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Kyodo News The Internet set the scene, cellular phones followed, and now convenience stores have jumped on the bandwagon, drastically changing the way people in Japan buy tickets for concerts, plays and sports events.

A ticket agent offers potential buyers a lottery for advance tickets on its Internet site.

Advances in communications technology are making online ticket purchasing a virtual must for music fans, while tickets for some sports events and stage dramas are following suit.

Boosting the trend is the emergence of i-mode mobile phones linked to the Internet, and ticket agents have inaugurated a lottery system for buyers prior to the day tickets go on sale.

Added to these developments, convenience stores have set up terminals to give ticket purchasers more choices, effectively putting an end to long lines on the street for advance tickets.

Tickets for concerts, sports events, theater and movies are normally available from producers, promoters and ticket agents. Familiar distributors include PIA Corp., Lawson Ticket Inc., Entertainment Plus Inc. and BigHoliday Co.

NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest mobile phone operator, marketed i-mode phones in February 1999 and has since developed new models and gained more than 20 million subscribers.

PIA, a ticket sales firm and operator of diversified information businesses, started selling tickets in September 1998 through terminals at FamilyMart Co. convenience stores. Now numbering 5,700, the terminals spare ticket buyers from time-consuming repeated telephone calls to make a reservation, the company said.

PIA’s ticket-related sales during fiscal 1999 totaled 51.1 billion yen, with nearly 20 percent coming from these terminals. PIA officials said convenience stores are expected to further increase ticket sales in the future.

PIA has been operating a digital lottery system for ticket buyers, called My Dechu, for its estimated 400,000 PIA cardholders since December 1999.

Using the Internet, PIA asks members to register their favorite artists and offers this information to entertainment producers, who can anticipate consumer demand and turnout for concerts.

Lawson Ticket began ticket sales nationwide in February 1998 using terminals — called Loppi — set up at Lawson convenience stores. The terminals also accept ticket reservations.

Noting the company’s many late-night customers, officials said the terminals’ best selling point is they are open 24 hours.

Entertainment Plus Inc., a joint venture of the Saison group and Sony Corp., began online ticket sales in April, taking over the 225 outlets of Ticket Saison, which folded in October 1999.

While these firms send customers the usual paper tickets, a revolutionary electronic ticket business called e-ticket.net offers prospective customers “e-tickets.” Before buying, customers can see views of the concert hall and of the stage from various seats. Buyers are then sent an encoded card, which they then insert into devices temporarily installed at the venue.

PIA has a similar idea it calls the digital ticket system, which plans to use ticket-reading devices permanently installed at venues. The problem is who will bear the cost of installing the devices.

Ryuichi Ikeda, PIA’s digital business manager, said the company hopes to have the digital system running in limited areas in 2002.

“I don’t think paper tickets will disappear, but (the system) will provide users a big benefit in terms of the wide choice of options they will have.”

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