Category Archives: Ticketing

StubHub is a crybaby, f’ing grow up!

So StubHub and Ticketmaster are going at it again. Or more accurately, StubHub is whining like a little kid and crying to their mommy for help. Here’s the link… http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-02/stubhub-vs-ticketmaster-can-a-scalper-be-a-fan-s-best-friend-

See, this is all about access to tickets…. StubHub wants folks to be able to do whatever they want with their tickets: the ability to resell them, etc. Their latest tiff is about limits that Ticketmaster is enforcing with one of the NBA teams about resales.

I’m not going to go into all the details, you can read the article linked above for that, but Ticketmaster isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been done for decades. Not to mention that it’s a business decision by the clients (e.g. the teams) not Ticketmaster. Sending tickets out at the last minute so they can’t be resold our counterfeited is a legitimate thing to do and solves a number of issues. Feel free to contact me and I can explain more….

But to back it up… sending tickets out last minute has been done for just about every major event for decades: World Cup, Olympics, etc.! A clause on the back of season tickets has said that they can’t be re-sold, again for decades, and if I wasn’t traveling, I’d scan an old Lakers ticket and show you.

So StubHub is just crying because they can’t make money off the sweat of someone else’s brow. And the clients don’t want them to do that, so they have a contract with Ticketmaster for resale, where they get a cut of the vig. Makes sense to me.

StubHub, if you want to play in the ticketing business, do the hard work and develop a primary ticketing service and stop whining! As the joke goes, “wanna impress me Stevie Wonder, drive!”

Oh, and my last thoughts on this… I was involved in the last anti-trust case against Ticketmaster in the 90’s. That was defeated, hands down, and this one will be to. StubHub doesn’t have a case because Ticketmaster isn’t doing anything that their clients aren’t asking them to provide a service for. No one is holding a gun to their heads, and StubHub can’t provide the services that they require, so they are getting it where they can, from their primary ticketing provider! Period.

Ticketmaster Made Me Do It

It has been way too long since I’ve last written, but isn’t that always the case…? I am writing today ’cause Ticketmaster’s CEO, Irving Azoff, spoke at D7 — the All Things Digital conference. Kara Swisher asked questions and it’s written up here….
In the conversation she asks about many things, including the proposed merger with Live Nation. I could write a whole bunch about the proposed merger, maybe even a short novel, and I could actually argue both sides, so I won’t delve into the full argument, but I will comment briefly (in italics) about the whole article, which includes the merger.
Music Labels — they missed an opportunity to monetize digital music and suing your customers isn’t the right thing to do. Duh, really….
Merger with Live Nation — anyone can write a program that does what Ticketmaster does. Bruce Springsteen is uninformed about the merger and others are in the ticket biz like Phil Anschutz and Warner Music Group. True, but it’s the difficulty of converting to a new system (and contracts) is what keeps clients. Think about how you hate your bank, but you don’t leave ’cause it’s a pain in the ass to change all your info, auto-pay stuff, etc. Rumors are that if the merger goes through, AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) is going to leave and start their own system, much like Live Nation tried to do, but I think it will be successful unlike Live Nation’s.
Ticket Pricing — TM is a collection agency and prices are set by the promoter/band/customer, not TM. Should do more dynamic pricing, but not auctions which take too much time. Yup, TM has always gotten the black eye for pricing and service charges that their clients knew about in advance, and they get a cut of it! Dynamic pricing would be a difficult thing for Ticketmaster to do. Their old back-end system (called the host) can’t handle it well and it would have to be done with duct tape and superglue. Could be done, but is the public ready for concert ticket prices changing all the time like airline tickets…?
Secondary Market/TicketsNow — wouldn’t have bought it, may sell it. With variable pricing and VIP packages, the gap between primary and secondary ticketing is narrowing and being blurred. I agree, why should a broker make large sums of money for taking a nominal risk? That money should go to the promoter/artist who worked hard to create the product and took the risk of booking the show.
Data Ticketmaster Collects — available to artists if they ask, but not sophisticated as to how they use it. I remember the days when I was at Ticketmaster…. We would provide the data to those that asked, but we would also VERY quietly provide it to others as well. In the mid 90’s, we provided information about sales, etc. to ASCAP/BMI instead of paying for a license for our music-on-hold that we played, if I recall correctly (I had to do a lot of categorizing of the data (wrote a script to do so) so that it was more usable by those that were getting it, but I didn’t deposit any checks or anything, just told to do X task for Y <smile>). Who is buying what in the music biz is *hugely* important and only Ticketmaster has this data and they know its value!!!
The ticketing business, along with the whole music industry, has changed; there is no argument about that. But that idea that this merger needs to happen in order for Ticketmaster to survive in this changing environment is just absurd. While I’m sure there will be benefits to it, the only one that really requires the merger is Live Nation. Without it I think they are kind of stuck in a business with really thin margins that now needs to watch the bottom line like a hawk every quarter… not a good combo!
I was at a huge ticketing conference recently and I was talking to an old friend of mine that I worked with at Ticketmaster, he now runs one of TM’s biggest competitors. He had an interesting comment about TM and other companies competing with ’em…. He said, “Competition just makes it more expensive for Ticketmaster to do business.”
Sadly, he’s right… as Irving Azoff said, “any of you guys can write a program….” but what they can’t do is spend the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, it takes to land a huge client like the Staples Center, etc. And if i can cut a deal, TM will just come in and make a richer offer… it’s kind of like the Godfather, “an offer you can’t refuse…”

