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Tickets to the future

Features
January 2, 2019

Along with music streaming, ticketing is at the head of the digital revolution and having to respond to consumer needs at the same pace as advances in mobile technology, both in the sales process and delivery of tickets to event-goers. It’s a rollercoaster ride for the key players, as Tom Pakinkis reports

Many aspects of the music industry have been enormously transformed by the digital revolution and the maturing of social media.

Revenue from records has become more complex with new streaming models, and artistes’ business models have become far broader entities, with greater attention paid to an increasingly diverse tangle of revenue streams.

Christian Steinhof

Yet, ask any experienced executive – be they in records, publishing, management or live – how they measure success, and they will still tell you that an artiste’s true popularity is best gauged by how many fans they can persuade to attend a live performance.

While much has changed across the industry, the importance of the ticket has maintained its spedial significance.

But that’s not to say that the nature of ticketing business has remained static. Far from it. In fact, the mechanisms of delivering ticket sales are evolving at a faster rate than just about any other music business sector.

Part of global promoting giant Live Nation Entertainment, Ticketmaster (TM) is the biggest player in its sector by a considerable distance.

Maria O’Connor

“This summer was one of the busiest we’ve ever had, with 176 box offices deployed around the country,” says TM UK MD Andrew Parsons.

“Starting with The BBC Biggest Weekend in May across four UK sites over four days, while stadium and outdoor tours kept everyone busy with Jay Z and Beyoncé, Eminem, Ed Sheeran and Little Mix to name but a few.”

In terms of trends in the ticketing sector, Parsons sums up the path ahead with three words. “Mobile, mobile, mobile – it’s what the fans want and expect.

“Our team, from the user experience designers right through to the developers, all lead with mobile in everything they do,” he explains. “From buying a ticket through to gaining access to an event, it’s all mobile-first.

“Digital tickets are going to completely change the landscape.

Cameron Hoy

He adds, “We have launched a redesigned, mobile-first Ticketmaster, with our brand-new ticket exchange functionality included. This has completely revolutionised the way that fans search and browse for tickets to the events they love.

“We are also bringing digital tickets to shows and venues across the UK, starting with a hugely successful run of Four Tet shows at London’s O2 Academy Brixton (cap. 4,921) in October. From our perspective, getting rid of the paper ticket and going 100 per cent digital unlocks a whole new world of opportunities.

“Delivering each ticket to a fan’s smartphone means we know the individual attendees, not just the buyer. Identifying every person who enters the building not only increases security but dramatically decreases fraud and increases marketing potential.”

Eleven hundred miles (1,800 kms) north in Finland, TM’s local MD  Jakob Lund says that bringing digital tickets “has been a game changer for both fans and clients as we work to get rid of the anonymous barcode.

James Lee

“We are also looking forward to bringing Ticketmaster’s ticket exchange functionality to Finland early next year. Already launched in the UK, ticket exchange will bring a very transparent, safe and secure option for fans to resell tickets they can no longer use.”

TM saw Metallica sellout two concerts in Helsinki in May and voted Ticket of the Year.

“The Finnish economy seems strong at the moment, as in the rest of the Nordic countries,” says Lund. “There are more shows and events, with a general increase in the demand for live events.”

Tech first

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Ticketmaster Australia, which also covers New Zealand, serviced more than 250 clients and over 20,000 events this year.

Marcin Matuszewski

Among major events the company ticketed was Ed Sheeran whose show opened the new Optus Stadium (60,000) in Perth, Western Australia.

“Successfully launching the Optus Stadium was a huge achievement for us this year,” says Ticketmaster Australia MD Maria O’Connor.

She also hails the company’s new, mobile-first website and the company’s wider commitment to mobile ticketing around the world.

“This technology is already in use at nearly 200 venues across North America as well as in UK venues,” she says. “And with more than 13 million fans entering venues via digital tickets, there has been almost zero instances of fraud.

“We are working very hard to roll-out this technology in Australia in the second half of next year and will use venues such as Marvel Stadium [56,000] and the Optus Stadium for beta testing within the market.

