A comedy sensation in his native Holland, Jochem Myjer has over two million fans—nearly 15 percent percent of the country’s 17 million population. No wonder, then, that the comedian’s sell-out performances have been a prime target for ticket scalpers, who’ve mercilessly hiked up the prices.

Until now.

Last week, Myjer declared victory over the ticket resellers. Not one ticket for his current 36-show comedy tour has fallen into the hands of touts or agencies who inflate the prices, thanks to a new ticketing platform that puts sales on a blockchain.

“We just sold out the biggest theatre in Holland, in Amsterdam,” Myjer told Decrypt. “We sold about 50,000 tickets in less than two hours. It’s perfect—now you can’t find any tickets on the internet. It’s incredible! This is the new thing. Really!”

Myjer’s tickets are now sold exclusively by Holland’s GUTS Tickets. The startup uses the Ethereum-based GET protocol, which provides digitally self-aware “smart tickets.” It ensures fans are protected from fraud and ticket scalpers by registering the ownership and state changes of the tickets on the Ethereum blockchain. Most fans aren’t even aware of it—which, given how cumbersome most blockchain-based solutions are, is a good thing.

Comedy it is not

Myjer fought the scalpers for years, before finding GUTS tickets in 2017. He says twenty percent of the tickets for his comedy shows were being sold at inflated prices, often for as much as three times the original price.

Myjer is known for his enthusiastic, dynamic, hysterically funny performances, complete with music and crazy voice-changing acrobatics. But he’s loved for the bare emotion that belies his humor. Fans appreciate his efforts to keep ticket prices low; his war with the ticket touts is well known:

“Ticket sellers are making millions from reselling tickets. I was really angry about it, but I couldn’t do anything. People were even appealing to the Dutch Government to solve the problem,” he says.

Ticket reselling, by both unregistered scalpers and professional agencies,  is a problem worldwide, not just in Holland. The mark-ups can be eye-watering. An extreme example was a ticket for an Adele gig at London’s O2 Arena, with a face value of £85 ($111). It was listed on secondary ticketing site, Get Me In for £24,840 ($32,555) in 2016–some 290 times the face value.

Often, ordinary fans simply don’t get a chance to buy tickets at face value, even when they first go on sale. Within seconds of a big-name event, an army of touts swoops in, using multiple credit cards to bypass limitations on the number of tickets they can buy,

It was these antics that got the attention of Maarten Bloemers, then a young corporate lawyer who was looking into blockchain use cases. He was interested in solving the problem.

A comedy of courage

He went on to co-found GUTS in 2015, and become its CEO. Bloemers figured that putting ticketing onto the blockchain would simply be his first foray into the technology. But the GUTS platform, which has no marketing budget, has generated so much interest that “now it seems this is going to be the one, actually,” he said, during a call from Holland.

Bloemers and his founding team started by building a basic prototype. They showed it to an insurance company who gave them a small innovation grant.

But the turning point came when, after a few beers (for Dutch courage, presumably), one of the team members decided to make an impromptu visit to the house of another popular Dutch comedian, who had spoken out against scalping. His interest was immediate, and the project that had been put together “with duct tape” took off.

Between now and the date they ticketed their first event, April 2016, GUTS has acquired more than 60 clients—venues and artists, including Guus Meeuwis, “the Dutch Bruce Springsteen.” This year they are projected to sell over a million tickets.

“The dream we have is to eradicate scalping and fraud worldwide,” says Bloemers. The company is in talks with ticketing entities in over 40 countries, who are interested in using the platform. But GUTS isn’t limiting itself to event tickets. The team is talking with airlines, too, to see if blockchain has any applicability to buying plane tickets.

Hide the blockchain

The system works by registering a “proof of a right” to enter an event, on the blockchain, via the customer’s mobile phone. This gives GUTS control over the life cycle of the ticket and the ability to communicate with the person who owns it, as the ticket holder is always  the owner of the mobile phone. The possibilities spinning off from this are endless. They include crowd management, canceling gigs, even flagging safety hazards. The backend allows performers to communicate directly with fans, which itself creates new opportunities.

If somebody decides to pass on their ticket, a message is sent to those on the waitlist. When a buyer’s found, the ticket holder receives an immediate refund. For this to happen, GUTS currently acts as a sort of broker, But the company hopes to soon roll out a feature whereby the community monitors itself.

The platform runs on the GET cryptocurrency, which clients use to pay for the service. But ticket buyers don’t even need to know that the system uses a blockchain. GUTS is planning to keep it that way.

“We think that’s the way toward mass adoption of blockchain applications,” says Bloemers. “You have to make it frictionless to get it adopted. People are so spoiled, you have to make an awesome product, a seamless product that speaks for itself.”

What speaks to Jochem Myjer is that the gags can now start well before the show does, because he can now text fans directly.

“At three o’clock in the afternoon, they’ll be at work watching the clock and my name will come up on their phone. I’ll say something like, ‘I know there’s snow, but don’t eat yellow snow! I’ll see you tonight, I’m looking forward to it!’ It’s the first joke of the day. And they love it.”

Myjers isn’t interested in blockchain itself, or crypto per se, just the magic of the platform. “They’re solving a problem that was really making me sad,” he says. “I think in two or three years everyone will be selling with this system.”

The last laugh? Maybe it’s on the blockchain.

Image: Anne Reitsma