Ticketmaster Spin-Off, LiveNation Spin-Out

It’s been a busy time in the ticketing business since I last posted about it….
Ticketmaster has bought a secondary ticketing company (a ticket broker). This gives them more access, systems and a larger footprint in the broker/secondary ticketing market. They are already putting it to use by linking to them via their website for events that are sold out in the primary ticket market. They’ll make their money back on this purchase quickly….
Over at Live Nation, the chairman as resigned over a “turf war” with the CEO of the company… very interesting. It’s been written up all over the place, so I won’t bother going into those details, but… What’s the ex-chairman going to do? He tried and failed to buy his old company back recently. He has a non-compete with them re: the concert/promoting business. Taking a couple years off from this business can be deadly, trust me…. Not only has it impacted me, but Fred Rosen, the former head of Ticketmaster is still in demand, but not like he used to be :-)… the business has changed so much that it’s tough to stay on top of trends…. and many who ran it in the past are stuck in those times.
One of Live Nations “other” issues… they are leaving Ticketmaster this year to do their ticketing in-house so that they can garner more revenue from it. Good Luck! I’ve developed a couple of ticketing companies and know that just replicating what Ticketmaster is doing isn’t going to win over any hearts/minds. If you want to make money in ticketing, you have to change the business model, which I’ve been screaming from the mountain tops about for a while….
Which is a good segue to the latest ticketing news… Ticketmaster is being spun off from IACI. Again, you can read about the details elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if Ticketmaster can be more nimble as a solo entity. The reports mentioned that they will expand internationally, which is good, it’s where the growth is for them. It also mentioned that this growth will overcome the potential loss of revenue due to Live Nation leaving.
Wanna know more… ping me and let’s start a conversation!

I Need to Write More!!!

Yea, I know that I am in desperate need for an update….. and so much has happened since the turn of the year. While this one will be short, I am swamped getting work done, etc. as I have family coming into town over the weekend to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday (she’s one of the family coming into town, it’s a long story…), I will make it a point to write more.
Topics that I will write about in the coming days….
• Ticketmaster’s purchase of TicketsNow
• More thoughts on Live Nation leaving Ticketmaster
• Ticketmaster’s purchase of Paciolan
and then there’s all the fun stuff… the soap opera that is my life ;-)! So stay tuned and in the coming days (most likely next week), you will be able to read more.