“We also introduced the Artist Services division to Australia and New Zealand and executed successful Verified Fan campaigns for Snow Patrol and Tim Minchin, both of which successfully limited the number of tickets in the secondary market.”

Crossing border

Marc Boehrer

Headquartered in Germany, pan-Europe ticketing giant CTS Eventim also includes an event promoting division, Medusa, which owns major shares of promoters such as FKP Scorpio, and venues including the Lanxess Arena (18,000) in Cologne and Berlin’s Waldbühne (22,000), as well as co-owning with AEG Presents, the UK’s Eventim Apollo (5,039) in London.

“Although the Football World Cup was a big competitor for our industry, concerts were still packed with big tours by artistes like Ed Sheeran and the Rolling Stones, as well as a lot of the smaller tours,” says head of corporate communications Christian Steinhof.

Speaking about the unique position ticketing companies working on the continent find themselves, Steinhof says that artistes are challenging their ticketing partners to think on a regional, rather than territorial basis.

“We no longer view the European markets in isolation from each other,” he explains. “More and more artistes expect us to offer them cross-border performance opportunities and ticketing solutions. This is why we will continue to expand our portfolio.”

Jakob Lund

 In 2018, CTS Eventim set a new record with the on-sale for the European tour of Rammstein.

“For the first time in our history, we sold more than 800,000 tickets for a single tour, shortly after the start of the on-sale,” says Steinhof. “In the first hour, more than one million users accessed Eventim’s portals, triggering peak rates of 80,000 system requests per second. All ten German concerts sold-out within a few hours..”

Looking ahead, he adds: “We have a wide range of options for growth. In ticketing, we continue to benefit from the fact that more and more customers are buying their tickets online.

In the long term, we want to develop our web shops from event portals into leisure portals. We believe that in the future we will be able to sell not just a ticket, but various related offers as well.”

The personal touch

See Tickets generated $1 billion from 23 million ticket sales in 2018 across its eight markets in which it operates – Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK and US.

“We are launching new businesses and continuing to build our European operations,” says global CEO Rob Wilmshurst, who is based in the UK. “We acquired Paylogic in Holland and have continued to build out the US operation, and we have a stack of innovative features coming to market in 2019.”

Despite rapid growth, however, Wilmshurst believes that maintaining a truly personal service is a central factor in ensuring See Tickets continues to thrive.

“Human service certainly stands us apart from the technocratic, DIY, pp-based competition,” he adds. “The firm belief and operating orientation that we are in the ticketing business and not the tech business.

“Size and scale helps too. We are a super safe, profitable business with a very strong balance sheet, super strong shareholders in [French media giant] Vivendi and some strong reference clients.”

Rob Wilmshurst

Although Wilmshurst is wary of putting technology before good ticketing people, he acknowledges the role data plays in the modern market.

“Data is king,” he says. “If not the type of data we can readily use post GDPR, the insight can be invaluable to drive decisions. Client demands are getting more imaginative, sometimes insanely so, but for us being technically and commercially nimble these are opportunities to be taken.”

Tickets to freedom

A leading live entertainment promoter, ticketing company and data analyst across Asia Pacific, TEG and its primary ticketing company Ticketek issued around 28 million tickets this year across its key markets of Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia.

Mari Hatakka

In November, TEG added to its footprint by announcing the acquisition of TicketWorld in the Philippines.

Among TEG’s and Ticketek’s biggest events this year was Ed Sheeran’s Divide tour, with 243,513 fans stepping through the gates of Sydney’s ANZ Stadium (83,500) over three successive nights, where Ticketek was the primary agent.

Bon Jovi’s Australian leg of their This House Is Not for Sale Tour, promoted by TEG Dainty and ticketed by Ticketek, attracted over 150,000 fans in four shows at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Adelaide’s Botanic Park, Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane (52,500) and the ANZ Stadium.

Next year will see Eminem perform four Australian stadium shows in  Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and, for the first time, Perth in February.

Three of the five shows have already sold out, with the final gross attendance expected to top 300,000.

“Ticketing has changed more in the past three years than the previous 30,” says Ticketek Australia MD Cameron Hoy, suggesting that there is a greater need today to provide multiple points of service for customers.

