture much like Coachella. Aiming to shake up the standard music festival model, Soin offered 1,500 NFT collectibles that served as an access pass for the two-day Afterparty festival that went down in March 2022.
Backed by crowdfunding platform Corite, Way Out West set out on a similar campaign, but in a smaller dose. Also taking parallels to Coachella, Way Out auctioned off three lifetime tickets in the form of NFTs. Corite also offered attendees the option to mint their festival moments and memorabilia as NFTs, but ones that lacked any sort of festival pass mechanics.
Beyond large-scale efforts, independent musicians and artists are also finding ways to implement NFT ticketing into their tours and shows. NFTs are quickly becoming a prominent music industry sector, with many artists launching NFT and blockchain endeavors to bolster their fanbases during COVID. Increasingly, NFT tickets seem an inevitable part of the burgeoning music NFT ecosystem.
Recently, pop artist Pip made a splash with his Cotton Candy NFTs, which were launched as part of an independent crowdfunding campaign. The collection, which featured NFTs available in three separate tiers, was essentially created to act as a set of NFT backstage passes.
Upon purchasing a Cotton Candy NFT, holders gained the ability to enter a member-only platform, with perks extending outward to real-life incentives, including free entry to all of Pip’s headlining concerts for life. While this type of system mirrors those used in major festivals, it exists on a much smaller and more personable level. Because of this, these drops are increasing in frequency and popularity, leading other artists like The Cool Kids, Steve Aoki, and more to offer free entry into their concerts for those who own their NFTs.
Although NFT tickets have yet to bridge the gap over the “mainstream” NFT ecosystem, similar projects exist at the innovative intersection between live events and NFTs. One such service is Proof of Attendance Protocol (POAP, pronounced “poh-ap”) — a protocol that creates digital badges or collectibles through the use of blockchain technology.
POAP’s have been around for years, enabling events coordinators to reward enthusiasts for attending festivals, conferences, summits, and more. Associated primarily with blockchain-powered events like Devcon and other various Ethereum and Bitcoin events, POAPs took on a new life in 2021 as the NFT ecosystem ballooned.
POAPs quickly became a means to reward event attendees, and Twitter Space participants, NFT drops, Discord events, and much more. Furthermore, these POAPs started to gain utility as status symbols, incentivizing holders to trade them on OpenSea to potentially receive perks down the line.
To date, numerous artists and developers have used POAPs to whitelist holders for subsequent drops, with Gmoney’s Admit One collection becoming one of the most prominent to do so. As PAOPs gain more utility, they’re even becoming a backward-compatible prerequisite for attendees of earlier events to acquire NFT tickets for future ones.
As this niche sector of the NFT market develops, it has raised the question: “what will it take for NFT tickets to become the norm?” If proof of attendance badges are booming, why is the market for NFT tickets still so lacking? Mostly, it comes down to usability.
Although the music industry has undoubtedly begun to accept the idea of NFTs, whether as collectibles, a method of crowdfunding, or lifetime festival passes, the vast majority of music enthusiasts have not onboarded into the NFT space. In other words, most show-lovers still don’t have an NFT wallet, pushing NFT tickets out of the equation for many organizers.
Of course, some digitally native communities, like those surrounding 3LAU, Steve Aoki, BT, and more, are more aware and accepting of NFT ticketing. But to others (especially general music lovers), NFT ticketing doesn’t lend enough advantages over downloading a conventional PDF ticket via mobile devices.
But, make no mistake: as more music enthusiasts become active in the NFT space, the line between music lovers and NFT enthusiasts will continue to blur. So artists and consumers must do their due diligence in learning how NFTs can disrupt the music industry, from album drops to multi-day festival passes.