Ticketing Meltdown for ’08 Beijing Olympics

Yeah, I know I am weeks late writing about this, and I’ve even written about other things in the mean time…. Well, sorry, but this one just kind of kept getting pushed back, unfortunate ’cause it’s important!
Ticketmaster had a meltdown when they recently put tickets on-sale for the summer 2008 Beijing Olympics. There have been a number of articles about it (ValleyWag.com, News.com, Wall Street Journal). In the end, they had to suspend the on-sale because it appears that the servers couldn’t handle the glut of requests….
Why would they have a meltdown you wonder, in this day and age of huge server farms, etc. why would they not be able to handle the volume…? Well, I guess that it wasn’t the front end, the web service/interface, that had the problem. The Ticketmaster system is a hodgepodge of old and new. While the web interface and all the fancy stuff runs well, runs on the front-end and does so on relatively new technology and servers… the “host system” which is the actual ticketing software (or at least the meat and potatoes of it) is where the bottle neck happened.
Don’t get me wrong, the Ticketmaster host system is an amazing thing for what it does and for it’s age. The bottle neck, if it was even caused at this point, was in no part due to the host handling transactions, i am guessing it was about “user” capacity to get on the host system. The one weakness that I could think of in this type of situation is the host not being able to handle that many “users” concurrently….. ah, legacy systems :-)!
They will get it figured out I’m sure… or if not, they will find a work-around. Until then, I’ll keep writing and telling you my thoughts, until I finally get around to doing ticketing “right” and developing a new system and even more importantly, business model for ticketing :-)!!!

Under the Heading… “Good Luck, But Don’t Hold Your Breath!”

So I am reading the usual sources today and I come across this article at News.com. It’s about a group in the U.K. that wants to share in concert ticket re-sale revenue. Basically, they want a cut from the broker/secondary/scalper market…. Good luck :-)!
This is a market, while despised and not giving back to the artist/group/promoter, they really aren’t doing anything that is illegal. And when they change the law, they find a way to work within it to still achieve their end results.
Both sides do make valid arguments however, and I find myself in agreement with both…. The Harry Potter book example I can identify with, but then again, tickets aren’t a right, it’s the rental of that seat space. Not to mention that there is often fine-print “legalese” that puts limits on what can be done with the ticket: Not for re-sale unless through an authorized agent, Not for promotional use, Not responsible for injury or harm, etc…..
So what are these promoter/venue people thinking? They’ll just walk up and ask nice for a piece of the profit and the secondary market will gladly hand it over…? If you really want to change the way the ticketing business works and to bring profits back in-line for those that are out there taking the risks (artists/groups/promoters/venues), it’s not about how they can grab money from others, it’s about how the business models can change.
In the world of ticketing, there is a way to make it a much larger profit center for the risk takers mentioned. They will have to have some faith and take a bit of risk too, on a new company, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before and in return for that, they will have a much higher income stream from ticketing….
Now I just have to find someone to fund my ticketing company idea so that we can provide the service that will help all of these promoters/venues…. 🙂

Ticketmaster Fights Back!

Ticketmaster has had a couple of good weeks. First they win a fight against RMG for using a “bot” to purchase tickets from their website (News.com (blog), NYTimes, Wall Street Journal), then one of their clients, the New England Patriots, wins a court battle against StubHub. These are two very large wins for Ticketmaster!
The first win, against RMG, now makes it very difficult (or at lease actionable) for a company to automate the process of buying tickets over their website. This levels the playing field a bit more for the consumers ’cause an automated process can purchase much faster than a human can, therefore grabbing many more seats. It also leaves the true fan an opportunity to buy the tickets instead of having to pay a premium to a ticket broker/scalper.
The Patriots win against StubHub is also significant not only because they have to disclose information about their sellers to the team, but it states that they have to do this because StubHub’s sellers are violating the Patriots terms/agreements on their tickets. It’s common for tickets to have a legal disclaimer on the back, and one of the things that it often says is something to the effect of “tickets can not be resold or used for promotional purposes”. And in Massachusetts, they have a law about how much tickets can be resold for above face value, and the tickets on StubHub violate that. So the Patriots wanted to know the information of who was selling and I’m sure they will take action against those seat holders… they have been known to have invalidated season accounts/tickets in the past :-(!
I could type about this for days, but I won’t. I’m sure I will write about it more in the future, but I have my own ticketing ideas that I have to get down on paper….

Ticketmaster Loses Live Nation, Their Largest Client!

