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Far, far more than just a ticket

Features
22 October 2019

It’s a dynamic and fast-evolving sector driven by ever expanding  technological advancements, enabling event organisers to sell more tickets, more quickly and broaden the buying experience of the music fan. Survival depends on market share, as booking fees are the only income, so competition is intense. Claire Bicknell reports.

Ticketing is a fast-moving sector with several major players and a host of relative newcomers who are, along with the established firms, driving innovation through the latest technology. Screens are being installed in a variety

Where customers choose to buy their concert or festival tickets from is wider than ever before, with providers working hard to ensure their offer and purchase experience stands out from their rivals.

Survival is about getting market share and hanging onto it.

The leading players include Ticketmaster (TM), which is owned by Live Nation Entertainment (LNE), Vivendi’s See Tickets, Ticketline Network, AEG’s AXS, Eventim UK, The Ticket Factory, Skiddle, Gigantic, Eventbrite and DICE.

Many belong to the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), where members need to follow a code of practice, and which provides consumer guidance on how to purchase tickets.

Increased scrutiny and action to curtail the secondary marketplace from the Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA) and Trading Standards, as well as the Digital Media & Sport Select Committee, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse and industry campaign group FanFair Alliance, have had a significant impact on the sector.

All that activity has also persuaded most primary companies that they need to offer a legitimate ticket return and resale facility to their customers, such as TM introducing its fan-to-fan Ticket Exchange marketplace in the UK. AEG also ended its partnership with resale platform StubHub, launching its own price-capped resale service AXS Marketplace in the UK.

TM is the world’s leading ticketing company, with 500 million sold each year across 30 countries, and over one billion digital visitors annually to its sites, and is the predominant player in the UK marketplace.

Also announced in March 2019 was that venue chain Academy Music Group (AMG) had partnered with TM to roll-out digital tickets across all its premises

“Last year saw the biggest spike in mobile sales we’ve ever seen, and we only expect it to continue to rise,” says TM UK MD Andrew Parsons. “The world is mobile, so it’s no surprise that fans are demanding that same level of simplicity when it comes to ticketing.

“Buying a ticket and going to a concert should be as easy as ordering an Uber or a Deliveroo.

“Our team thinks mobile-first with everything; from how fans discover events, through to digital methods of entry when they get there. Getting rid of the anonymous paper ticket has completely changed the game for fans and artistes alike,” he says.

“Delivering a ticket to each fan’s smartphone means we know who walks in the door, not just who bought the ticket. This increases security and marketing potential, while simultaneously reducing fraud.”

See Tickets sells 11 million tickets a year, and provides the back-office systems that handle the one million-plus ticket applications that Glastonbury Festival gets for the 147,000 available, and has 4,000 clients in the UK.

“We’re a full-service business, so its transactional services, marketing, client and customer care, software development, on-site services, and much more – we do everything,” says global CEO Rob Wilmshurst. “Financing is also important now for select clients; we have a strong balance sheet, and so we use it.

“See Tickets will fulfill tickets in any format the promoter and, or, the venue requires, which still includes hard copy tickets along with the digital alternatives.

“What do concert-goers want? Probably not some of the crazier stuff we’re asked to do. Personally, I think sometimes we all go a bit too far, and it can be a drag for customers,” adds Wilmshurst.

It offers its Fan-to-Fan resale marketplace, fully integrated into its main site.

“Fan-to-Fan is our own ethical resale site, where customers can have a safe space to resell genuinely wanted or unusual tickets, but only at the price they paid or less,” says Wilmshurst.

Other See developments include an imminent launch of Identity, its data analysis and marketing suite which Wilmshurst states will be a ‘huge step up in client functionality’, and the company is further expanding internationally with Digitick (France) and Paylogic (The Netherlands) set to rebrand to See Tickets by the end of the year.

Fan power

Now wholly owned by AEG, AXS is the ticketing partner for the company’s flagship London venues The O2 (21,000), which AEG owns, and The SSE Arena, Wembley (12,500), which it manages.

