Una Tickets Founder Amar Chauhan on His Plans to Revolutionize the Live Business & Beat Scalpers (Exclusive)

A brand new ticketing platform has launched in the UK that aims to shake up the live music business by combating touting and counterfeiting, as well as eliminate booking fees.

Una Tickets is an end-to-end ticketing agency that requires customers to pay a one-off registration fee, priced at £5.99 ($9.00). In return, they receive a personalized RFID smart card -- similar to the dual-chip Oyster card system used on London’s Underground transport network -- and access to a mobile app that, the company claims, will provide music fans with a safer, cheaper and more efficient method to purchase tickets.

“We set this up to change the industry and clean up the industry. It’s been a mess for far too long,” co-founder and managing director Amar Chauhan tells Billboard. “We’re not interested in pushing costs onto the customer. It’s clear that consumers and event organizers wants solutions for touting [scalping] and counterfeiting and they are fed up with the way that Ticketmaster and other ticketing companies are treating customers.”

Key to Una’s offering is that registered pass holders do not pay booking fees on all ticket transactions and pay only face-value, although credit cards users will still incur the standard banking charges.

The Milton Keynes-based company also claims that Una is impossible to counterfeit and eliminates ticket scalping, as each registered card and app interface carries photo identification that exclusively links it to the user. Registered ticket holders who are no longer able to attend an event will still be able to transfer tickets to friends or family, or sell them to another Una customer, but only at face value or less.

“We’re not restricting genuine fans, but restricting touts,” explains Chauhan, who -- in line with like other RFID ticketing systems -- cites real-time analytics as one of the benefits that Una can pass on to promoters.

“At any festival or event site they can instantly see which areas are close to capacity, which areas and bands are most popular and manage crowd control a lot more efficiently,” he says. Other advantages to the system include age verification (at a cost of £3.00/$4.60 to the customer), the ability to make cashless payments on site and a smoother one-time registration process for disabled customers. Una’s own revenues will come from customer registration fees, charging promoters for access control to venues via handheld and pre-installed scanners and data analytics.

At present, the company is operating in beta, with customers only able to register for a limited number of free passes. However, Chauhan says that he is in advanced talks with “a number of stadiums, festivals and a major tour promoter” and is confident that the platform will start selling its first batch of tickets this summer. Initially it will have a UK-only remit, although discussions are also taking place with a number of European and North American festival promoters.

“One of the main reasons for targeting festivals is that a lot of them are independently owned and want complete control of their ticketing to make sure that they go to genuine fans,” says Chauhan, identifying Una’s dual chip card proposition as ideal for the festival market, where smartphones are the typically the biggest area of theft.

Companies and startups that operate in a similar field to Una include Canada-based cashless payment provider Intellitix and San Francisco-based WillCall, a concert discovery, ticketing, and in-venue commerce application for iOS and Android that was acquired by Ticketfly last year.

Lollapalooza, Mysteryland, Coachella, Bonnaroo, South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival have also all experimented with cashless RFID ticketing in recent years, while social concert app Jukely Unlimited took the concept one stage further by offering a subscription service that provides customers with entry to series of venues and shows as predetermined by the Jukely team.   

“While we believe this will probably be consumer-driven, there is huge demand out there and there are a number of promoters, festival organizers and artists who want solutions to these [secondary ticketing] problems,” comments Chauhan.  

The Una founder also says that his company’s cloud-based platform is more advanced than its vastly larger ticket-selling competitors such as Ticketmaster and See Tickets, who, he claims, use antiquated ‘legacy’ systems that commonly crash under high demand. A recent test exercise undertaken by Una processed 20 million virtual ticket transactions in 10 seconds without any problems, he says.

“In terms of scalability, it is infinite. We can sell any number of tickets to any number of people within seconds -- but it is a true first-come, first-served system,” states Una co-founder and commercial director Georgina Hollis.

To fund its soft launch, the start-up company has raised £1.1 million ($1.7 million) in private angel investment, led by Sir Peter Thompson, former deputy chairman of London’s Wembley Stadium. Una has also received a grant of £250,000 ($380,000) from the British government under its Innovate UK scheme, while its operations director is Andrew Spencer, a former director of Wembley Stadium and marketing manager at Ticketmaster.  

However, not everyone in the industry welcomes Una’s arrival, and Chauhan is under no illusion that major promoters such as Live Nation and its ticketing subsidiary Ticketmaster are likely to partner with the service any time soon.

“There are people in the industry who don’t want to get rid of touting, as it’s not in their interest to do so. But there is enough of a market out there that does want change,” he says, noting recently passed UK legislation that requires secondary market platforms to implement tighter controls on reselling.     

“The big boys are not interested in building a tech solution. Legislation has been passed, but incredibly watered down -- everyone has almost given up. So when we present this to [supportive promoters and event organizers], to them it’s almost like a breath of fresh air -- a sustainable, affordable solution.”