The event ticketing business is arguably the most technologically dynamic sector in live entertainment. With paper ticketing dying out and barcodes potentially next in line, concert tickets are available in an increasing array of formats, but the pace of change is a constant challenge for the world’s leading providers. Christopher Barrett reports
Digital services have played havoc with established recorded music industry revenue models, but they have also enabled unprecedented access to content.
Live music fans expect to be able to access tickets for concerts just as easily as they can music.
In response to that demand, the ticketing industry is adapting and adopting technology to enable fans to acquire tickets from an ever expanding array of digital platforms, including streaming and social media services.
Leading primary ticketing services have also been harnessing technology to tackle the secondary ticketing vultures who circle any in-demand event.
Many primary ticketing operators have launched face-value, ticket exchange platforms to provide a safe and secure alternative.
The priority for primary operators is to sell tickets and retain and win market share, and the best way to do that is to provide customers with an efficient end-to-end service, from event discovery and ticket purchase to ticket transfer and venue access.
The use of mobile apps and digital tickets has also enabled ticket agencies to garner increased insight into the ticket buyer’s identity and interests, enabling them to create highly personalised marketing.
The world’s biggest ticketing operation, Live Nation Entertainment-owned Ticketmaster is active in multiple markets worldwide and focusing heavily on digital ticketing.
In May the company unveiled SafeTix; a digital ticket tied to a user’s mobile device via an encrypted barcode that is automatically refreshed every few seconds. The tickets include near-field communication (NFC) technology, which enables users to simply tap in with their mobile device when entering venues.
Ticketmaster (TM) UK MD Andrew Parsons says digital tickets have been a game-changer for the company.
“We’re live [with digital tickets] in venues across the UK, Ireland and Australia, with our European markets to follow next year,” he says.
TM research shows that 91 per cent of users were satisfied with the ease of using digital tickets to get into venues.
“Our clients value them as well, and not only do they make ingress easier and cut back on paper, but they also unlock a huge amount of marketing potential as we get to know every fan in the building, not just the buyer,” says Parsons.
Australia’s TEG is not only now a major player in the promoting business, via TEG Live and TEG Dainty in Asia-Pacific and TEG MJR in the UK, it is a leading ticketing operator in the Asia Pacific.
Among its companies are Ticktek – the dominant player in Australian and New Zealand, and a leading provider in Malaysia and Singapore, and Manila-based Ticketworld, one of the largest ticketing companies in the Philippines.
Ticketek sold more than 25 million tickets to in excess of 35,000 events this year, and also supplies white label ticketing solution Softix to events throughout Europe, Asia, the US, Africa and South America.
The company works with all formats including dynamic mobile tickets, RFID/NFC, print-at-home and traditional paper tickets.
“We were one of the first ticketing companies to offer mobile tickets in 2011, and since then have seen rapid acceleration of mobile ticket adoption, with over 70 per cent of tickets in Australia now delivered digitally, and 41 per cent of these directly to mobiles,” says TEG chief operating officer and head of ticketing Cameron Hoy.
He says the heart of TEG’s digital strategy is the intention to remove barcodes from tickets altogether.
In May Ticketek partnered with Apple to enable Australia’s Suncorp Stadium (cap. 52,500) in Brisbane to become one of the first stadiums in the world to offer contactless tickets on iPhone and Apple Watch.
“This was a ground breaking move away from traditional ticketing barcodes and scanning technologies, and already we have seen more than 60 per cent of mobile ticket holders at the venue choose to add tickets to their wallet and use the utility of tap-and-go to enter,” says Hoy.
While Ticketmaster is the biggest international global player in live music ticketing, pan-Europe ticketing giant CTS Eventim has expanded at a remarkable rate in recent years, acquiring stakes in promoters working across Europe, from Russia to Italy and Spain.
Headquartered in Germany and operational in 21 countries, CTS Eventim includes international promoter network Eventim Live. It also owns venues such as the Lanxess Arena (18,000) in Cologne and Berlin’s Waldbühne (22,000), while co-owning the UK’s Eventim Apollo (5,039) in London with AEG Live..
In 2018 the company sold 250 million tickets via its network, including Oeticket in Austria, Ticketcorner in the Czech Republic, TicketOne in Italy and Entrades in Spain.