“AXS global aggregate ticket sales are 48 million over the past year,” says director of ticketing Paul Newman. “We had six sold-out shows for Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time [65,000] in London’s Hyde Park as the lead agent, and we’re the exclusive ticketing provider for Capital’s Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium [80,000].

“We also handled the ticketing and resales for Ed Sheeran’s dates in Leeds and Ipswich. And The O2 continues to have multiple sell-outs for artistes including Elton John with six shows, six nights for Hugh Jackman, three for Shawn Mendes and three for Ariana Grande.”

Newman notes digital ticketing is becoming ever-more popular, with its Flash mobile platform allowing concert-goers to show their tickets on their phone using the AXS app.

“We’re now 60 per cent digital tickets at The O2 and The SSE Arena, Wembley and expect this will only increase further,” adds Newman. “Digital tickets have a rotating barcode on them which refreshes every 59 seconds to stop people selling screen shots. Yes, some people do try it.”

Newman states its in-house services including marketing have got even more data driven over the past year, but fans can also support the marketing drive.

“Fans of the younger artistes, such as the K-pop acts, will do a lot of the pre-marketing for you,” says Newman. “The BTS Army will get the word out on social media and then the demand for the tickets will be through the roof.

“You’ll know what to expect, and it’s also about coping with the fallout from those who can’t get the tickets. You can still get caught out though; when Drake and The Weeknd first started touring in the UK, the audience demand came out of nowhere.”

The company also offers AXS Marketplace, its face-value ticket resale platform, as a safe and secure way for ticket holders to resell their tickets, at no more than 10 per cent above their original purchase price.

“We may see the introduction of more clever ticket balloting in the future,” adds Newman. “Customers will be able to express an interest in a show in advance of it going on sale, and tickets are allocated in a ballot – similar to what happens with sporting events such as The Ryder Cup. The traditional ‘show goes on sale at 9am on Friday’ may well change.”

Putting fans first

Established for over 30 years, Ticketline sells millions of tickets a year across concerts, festivals, comedy, sports, and outdoor events, working with events such as Kendal Calling (25,000)and Green Man (10,000), and promoters including Kennedy Street Enterprises, LCC Live and SSD Concerts.

“Our major product launch this year has been Fanticks, a fan-to-fan resale marketplace that places real fans first, enabling them to sell unwanted or spare tickets,” says head of marketing James Lee. “We created it to support our customers, beat the touts and ensure that customers are protected and obtain tickets to events at the face value, or less.”

Ticketline also offers its self-service ticketing platform Ticketlight, which provides clients with in-depth reporting and ticketing management. Last year the service was extended further to enable clients to take advantage of a real-time barcode scanning application.

Its motivated fan ‘rep’ sales service The Ticket Network was also launched last year enabling especially motivated fans to promote tickets to their peers in return for rewards.

Selling around 250 million tickets annually, pan-Europe ticketing giant CTS Eventim opening its UK office in 2009.

“We’ve had a really strong year so far, including a record-breaking Rammstein European tour hitting the big numbers in terms of peak web traffic, on-sale resilience and sell-out stadiums – 800,000 tickets sold in 90 minutes across 23 countries,” says Eventim UK operations director Maddy Dart.

“In the first hour on sale, more than one million people accessed the onsale with peak rates reaching 80,000 requests per second.

“We have fully embraced the trends for mobile ticketing, offering print at home or fully integrated mobile tickets for customers to gain entry to an event. Our Eventim Scan app has made it possible for promoters or venues of any size to supply fully mobile operations for an event.”

It also offers Eventim Fanticket, a full-colour digitally produced printed ticket that can be set on an event basis or cover a whole tour.

“There’s still a real attachment with fans to receive or collect an event keepsake, despite the trends for mobile tickets, so we like to cater to all fan demographics,” adds Dart.

A new launch this year will be Eventim Light – a new online, self-service tool for promoters, and it offers its face value fan-to-fan site Eventim fanSALE.

The company co-owns London’s Eventim Apollo (5,100) and has a branding deal with Liverpool’s Eventim Olympia (2,000).

Delivering digitally

Global ticketing and event technology platform Eventbrite aims to provides event creators with the tools and resources to plan, promote and produce live experiences.