I know that this is a week old, but I ahve been very busy regarding this. I will post some stuff here about it, but I’m not going to comment completely about this for a bit because it pretains directly to business consulting that I do in the ticketing industry. As I said, I ahve been busy regarding this, a lot of folks are asking questions… 🙂

But here are some of the things (not a complete list) of things that you should question….

  • What will happen to ticket prices?
  • What will happen to service charges?
  • How is this going to impact artists/groups?
  • What is going to happen to the buyer data (that is what live nation says this is about)?
  • Will bands/artists/labels have access to this too, or just Live Nation?
  • Will they sell the purchasing history data?
  • Is the ticketing business model going to change, and if so, how? (this is the one that I think is most interesting :-))

StubHub Signs Deal with MLB, but What About Ticketmaster?

An announcement was made today about a deal between StubHub and Major League Baseball (MLB) for the resale of season tickets in the secondary market. You can read The New York Times article (which is more detailed) or the short article at the Los Angeles Times (what can I say, I’m bi-coastal).

In short, the articles say that StubHub will become baseball’s official online ticket reseller for season seats next season. They will be the only ones allowed to offer online reselling on any MLB-operated website. But what about Ticketmaster…?

Ticketmaster has contracts with a number of MLB teams to sell their tickets. It doesn’t matter if it’s online or not, as Ticketmaster’s contracts basically say that they are the exclusive seller of tickets electronically, which would include the web, etc. From my past experiences, working for Ticketmaster and Tickets.com (not to mention being a client of several different ticketing companies as well, including those mentioned above), I know that there is some “wiggle room” in contracts (e.g. group tickets are often handled differently, the initial sale of season seats, and small allotments of the house (“normally” sold seats available to the public) are available for alternative sales methods (through the band, fan clubs, via American Express, etc.)), but this is going to be a problem….

The articles state that MLB is “comfortable” that the deal doesn’t violate contracts, but I think that might be pushing the envelope a bit far as to tear it. For those that want to go after Ticketmaster as monopolistic (as the second/third to last paragraph in the NY Times article says of the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA), good luck on that one :-)! That issue was brought up by Pearl Jam and even got hearings in Washington D.C. regarding anti-trust, to no avail. Since that time, Ticketmaster’s market share has actually decreased due to competitors, so I don’t think that argument that they are monopolistic holds water. The reverse could be said of StubHub which controls most of the secondary reselling market of season seats, so they might not want to “poke that bear with a stick” or open up that can of worms!

So how is this going to actually work…? StubHub says that they are developing systems to execute these transactions… good luck! For MLB teams that use Tickets.com’s software for sales (a lot of them do), that won’t be a problem ’cause the company and it’s software were purchased a while back by MLB Media (the online division of MLB, so wouldn’t there be a monopolistic/conflict of interest issue there, by self dealing to “close out a competitor” who may offer better service…?). In this instance, I’m sure they are just going to program through a set of API’s to interact between the two systems…. But if the MLB team uses a Ticketmaster system, then it won’t work! Ticketmaster will never allow StubHub to access their API’s (and vise-versa I would guess 🙂 …), so for those teams, they will have to deal with two different systems. As a box office, the last thing that you want to deal with, especially on a busy game day, is two different systems tracking/managing your inventory. That’s just a nightmare waiting to happen…. And with the advent of barcode readers for scanning tickets for admission, the problem extends outside the box office to the gate, where different systems/barcodes will require different ticket taking/scanning techniques, creating a nightmare for the ticket takers and event staff, not to mention potential headaches for the attendees and the customer service nightmares that will accompany them :-)!

While I am sure MLB is just trying to maximize the revenue from this segment of the market, which is considerable, and share that revenue with their teams, it may not be best for the teams in the end. A “one size fits all” model isn’t good when applied across a wide breadth of clients, nor is “forcing something down their throats”… some teams are going to get “left out” and not get the service they need. I said many of the same things when MLB purchased Tickets.com, which they did not only to provide services to their own teams, but to build the company into the “next Ticketmaster” (that’s a whole other conversation/article, contact me if you want to discuss 🙂 ), which is proving harder than they ever thought it would be, for reasons that they just don’t “get” ’cause they have never walked a mile in their clients shoes….