CTS Eventim Netherlands MD Henk Schuit says the rise of digital ticketing and subsequent accrual of customer data is hugely beneficial.
“Leveraging this data facilitates higher ticket sales in an increasingly online environment,” he says. “It enables us to provide a far more personalised offering. We use artificial intelligence [AI] to fill newsletters and our website, based on preferences and shopping behaviour.”
In order to create longer and more engaged interactions with customers online, CTS creates content, including video interviews and behind-the-scenes reports. It then distributes that contest to fans via social media.
Eventim Scandinavia operates in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and this year sold tickets to 3,500 events.
The company offers a wide range of ticket formats, including gift-wrapped physical tickets, but its business has become almost exclusively digital, with 90 per cent of all tickets sold by the company being distributed via digital channels.
“The way consumers purchase tickets and receive information about upcoming shows is changing,” says Eventim Scandinavia CEO Jens B Arnesen. “Almost all tickets in Scandinavia are sold via digital channels, and the way tickets are handled, including access control and related information, is becoming more and more mobile.”
Italy’s leading primary ticketing operation, CTS-owned TicketOne sold more than 10mtickets this year, for more than 15,000 events.
An important part of the service, says TicketOne director general Andrea Grancini, is FanSale – the face-value ticket exchange platform developed by its parent company.
In July last year a new anti-tout law in Italy made it obligatory to personalise tickets, with the name of the attendee, for shows at a venue with a capacity of 5,000 or above.
“With digital tickets we are able to manage their re-personalisation and cross-device transfer, via FanSale, in case the buyer is no longer able to attend,” says Grancini.
He says the company has invested heavily in digital marketing and big data analysis in order to provide a highly targeted service for promoters.
“Our role has changed a lot during the past few years, from being simple suppliers to a 360° promotion channel,” he says. “We communicate with fans through all the social platforms and take care of web marketing campaigns for the promoters.”
Despite the relentless march of digital, paper tickets remain a key focus for CTS Eventim’s business. In 2013 it launched FanTicket, an initiative offering collectable paper tickets with bespoke designs for individual tours.
Eventim Bulgaria has worked with more than 1,500 events this year and sold in excess of 1m tickets. CEO Miroslav Emanoilov says that while digital is increasing and the use of the Eventim app is on the rise, physical tickets remain dominant – 60 per cent of Eventim Bulgaria tickets sold are paper.
The anti-tout benefits of digital tickets are not a great advantage here, as ticket re-sale is not a major issue yet, according to Emanoilov.
Ticket Express Hungary was founded in 1995 and became part of CTS Eventim in 2004. A significant number of tickets are still sold offline and so the company has more than 300 box office outlets across the country.
Gyula Kovácska, MD of Ticket Express Hungary, which uses the eventim.hu platform, says the company sold more than half a million tickets for around 2,000 events this year. The most widely used ticket format is print-at-home.
“In recent years online ticket sales have increased rapidly and currently account for nearly 90 per cent. Mobile ticketing is on the increase, but it is causing a lot of technical issues here. Our physical outlets primarily deal with local events,” he says.
Kovácska says an increasing number of Ticket Express clients are using Eventim Analytics, a free web tool that enables event owners to analyse sales patterns, customer behaviour and the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
He says that with Facebook being the most popular social media platform in Hungary, it is not only used by Ticket Express to promote shows and run competitions but also as a customer service vehicle.
In Finland, Helsinki-based Lippupiste has been part of CTS Eventim since 2009. It typically sells tickets for 20,000 events per year. A landmark moment for the company will be the re-opening of the 40,000-capacity Helsinki Olympic Stadium in August, after a major renovation programme.
“We have an exclusive ticketing deal with the stadium, which is the only venue of its size in Finland,” says Lippupiste’s Maria Hatakka, sales director for culture and live entertainment. “We have already sold out one concert by local pop star Antti Tuisku, and there are more to come.”
Hatakka says that while the majority of tickets sold by Lippupiste are print-at-home and the uptake of mobile tickets is on the rise, there remains strong demand for physical tickets and physical sales outlets.
“We boast of having more outlets than anyone in Finland. We want to serve ticket buyers wherever they feel it’s easiest for them to purchase tickets,” she says.
Whether sales are online or via physical outlets, social media is playing a major part in driving purchases.