“The trend is to allow fans to search and buy tickets in the ecosystem that suits them,” he explains. “Not so long ago, the requirement was for customers to go to the primary ticketing website, but now we have a new approach where a customer can find and buy tickets without leaving the channels of their favourite team or the event they are interested in.”

The company also takes cues from its promoter and venue partners when it comes to functionality and innovation, according to Hoy. “Ticketek is the only major ticketing company in the southern hemisphere that develops its own ticketing technology platform and delivers the innovation in conjunction with its local partners,” he says.

“When a venue or promoter wants to explore new customer services and features, our developers will work face-to-face with our partners to fully understand the requirements.”

Ticketek has also expanded its infrastructure to combat the well-documented problem of secondary ticketing. Hoy says that the introduction of new legislation, a tightening of advertising rules and better consumer education has all made a big difference. But Ticketek also brought its own solution to the table in November with the launch of Ticketek Marketplace – an ethical ticket exchange for Australian consumers.

Social influences

Back in the UK, Ticketline has been established for over 30 years, with its origins stretching right back to the 1960s.

Today it sells millions of tickets annually across music, comedy, sports, outdoor events and festivals. In 2018, along with established clients including

Kendal Calling (26,000) and Green Man Festival (15,000), as well as promoters such as LLC Live, which delivered Live In Somerset this year, featuring Kaiser Chiefs, Billy Ocean and Paloma Faith.

This year, Ticketline has harnessed the passion of fans and the power of the internet to put a new spin on classic marketing techniques, with the launch of The Ticket Network.

“Based on our robust, innovative ticketing technology, The Ticket Network serves the organic growth of ticket sales with additional sales channels for our clients by taking advantage of the promotional opportunities of social influencers, and online and offline street teams,” explains Ticketline head of marketing James Lee.

“The concept is simple: the more a rep sells, the more rewards they can obtain to redeem against tickets, merchandise, VIP or experiences money can’t buy.”


Paperless in Poland

Poland’s largest independent ticketing company eBilet has its headquarters at the PGE National Stadium (72,900) in Warsaw, built for the UEFA Euro 2012 European Football Championship.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s On The Run II tour was one of the biggest concerts to land at the stadium in 2018 and there are a number of word renowned artistes booked for 2019, including Phil Collins, Bon Jovi and P!nk.

eBilet is also selling for concerts such as Andrea Bocelli at INEA Stadium (42,837) in Poznan, and Shawn Mendes at Tauron Arena Krakow (22,000) in the new year.

“We provide complete solutions tailored to the market,” says eBilet CEO Marcin Matuszewski. “Our brand is the most recognized in Poland, therefore we reach larger audiences.”

Matuszewski says that, today, he sees almost 100 per cent of ticket sales going through internet channels, with 90 per cent of all tickets sold being paperless.

In December, eBilet announced a major strategic partnership with Allegro, the largest e-commerce platform in the country, boasting 17 million monthly users. The partnership will mean that tickets for thousands of concerts and other events will be made available to Allegro customers.

On announcing the deal, Matuszewski said that he expects to see “a significant increase in sales” as a result of being able to reach Allegro customers.

“Our goal is to offer customers a single place where they can plan all free-time activities,” he says. “At the same time, we’ll offer event promoters new, exclusive tools to reach wide audiences.”

Allegro CEO Fancois Nuyts added, “Online sale of tickets for entertainment events in Poland is worth over 700 million zloty [$185m] and grows nearly 20 per cent per annum.”

Exploring alternatives

Moving to the other side of the globe, to the Baltic States in north-east Europe, Baltic Ticket Holdings (BTH) sold 6.4m tickets across approximately 23,000 events in Estonia (2m), Latvia (1.4m), Lithuania (1.5m) and Belarus (1.5m).

Its biggest events of the year included Belarus’s Festival Slavjansky Bazar (70,000) in Vitebsk, and Estonia’s Weekend Festival Baltic (65,000) in Parnu,

BTH shows in 2019 include Ed Sheeran at Latvia’s Lucavsala Park (70,000) in Riga and Bon Jovi at Estonia’s Tallinn Song Square (80,000).

