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CrowdSurge comments on Bloc debacle

By | Published on Wednesday 11 July 2012

Bloc Weekend

CrowdSurge, the direct-to-fan ticketing company that powered ticket sales for last weekend’s Bloc Festival, has issued a statement distancing itself from the problems that occurred at the event which, as previously reported, was shut down amidst over-crowding shortly after midnight on Friday night.

As also previously reported, while Bloc promoter Baselogic continue to investigate what went wrong, opinion is divided amongst those who attended the event as to why crowd management became such an issue that promoters and police feared for audience safety.

Some reckon that too many people were admitted to the festival, possibly because of a problem with the ticketing process, while others have suggested that, although in theory the London Pleasure Gardens could more than accommodate the event’s 18,000 capacity, the way the complex was used, with nearly all the stages on one half of the site, could not.

Also, organisers possibly didn’t plan to accommodate all punters in performance areas at the same time, basing their plans on previous Bloc events where, being held at holiday camps, a portion of the audience would be in their chalets at any one time.

Of course until Bloc officially reports on the circumstances that resulted in last Friday’s shutdown it’s impossible to know what happened. But in a statement issued yesterday, CrowdSurge insisted that neither its ticket booking system or barcode scanning equipment was to blame.

Many Bloc ticket-buyers have observed that they could print out multiple copies of their tickets, though that is always the case with e-tickets. That said, the Teknoids blog, among others, has also noted that by pulling the HTML code out of e-tickets and changing one number in the barcode URL, punters could manufacture additional tickets with different barcodes (those who bought multiple tickets having noticed that the barcode numbers went up sequentially, so they could easily guess alternative codes).

CrowdSurge notes that even if numerous people did arrive at the site with the same barcode, only one ticket-buyer would be able to get past the gates, because the company’s scanners would only authenticate each barcode once. Though, if people who had illegitimately manufactured a barcode got there first, then the genuine ticket buyer with the same code might not get in, which could have caused confusion at the gates, which might have explained the queues and, if stewards ultimately decided to let people in even if their barcodes didn’t scan, overcrowding.

CrowdSurge, whose only involvement at the actual event was the scanning of the barcodes, says that it was not aware of any widespread issues with ticket scanning and that isolated (and to be expected) problems with certain e-tickets were dealt with on a case by case basis. But, the company adds, decisions were made at the event’s gates beyond its control which may have caused the overcrowding problems.

In its statement, CrowdSurge says: “The number of tickets sold for the event on Friday 6 Jul was 15,796 – a figure far short of the 18,000 capacity placed by the festival organisers and the 30,000 posted by London Pleasure Gardens. Throughout the process Baselogic controlled the amount of tickets sold and this was at the discretion of Baselogic, not CrowdSurge”.

It continues: “CrowdSurge were advised to ‘shut down’ scanners at 21.27pm on Friday 6 Jul 2012, whilst the queuing barriers were reorganised. At this point 8,000 people had been given access to the site. The entry gates were reopened and scanning and personal searches ceased as per the request of Baselogic and London Pleasure Gardens staff. At no point throughout the scanning process did the scanners cease to operate”.

Meanwhile CrowdSurge CEO Martyn Noble told CMU: “It is evident that there was a combination of factors causing the cancellation of the Bloc Festival on Friday evening. The decisions taken had personal safety as the prime concern and as a result, personal injury was averted. We are immensely disappointed for the fans, the artists and festival organisers that the event was cancelled and will work with Baselogic and third parties to establish ‘what happened and why’ throughout their investigation. We sympathise with the frustration caused in lack of detailed statement coming forward from a variety of parties which is creating angst among fans waiting for refunds and an understanding of what went wrong”.

Perhaps more importantly for those ticket-buyers waiting for refunds, CrowdSurge has confirmed that Baselogic handled all payments directly, so no money went through the CrowdSurge system, meaning punters are relying on the promoters themselves to refund ticket monies. Whether the company will be able to do this remains to be seen. It’s thought most artists received 50% of their fees upfront which, coupled with the costs incurred to set up the site, will have used up a sizable portion of ticket revenues, making it unlikely the company would be able to refund all ticket buyers in full. Many insiders in the live sector – including agents who remain fans of Bloc’s promoters for their past achievements – expect the Baselogic company to move into administration at some point.

More information about all this is expected in due course.