Says Hatakka, “We use data to target the right audiences for shows. Last summer we did 50 Facebook campaigns that resulted in more than €1 million [$1.11] worth of tickets sold.”
In 2019 See Tickets, a subsidiary of French media conglomerate and Universal Music owner Vivendi,opened its 15th office in the US, in Nashville.
The UK-based ticketing operation is the second biggest agency in its domestic market, behind Ticketmaster, and has expanded swiftly in the US since opening its first office in Los Angeles, in 2014.
Outside the US, See has offices across Europe, in cities including Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Madrid. It sold more than 24m tickets globally last year.
Recent new clients include Portugal’s Rock in Rio Lisbon (80,000), and Spain’s FIB Benicassim Festival (30,000) and Bilbao BKK (40,000).
See Tickets chief executive Rob Wilmshurst says new technology is transforming the industry and the way in which his company operates.
The com[pany recently rolled out a digital ticket solution that includes a dynamically refreshing barcode that is impossible to duplicate. It has also partnered with YouTube in the UK and US to enable the streaming service’s viewers to buy tickets from links directly below official artiste videos.
“This means exposure to millions more consumers right at the point they might be inspired to see an artiste live,” says Wilmshurst.
“In addition to the encrypted digital ticket we released this year, we also worked with [UK promoter] Kilimanjaro Live on a paperless ticket solution for their summer Ed Sheeran shows. We also have some clever developments in the pipeline on facial recognition and customer registration.”
One service using technology to go beyond just selling tickets is Festicket.
Initially launched as a festival discovery website providing a guide to around 16,000 events, Festicket has evolved into an end-to-end festival experience provider.
Spotify integration means Festicket can recommend festivals to users based on their listening habits and then sell them tickets to any of its 2,500 festival partners, along with travel and accommodation packages.
Festicket’s recent acquisition of ticketing and cashless payments platform Event Genius and its consumer-facing brand, Ticket Arena, has expanded the offering further.
“Festicket has door-to-gate-to-door functionality; it covers everything,” says co-founder and CEO Zack Sabban. “The ticket is the first touch point, we look at how we can sell all the add-ons, and those auxiliary items drive significantly more profit to the company than just the ticket.”
Among festivals to recently partner with Festicket is the Coachella Music & Arts Festival (99,000) in Californian.
Says Sabban, “Some 40 per cent of people who buy tickets from us are travelling to a different country. Festival organisers love us because we are helping people to get to their events from overseas. We sell tickets in multiple currencies and provide content in eight languages.
“We are here to add value for festival organisers, our mission is to fill all the gaps left empty by the major ticketing platforms.”
All in the app
Launched in 2011, AEG-owned AXS provides ticketing services globally for AEG venues including London venues The O2 (21,000) and The SSE Arena, Wembley (12,500), and Staples Center (20,000) in Los Angeles, along with festivals such as London’s BST Hyde Park (65,000) and All Point East (40,000).
AXS has considerably enhanced it digital offering in recent years, partnering with YouTube and Spotify to enable tickets to be purchased via the streaming platforms, and digital tickets are a priority.
The launch of Flash Mobile Delivery, which enables concert-goers to gain entry by showing dynamic ID-based tickets on their phone using the AXS app, has resulted in a huge reduction in print-at-home and paper tickets.
London-based AXS director of ticketing Paul Newman says the company sells tickets for thousands of events per year. Prior to the launch of digital tickets a year ago, 95 per cent of AXS tickets sold were e-tickets, that number has fallen sharply with digital tickets now representing 65 per cent.
“Flash Mobile tickets are delivered to the AXS app and have a barcode that is refreshed every 59 seconds, which prevents people selling screen shots,” says Newman. “The tickets can be easily and safely shared with friends by using the app.”
With the technology integrated into The O2 and The SSE Arena, Wembley apps, it means fans can use it to pre-order food and beverages, view relevant information and promotions as well as accessing the event.
Another technological advance has enabled people who are perusing a venue map to simultaneously see and purchase available primary tickets and those on sale via face-value ticket re-sale platform AXS Official Resale.
South American issues
While the outbreak of anti-government protests has seen the Chilean government order the cancellation large-scale events, Paulo Atienza, CEO of leading ticketing agency PuntoTicket, says his company sold more than 6 million tickets across 2,000 events in 2019.