It has 14 offices across the world and issued more than 265 million tickets last year for 3.9 million events in 170 countries. Its UK and Ireland subsidiary works with clients including WOMAD (26,000), Elrow Town (20,000) and Ramblin’ Man Fair (15,000).

“We also offer integrated ticket sales on Facebook, meaning that fans never have to leave the site to buy their concert tickets and they even receive their tickets in the Facebook app, alongside other e-ticket formats such as the Eventbrite app, emailed PDFs for printing, in iPhone wallet and on various smartwatches,” says Eventbrite UK and Ireland head of marketing Paul McCrudden.

“E-tickets are preferred by the majority of ticket buyers but depending on the country, music genre – for eample heavy metal, there is still a certain demand for paper tickets.”

Clients can access all their event data at any stage on the platform, including detailed information on their audience and ticket sales insights, and it employs its own technology – utilising a decade of work in fraud prevention – to help events looking to protect ticket prices and mitigate touting.

Data sciences

Dice launched in 2014 on a mission to ‘get people out more’ and its clients include London venues Troxy (3,100), Scala (1,145), Islington Assembly Hall (800), and AEG Presents’ division Goldenvoice UK. It also now operates in the US, France, Australia and Italy.

Its mobile ticketing app locks tickets to the mobile device that was used to purchase them.

“Mobile tickets locked to smartphones then can’t be resold,” explains chief revenue officer Russ Tannen. “A waiting list and refund system on sold-out shows completely removes the need for secondary resale. We also have a super smart team and technology that spots suspicious activity.

“Concert-goers want mobile tickets all the way. Paper tickets are a pain for fans – touts love them, we hate them.”

Dice offers a full range of box office services depending on client needs, and has a dedicated data and insight team.

“We’re going way beyond ticketing and into live music discovery. Our first employee was a data scientist, and each week our algorithms recommend the best shows for each fan based on their taste – it’s zero-effort for fans to see a range of shows they’ll love,” adds Tannen.

Launched in 2001, Skiddle has grown from a side project in a student bedroom to a company employing 55 full-timestaff, working with 20,000 event organisers internationally.

It sold 3.5 million tickets last year, with promoter clients including Live Nation Entertainment, Kilimanjaro Live, Now Wave and Soundcrash.

“We offer fully managed ticketing services through to self-service,” says co-founder and director Ben Sebborn. “We have a full team of account and content managers, and videographers, who will do a lot of promotion for events too. We can provide hard copy tickets if a promoter requires this, but our main offers is e-tickets.

“We’re a customer-first ticket agent and offer a lot of different features, such as Remind Me automated on-sale notifications to the customer on sign-up, and artiste alerts.

“We were the first ticket agent to offer a cooling off period for tickets, and one of the first to offer a resale platform.”

Skiddle is in the process of redeveloping its e-tickets entry management system Rapidscan, and has added RFID (radio frequency ID) and cashless features into its offer. Its promoters’ self-service centre is also being rewritten from scratch, following feedback from promoters about the features they’d like on it. This will be relaunched in early 2020.

“We’ve also launched a big data platform which provides insights into the behavior of our customers,” adds Sebborn.

Staying ahead

NEC Group-owned The Ticket Factory (TTF) sells over 2.5m tickets a year to more than 1,500 events, and was set up in 2007 to service the box offices NEC venues Arena Birmingham (15,800) and Resorts World Arena (15,685).

It also sells for an extensive range of events across the country and is the ticketing partner for Barclaycard. Recent on-sales include The Who at Resorts World Arena, and Celine Dion, Stereophonics and The 1975 at Arena Birmingham.

“We work in a very competitive industry and we are competing against some fantastic ticketing agents. We realise, to be the ticketing company of choice, we need to be the best at customer and client service,” says TTF director of ticketing Richard Howle. “There’s a whole team behind each transaction, from our contact centre to those who look after marketing and social media, through to our in-house IT development team.”

TTF sells both hard and e-tickets, and demographics dictate what an audience prefers.

“For an older audience, such as for André Rieu or Andrea Bocelli, the preference tilts towards hard tickets, but e-tickets are by far the most popular for concerts with a younger fan base,” adds Howle.

