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2021-08-19 09:24:23

Starting Thursday, China has implemented a centralized ticketing system for its thriving live performance sector to better regulate sales and deter scalpers from reselling tickets illegally, usually at higher prices.

All domestic ticketing systems for live performances — including music, dance, comedy, and plays — will be linked to a national ticketing information management platform with unified standards for sales, distribution, and refunds. The guideline was initially issued in July by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

China Association of Performing Arts (CAPA), an industry body under the ministry that led the creation of the standards, said Tuesday that their implementation will effectively curb scalpers as well as help monitor ticket sales and analyze the performance industry.

Demand for live performances has risen in China over the years, with revenues totaling 20 billion yuan in 2019, up by 7.3% year-on-year, according to an industry report published by Damai.cn, one of China’s largest online ticketing platforms. Data indicates the performance market has even outpaced the growth of the country’s film box office, which showed an annual growth of 5.4% that year.

However, the performance sector has been mired with ticketing issues, including being criticized for opaque practices, with a handful of local and national vendors operating independently. This includes the above-mentioned Alibaba-owned Damai.cn, a ticketing firm backed by leading theater management company Poly Theater, and some smaller companies developed by local theaters who angry fans have accused of reserving tickets for speculation and scalping.

Such practices were once so prevalent that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued a notice in 2017, requiring at least 70% of tickets for commercial performance to be sold to the public.

Pan Yan, secretary-general of CAPA, told Sixth Tone that leading ticketing platforms such as Damai.cn, Maoyan Entertainment, and Showstart have been linked to the national ticketing platform, while others may be included by the end of the year.

“Regulators used to lag behind as they couldn’t see data on each ticketing platform in real time,” Pan said. “Now with a transparent and unified ticketing system, they can respond to problems of the ticketing market faster, for example, if a performance fails to open enough tickets for sale.”

According to CAPA, the new guideline will facilitate reliable data analysis on various kinds of performances, while keeping tabs on the ticket sales. Regulators will achieve this through a unique digital code assigned to every ticket, which will include information about the type of performance and venue.

China’s performance industry has gradually bounced back following months of closures due to pandemic-related restrictions last year, and continues to suffer from sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks. However, recent ticket sales have been strong, with revenues for music and talk shows seeing a threefold increase during the five-day Labor Day holiday this year compared with 2019.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: People Visual)