Monday's news that pharmaceutical company Pfizer's early results on a new COVID-19 vaccine showed a 90% efficacy rate on an initial clinical trial have given concert professionals hope that the business can start mounting a return in 2021. As part of that preparation, Ticketmaster has been working on a framework for post-pandemic fan safety that uses smart phones to verify fans' vaccination status or whether they've tested negative for the coronavirus within a 24 to 72 hour window.
Many details of the plan, which is still in development phase, will rely on three separate components -- the Ticketmaster digital ticket app, third party health information companies like CLEAR Health Pass or IBM's Digital Health Pass and testing and vaccine distribution providers like Labcorp and the CVS Minute Clinic.
Here's how it would work, if approved: After purchasing a ticket for a concert, fans would need to verify that they have already been vaccinated (which would provide approximately one year of COVID-19 protection) or test negative for coronavirus approximately 24 to 72 hours prior to the concert. The length of coverage a test would provide would be governed by regional health authorities -- if attendees of a Friday night concert had to be tested 48 hours in advance, most could start the testing process the day before the event. If it was a 24-hour window, most people would likely be tested the same day of the event at a lab or a health clinic.
Once the test was complete, the fan would instruct the lab to deliver the results to their health pass company, like CLEAR or IBM. If the tests were negative, or the fan was vaccinated, the health pass company would verify the attendee's COVID-19 status to Ticketmaster, which would then issue the fan the credentials needed to access the event. If a fan tested positive or didn't take a test to verify their status, they would not be granted access to the event. There are still many details to work out, but the goal of the program is for fans to take care of vaccines and testing prior to the concert and not show up hoping to be tested onsite.
Ticketmaster would not store or have access to fans' medical records and would only receive verification of whether a fan is cleared to attend an event on a given date. Different states will have different requirements. The main role of companies like health pass companies will be to collect data from testing and medical providers and deliver status updates to partner companies in a secure, encrypted way that complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
To date, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any third-party companies to provide the complex technology needed to deliver real-time vaccination results, but Ticketmaster president Mark Yovich expects the demand for digital screening services -- which will be needed for airline travel, employment verification and theme park entry -- will attract a new wave of investors and entrepreneurs to fuel the growth of a new COVID-19 technology sector.
"We’re already seeing many third-party health care providers prepare to handle the vetting -- whether that is getting a vaccine, taking a test, or other methods of review and approval - which could then be linked via a digital ticket so everyone entering the event is verified," Yovich tells Billboard. "Ticketmaster’s goal is to provide enough flexibility and options that venues and fans have multiple paths to return to events, and is working to create integrations to our API and leading digital ticketing technology as we will look to tap into the top solutions based on what’s green-lit by officials and desired by clients."
For Ticketmaster, two new technologies at the companies will help its clients scale the program. The first is digital ticketing that's linked to a fan’s identity, eliminates paper tickets and can be restricted from being transferred or resold. Ticketmaster also plans to deploy its new SmartEvent system, which helps event organizers and fans manage social distancing, delayed entry and provide possible opportunities for contact tracing. Many of the safety parameters will be set by regional health officials and event organizers. Event organizers also have the ability to set their own prevention protocols, like sanitation, mask compliance and social distancing.
Because Ticketmaster tickets the vast majority of sports leagues in the United States, as well as concert venues and Live Nation owned properties, the implementation of their COVID-19 plan will be an important milestone for the live entertainment industry.
“In order for live events to return, technology and science are going to play huge roles in establishing integrated protocols so that fans, artists, and employees feel safe returning to venues," says Marianne Herman, co-founder and principal reBUILD20, which focuses on helping entertainment and live events companies develop COVID-19 strategies. "Integrating ticketing platforms with the guests verified testing results is one key way to reimagine how we’re going to get fans back to live events. The experience of attending live events will look completely different, but innovation married with consistent implementation will provide a framework to get the live sports and event industry back to work.”