Playing With The Band — mPOS And Cashless Concerts


It seems that mobile payments are finding perfect harmony with concertgoers. The latest mPOS Tracker™ catches up with Ben Taylor, COO of Front Gate Tickets, on how the company is using RFID technology to take concerts cashless. This issue digs into the many moves by mobile payment technology providers like Square, as they set their sights on new markets and new payment experiences. Find all that, plus rankings of 271 top players in the space, inside this month’s issue.

The band is kicking into overdrive, and the crowd is on its feet, going bananas. Your attention drifts and panic surges over you for a moment. Instead of swaying to the music with thousands of fellow concertgoers, your heart skips a beat, and you pause to pat your pockets or tap your toe on your purse. They’re still there, and your panic dissolves for now, but you’ll do this all again — actually, many times — throughout the show. It’s part of the concert-going routine.

At major music festivals like Lollapalooza or Austin City Limits, which attract hundreds of thousands of music fans for all-day summer lineups, keeping track of cash and credentials (while achieving musical liftoff) can be a burden — and pickpockets are notoriously opportunistic.

Increasingly, however, large music festivals and many others are starting to make use of mPOS technology to keep track of who’s coming and going through festival gates, simultaneously enabling attendees to pay for food, libations and merchandise, while leaving their wallet and paper tickets at home. Through partnerships with ticket technology providers like Ticketmaster subsidiary Front Gate Tickets, more music festivals are turning to wearables, like wristbands embedded with mobile ticketing and payment technology, simplifying the credentialing and payment process for both vendors and consumers.

In a recent interview, Ben Taylor, COO of Front Gate Tickets, told PYMNTS that the bracelets, which use RFID technology to communicate with ticketing and payment devices, were first planned for limited rollout in 2010 for ticketing and access control alone. But, as attendees received the technology favorably, Taylor and his team decided to have all partner festivals go paperless, beginning in 2013.

Soon after, they started exploring other uses for the technology, including giving customers the option to link debit and credit cards to the wristbands, enabling payments, which they began rolling out in 2014. Since then, the technology has really caught on with consumers, according to Taylor.

“We’re seeing some very high adoption rates for this technology,” Taylor said. “The festivals do a good job of encouraging people to link their payment or other information to the wristbands, and we’re seeing lots of people sign up for them, and then 100 percent of the people that link payments use it for at least one transaction, so it seems the fans definitely see a value in the service.”

Going Cashless for More Revenue? 

According to Taylor, the mobile technology isn’t just a value-add for customer festivals — it’s also a boon for the festivals and vendors that sell goods or services and accept payment via the wristbands.

Research shows that customers who use mobile payments technology to place food orders via smartphone apps often make larger purchases than those who order in-store — and Taylor said that a similar phenomenon exists among festival fans who use the mobile wristbands for payments.

“I think it’s a bit of [a] cruise ship mentality. It almost doesn’t seem real if you don’t have to pull out your cash or credit card until the bill comes due at the end,” Taylor explained. “So, we’ve definitely seen this technology increase the per person spending, and also the number of transactions of people who opt-in to the mobile payments.”

And, as mobile payment technology becomes more commonplace — not just at music festivals and through wearable devices, but also at retail stores and through smartphones — concertgoers have become even more willing to spend mobile money, Taylor noted.

“When we first rolled out payments, there was a pretty minimal adoption rate compared to ticketing,” he said. “But it’s exploded over the past three festival cycles. It’s nearly tripled the adoption rate that we’ve seen, and I think that’s in part because it’s a technology that people are becoming more familiar with.”

Safer, with Security Inside

Taylor told PYMNTS that one of the reasons he believes festivalgoers have flocked to the mobile features, in addition to the convenience offered by removing paper tickets and physical wallets from the equation, is safety.

While music fans may like to envision music festivals as bubbles of peace and love, they can be a perfect environment for bad actors. With so many strangers standing shoulder to shoulder, carrying large amounts of physical currency can make fans vulnerable to theft. By leaving cash at home, fans can worry less and enjoy the festival experience more.

But, of course, digital payments are not exactly theft-proof yet either, which is why Taylor said he and his team designed the bracelets with a few crucial security features.

“We are not actually storing any information on the wristband — it’s completely encrypted and tokenized — so there’s nothing that can be accessed by someone who shouldn’t be getting their hands on it,” he explained. “We also recognize that during a festival it can be kind of easy to lose a wristband or something like that, so we also require a PIN to be entered before any payments are accepted, so if someone finds your wristband and tries to use it and they don’t have your pin, it won’t work.”

Live Music’s Mobile Future?

With adoption rates for both ticketing and payment features on the rise, Taylor and his team looked to add more features to the technology, including fan engagement, loyalty and other capabilities.

He said the idea is to keep fans invested in the technology and get more fans interested in adopting it by making the wristbands an integral part of the festival experience. Taylor also noted that as more consumers use mobile technology for payments, engagement, communication and other day-to-day activities, he expects more fans to embrace paying for purchases via these mobile devices.

As more music festivals and fans go mobile thanks to boosted convenience, security and revenue, there could be another upside — more fans swaying on beat, thanks to fewer off-beat pocket pats and purse toe-taps.

To download the May edition of the mPOS Tracker, click the button below …

About the Tracker

The PYMNTS mPOS Tracker™ is your go-to resource for staying up to date on a month-by-month basis. The Tracker highlights the contribution of different stakeholders, including institutions and technology coming together to make this happen.