There's no doubt that the recent news of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine has people flipping their lids with excitement with the hope that maybe the new normal may soon return to the old normal.
But no one seems as excited as Ticketmaster, the same goons who put ticket-holders through the wringer this year when they quietly amended their refund policy to no longer offer full refunds for postponed or rescheduled events, only refunding those that had been formally canceled due to the pandemic. Though they reversed that bullshit amendment somewhat, now the event ticketing giant has unveiled a plan to screen people's COVID-19 status before being approved to purchase tickets to events.
Ticketmaster's proposed verification system, which is still in the developmental phase and poses many logistical “what ifs,” is detailed in an exclusive published by Billboard. It would require a whole lot of technology, some of which has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
First, a fan would purchase a ticket via the Ticketmaster digital ticket smartphone app. (This would help eliminate the selling or transfer of tickets, which could put concert-goers at risk of mingling with people who have not been officially vetted by Ticketmaster's master plan.) At this point, fans would have to produce one of the following pieces of information: their COVID-19 vaccination status or a negative COVID-19 test result taken 24-72 hours before the event, depending on local health guidelines and requirements.
Of course, someone could contract COVID-19 during that period, which means, well, part one of this plan is already fucked.
Next, the fan is responsible for instructing the lab where they got the test or vaccine (the article name drops Labcorp and CVS Minute Clinic) to then relay that information to a third party health screening company, like CLEAR or IBM, who would then send result information to Ticketmaster. (A quick search reveals that a CLEAR membership appears to cost $179.) If a fan tests positive or did not provide testing results, they will be denied access to the event. For those who have been vaccinated or tested negative, Ticketmaster would release the digital ticket and other necessary credentials to attend.
Per Billboard, Ticketmaster wouldn't have access to people's medical records, just the verification of COVID-19 status via the previously mentioned companies, but for some, the thought that their health information has been shared with Ticketmaster in the first place is deeply unsettling.
That said, according to Billboard, the FDA has “not approved any third-party companies to provide the complex technology needed to deliver real-time vaccination results,” though many industries are advocating for the approval and accessibility of these services.
Meanwhile, don't forget that an actual vaccine has not yet been approved nor distributed. Pfizer says that they could have enough doses of the vaccine by the end of the year for 15-20 million people to get the initial shot and the required booster, but even then it's likely that vulnerable and at-risk populations will be among the first to receive it. Concerts and festivals were one of the first things to get canceled during the pandemic, and they'll likely be the last to return.
The early draft of the plan also does not address any procedures for artists, vendors, or venue staff, nor does it include information as to whether venues — you know, small, independent and likely struggling ones — will be responsible for additional fees required to jump through these hoops, albeit necessary and cautionary hoops. Whatever happens, we can be sure that Ticketmaster will slap some downright nasty fees onto already fee-heavy tickets, because that's what they do.
On top of that, fans will need a smartphone, health care plan, and health screening membership fee.
Oh, how we miss the old normal.
This story was originally published by CityBeat's sister paper, the Detroit Metro Times