They include Lollapalooza Chile (70,000) and the Viña del Mar International Song Festival (15,000),
The company, which also operates in Peru, offers the typical array of ticketing formats and recently began providing mobile digital tickets.
Atienza says a major promotional push on digital tickets this year has paid off, with digital now around 50 per cent of sales.
While e-tickets are the most common in Chile, paper tickets remain the most widely used in Peru.
“This year we have added digital advertising campaigns as a new service to our customers to help them increase ticket sales,” says Atienza.
Expanding the offering
Headquartered in Switzerland, and operational in Germany, France and Liechtenstein, Starticket sold approximately 6m tickets to 11,000 events last year. Among its biggest clients is the 20,000-capacity Gurten Festival in Bern.
Around 80 per cent of tickets sold are print-at-home. “We still offering physical tickets but demand is declining dramatically,” says chief sales officer Marc Boehrer.
As the market evolves, Boehrer says his focus is not just on remaining competitive with the huge international operators.
“You always have to keep an eye on the market and determine how new technologies can affect your business,” he says. “The pace of change is very fast, new ticketing companies are launching with fascinating and disruptive ideas.”
Based in Poland. eBilet primarily offers tickets for festivals and concerts in the domestic market, but also sell tickets for shows in the UK, Ireland, Croatia, Czech Republic and Latvia.
This yeare it sold more than 3m tickets for approximately 10,000 events, with clients including Poland’s 60,000-capacity Open’er Festival and Orange Warsaw Festival (10,000).
Physical tickets remain an important part of eBilet’s, with paper representing up to 25 per cent of sales depending on the event, but the focus is very much on enhancing the offering with additional services.
“We have started selling merchandise together with tickets,” says eBilet CEO Marcin Matuszewski. “We also offer financial services such as instalment payments for more expensive tickets.”
Another recent development is a partnership with Polish e-commerce giant Allegro.
“We started selling tickets on Allegro.pl and organise pre-sales for Allegro customers,” says Matuszewski, who adds that the use of AI in highly personalised promotional campaigns is also having a positive impact for eBillet and its customers.
Established in 2007, UK independent Gigantic is among the territory’s biggest agencies, by inventory. Among the touring artistes it is currently working with are Little Mix, Westlife and Elton John.
Gigantic works with all formats, but is seeing digital ticketing move to the forefront.
“Physical ticket stock is still relevant, but it does involve additional costs for the customer and with some tickets still requiring a signature upon delivery it can be an inconvenience,” says Gigantic MD Mark Gasson.
“Some venues still insist on agents fulfilling orders with physical tickets, while customers booking with them directly are offered e-tickets. That is a big challenge for us.
“All venues should open technology to allow agents to process e-tickets, as it would prevent any inconvenience for the customer and put the gig-goers experience first.”
A direct approach
Also based in the UK and hailed at the country’s third largest operator after Ticketmaster and See Tickets, Ticketline provides solutions for promoters, venues and festivals including Kendal Calling (25,000), Bludot (21,000) and Green Man (10,000).
In 2016 it launched white label self-service ticketing solution Ticketlight, which enables event owners to control their ticketing. The service can be integrated into a client’s website, with branded e-tickets created and a real-time barcode scanning application available. It also enables tickets to be sold directly from Facebook.
In 2018 it launched reward service The Ticket Network, which enables fans to act as social media influencers and encourage tickets sales in return for rewards. This year’s key development was the launch of fan-to-fan ticket exchange service Fanticks.
“We built Fanticks to provide our customers with an easy, fair and ethical resale platform and the uptake in usage and engagement from customers has delighted us,” says head of marketing James Lee.
Meanwhile, Eventbrite says its white label online self-service ticketing platform processed more than 265m ticket sales for 3.9m events across 170 countries in 2018. It has 14 offices in 11 countries, including in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
Eventbrite is another company to have recently partnered with YouTube to sell tickets alongside videos. It is one of more than 50 digital partners, such as Instagram and Bandsintown, that enable Eventbrite’s clients to sell directly to fans.
The company’s head of music UK and Ireland, Paul Everett, says, “There is an ongoing shift in how fans discover shows. The box office or a ticketing website are not the only places to buy tickets nowadays. Rather than pull fans in, we can push tickets to where those fans spend a lot of their time – Youtube, Spotify, Instagram or Facebook.”