The company has seen rapid growth recently, with ticket sales rising to 6.4m from 3.9m in the space of just three years since 2015. According to BTH CEO Jaanus Beilmann, this success has brought challenges with website traffic tripling and the need to comply with business rules and legislation across four different countries.

“As a border region between east and west traditions, Baltic Ticket Holdings manages well with different sales and service expectations,” he says. “We are able to be effective in mixed economic and culture zones.”

Andrew Parsons

BTH has recently connected cashless payment as well as additional services and products to traditional ticketing in order to enhance the customer experience. But, while most are talking up the influence of social media, digital distribution and direct fan engagement, Beilmann suggests that “the magic of the internet and social media” is fading, as advertising costs have become equal or even more expensive compared to traditional channels such as TV and outdoor advertising.

“The trend of selling tickets via social media or your own website [is decreasing], as there is no promoter that can create enough volume to carry out ticketing and marketing more effectively by themselves, as opposed to cooperating with a traditional, professional ticketing partner that has buyer power.”

Challenging economy

In South America, TuEntrada in Argentina sold more than three million tickets last year, while among its biggest shows in 2018 were Ciro at Buenos Aires’ Estadio River (60,000), Ricardo Arjona at Cancha de Polo de Palermo (40,000) and Maluma at Hipodromo de Palermo (21,000).

TuEntrada’s Esteban Stalgis points to a slow economy as a particular challenge for ticket sellers.

“The peso has been devalued by more than 100 per cent,” he points out. “So the ticket value in dollars remains the same, but to buy them in pesos costs double.

“With today’s economy, people are very careful about buying tickets. Only popular artistes are selling well in advance – all other shows are late decisions.”

Stalgis also suggests that the secondary ticketing market is causing confusion amongst punters. “People don’t know whether they are buying primary or secondary. Secondary ticketing companies pay a lot for keywords when people search for events.”

TuEntrada is turning to Blockchain in an effort to control the growth of the secondary market.

“We will implement new tools to validate tickets and implement a resale platform with rules controlled by the promoter and ourselves, so that there will be no way to resell a ticket outside of the platform,” explains Stalgis.

Swiss competition

Switzerland’s Starticket working primarily in its home market, with a few cross-border sales, and processes five million tickets a year for between 15,000 and 18,000 events.

Owned by the country’s biggest media network, the company says it has the biggest distribution network in Switzerland.

Among events in 2018 were a sell-out Openair Frauenfeld (50,000), which featured Eminem, and Sam Smith at Zurich’s Hallenstadion (15,000).

“There is big competition,” says Starticket CSO Marc Boehrer. “Small and big companies – not only in ticketing but entertainment generally – are entering the Swiss market. There are big shifts taking place, so you have to be very attentive.”

Like Stalgis, Boehrer also points to Blockchain as a relatively new technology that is being utilised by Starticket as a basis for digital ticketing.

“You want to be able to track the journey your ticket makes once bought,” he says. “Transparency will be key everywhere.”

In Finland, highlights for Lippupiste, a subsidiary of CTS Eventim, this year include Cheek’s two farewell concerts at a 30,000-capacity ski resort in Lahti and the 30th anniversary show by Popeda at Tampere Stadium (30,000).

“Finland is a trailblaizer in all things digital,” says Lippupiste’s Maria Hatakka, sales director for culture and live entertainment. “We are using this to our and clients’ advantage in customer service.

“For example, we see our clients’ growing need to outsource customer service issues – their email, chat, phone and social media are full of questions and requests by ticket-buyers, and we are willing and able to help them there.

“The biggest opportunity, however, is our ability to utilise the big data we have,” she says. “In a country of five million people, we have two million registered users – 40 per cent of the adult population, and13 Million visits to our site”

To make the most of this rich data mine, Lippupiste’s marketing department has evolved into “a full-bodied digital agency”, according to Hatakka.

“Our online campaigns, data and methods of using it have proven to be much more efficient than any other digital marketing agencies’ efforts – we are very happy to help our event organisers sell more tickets than ever before.”

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