The biggest change for TTF over the past year has been a complete overhaul of its website, with input from customer research. An interactive seat map is now available, as well as additional options to add to customer baskets including parking, hotels and train travel.

Cutting e-missions

Operating since 2002, Oxford-based WeGotTickets sold one million tickets in the past year across 30,000 events. It works primarily with grassroots and small-to-medium sized venues and promoters such as Crosstown Concerts, Eat Your Own Ears, Green Mind Gigs and Divine Schism.

“We were the first company to bring e-ticketing to live music and events in the UK,” says marketing manager Steven Endersby. “Our 10 per cent booking fee helped drive down fees across the industry – which were at an average of around 25 per cent back then – and we’ve strived for best practice ever since

“Our paper ticket list and barcode admissions systems give venues and event organisers flexibility, and our ticketing platform and its many reporting tools provide everything an event organiser could need. We continuously listen to feedback from clients as to how we can make their jobs easier and develop new features to meet those needs.”

Other company developments include offering refund protection to customers, and it prides itself on its environmental CSR.

“One hundred per cent of the tickets we sell are delivered by email, for various reasons, including the hugely reduced carbon emissions of an e-ticket system,” says Endersby. “We commissioned a study that showed that a paper ticketed event emits over 1,000 times more carbon than one using e-ticketing.”

Payment card checks

Established in 2007, Nottingham-based Gigantic counts Kilimanjaro Live, Live Nation Entertainment, DHP Family and Marshall Arts amongst its clients.

“The past 12 months has been a great year for ticket sales, and we worked closely with our promoters to assist them in achieving record sales for their events,” says founder Mark Gasson. “[Sheffield festival] Tramlines sold-out their 40,000 event this year, which has led to unprecedented demand for Tramlines 2020. Ed Sheeran’s final shows on the Divide tour were also a fitting finale for a busy summer.

“We’re particularly proud to have been involved in the Sheeran dates as we successfully utilised our contactless card technology to effectively combat touting.

“After Ed Sheeran’s dates, we are confident that this is the future of combating touting and something we’ll continue to focus on,” adds Gasson.

Devon-based Ticket Zone has been operating since 1980, processing 750,000 tickets in the past year across a variety of live entertainment events. Clients include Disney on Ice producer Feld Entertainment and Strictly Come Dancing Live.

“As a background service provider, we focus on helping clients fill the gaps in their own in-house operations,” says MD Domingo Tjornelund.

“The white label services we offer can use hard, soft and e-tickets. Much of the trade desk and customer fulfilment work we do still involves the distribution of hard ticket stock supplied by the venues, which remains very relevant in the markets we work in.

“Most of the third-party systems we use, when we are providing a behind-the-scenes service for our clients, still predominantly use thermal stock issued at their venues. We also have clients who sell online or in a call centre, but ask us to print their physical thermal tickets at our offices, for sending out to their customers.”

Festival ticketing

Festicket aims to empower music fans to discover and book tickets and travel packages to over 2,000 music festivals worldwide, using a network of over 8,000 accommodation and travel suppliers.

The company has served over two million travelers from over 120 countries and boasts a community of over 2.5m registered, highly engaged, global travelers, adventurers and live music lovers.

Clients include London’s All Points East (40,000) and Wireless (45,000) festivals, venue chain Academy Music Group and US festival Coachella (125,000)..

In August the company acquired ticketing platform Event Genius and the associated Ticket Arena brand.

The new offering – known as Event Genius by Festicket – will create a platform bringing together technology and expertise in ticketing, accommodation, travel and packages, marketing, data insights and analytics, access control, POS and cashless payment services, fan engagement tools and much more.

“After recently acquiring Event Genius, the extent of the ticketing services we now offer to the live music industry has increased significantly,” says Festicket CEO Zack Sabban.

The company recently released its new payment feature – Pay with Friends – which allows festival-goers to seamlessly split the cost of the booking with friends.

So, the race continues. Keeping up-to-date with technological advances and customer expectations continues to drive this sector relentlessly onward, much to the benefit of event organisers, venue operators and of course, live music fans.

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