Category Archives: Ticketing

Ticketmaster Buys Stake in Chinese Ticketing Firm — What’s Next…?

News.com, Forbes.com: Ticketmaster, an operating business of IAC InterActiveCorp, said it acquired a majority stake in Emma Entertainment Holdings HK, a provider of ticketing and event promotions services, to expand operations in China.

I don’t find this surprising at all…. Ticketmaster has already formed a joint venture with another company to do ticketing for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This is just another way to gain entree into a very closed market, China.

And just you wait, you haven’t heard anything about it yet, but mark my words…. In the future, you will hear news about Ticketmaster moving into or buying something in India ;-)! You heard it here first!!!!

Ticketron’s 16 Year Anniversary

So today is the 16 year anniversary of Ticketron being “turned off like a light switch” as my boss at the time, Fred Rosen, liked to say. I was working for Ticketmaster at the time and was in the process of transferring from Marketing to Operations (where the larger clients were handled, and clients that were fully “computerized” with the ticketing system, etc.).

A team was put together to do the conversions of the clients that were moving over from Tron’s system to that of Ticketmaster. We would work with the clients that were going to be converted during the day, and do the conversion in teams at night. Teams were required so that work could be double checked and mistakes weren’t made. Much of the conversions were done on “live” events that were currently on-sale, hence the “buddy system” to prevent errors. Those were some long days… from the time that Ticketmaster bought select assets of Ticketron, it was 38 days ’till they were “turned off”!

Why do I mention this? I got an email today from some of the original crew that was involved, both at TM and Tron. It’s a trip down memory lane and interesting to see the list of folks that got the email and where we all are now….

Ticketmaster sues eBay’s StubHub over ticket sales

Reuters, News.com: Ticketmaster is suing eBay Inc. in Los Angeles, accusing the Internet auction company’s subsidiary StubHub of fraudulently obtaining premium tickets to sell online.

OK, I hate to be the one to say it, but “I told you so!”

Anyone I have talked to about the ticketing business since eBay’s acquisition of StubHub, knows I have talked at length about how eventually Ticketmaster is going to start enforcing their contracts and going after the secondary market. I even wrote about it in January when eBay made the purchase.

As you read these articles (and others) about this, you notice that Ticketmaster alleges that StubHub was negotiating directly with the bands and venues for inventory. If that is the case, then there’s gonna be some fireworks. 😉

The reason that I know this is because if Ticketmaster is getting into a fight, they don’t do it unless they can win. Ticketmaster is also most likely doing this on behalf of their clients, maybe even some of the promoters and venues that are allegedly selling StubHub the tickets, under pressure that they aren’t making the money in the mark-up on the secondary market for the tickets…. Ticketmaster often takes the black eye for their clients on such topics as service charges, etc. when the client knows what they are going to be (they are contractual often times) and points the finger at TM.

And there’s the fact that often a band/group/artist doesn’t “own” the seats that they are selling to the ticketing company. It’s complicated, but to dumb it down, in general — a promoter rents a venue and contracts with a band/artist/group to play. The band gets a fee and may get a “percentage of the house”, but that’s a dollar value based on value of the capacity of the building for the show, not actual tickets. They may also have a contract rider that gives them X tickets per show, but the contracts are written in a way, especially those with the promoters and venues, assuring that TM is the sole “computerized ticketing” source/provider. The contracts with the band/artist/group from the promoter often mention that the promoter, or his/her delegate etc., is the sole “seller” of tickets.

So as Ticketmaster roles out their own secondary market (they have auctions where promoters and venues offer up some of the best seats at a premium price) and an exchange system where you can sell your season seats and the buyer can easily re-print them; the secondary secondary market is going to get squeezed.

First Ticketmaster is going to make their lives very hard through legal channels. Then Ticketmaster is going to not only start promoting their secondary market for premium seats, but they are going to promote it as a primary source for secondary seats. By that I mean; since TM is the primary ticket seller for the venue/promoter, not only is there greater inventory to “pull” from, but the quality and validity can be assured.

And with the prices that are being charged for a concert ticket these days, I want to make sure that it’s a great seat and not a counterfeit ticket bought from some guy named “Vinny”…. 🙂

Baseball charts new course on seating

LA Times: Simple, ‘one size fits all’ ticket pricing has become a thing of the past as teams use the Internet and other avenues with an eye on increasing revenue. The Dodgers now sell 24 categories of seats.

Interesting article but doesn’t say anything new… :-)! Sure, baseball is slicing and dicing the stadiums into even finer pieces, but baseball has always been the worst about this. Back “in the day” when I handled both the Angels and the Dodgers as Ticketmaster clients (the Dodgers were what’s called an “allotment”, meaning that Ticketmaster only got X number of seats per game as the Dodgers have their own ticketing system that they run, or at least did… The Angels were a full fledged client that Ticketmaster “got” in the acquisition of select assets of Tickettron. They utilize all the Ticketmaster “goodness” :-)… ), and even back then, the Angels had something like 85 ticket types per game.

A “ticket type” is a way to have a different price for a ticket or a way to distinguish a ticket for tracking purposes (group tickets, AAA discount, Girl Scout discount, season seats, packages, etc.).

So clients like the Angels have been doing this for years. Another that is notorious for doing complex ticketing things, and having to track it not only locally, but replicating it nationwide for widespread tracking/marketing purposes, is Feld Entertainment… you know, the circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. They track every ticket sold on a nationwide/tourwide basis and have a gazillion different ticket types just for that purpose….

Ticketmaster buys stake in Echomusic

C|NET News.com: “Event ticket retailer Ticketmaster announced Monday that it has acquired a majority stake in online-focused music marketing company Echomusic.”

I don’t think that this was news to anybody, the only part that is news is the company they chose to invest in. Ticketmaster has long been in the services business, and those services have catered more and more to the actual act over the years. Don’t get me wrong, Ticketmaster still makes it’s money off of service/convenience charges, but that is changing.

Ticketing is a very mature business and there isn’t much more money to be squeezed from the turnip/rock/whatever. There are only so many tours. Ticket prices are sky high, and many have said that the way to more revenue in touring is more shows with lower ticket prices, generating a higher volume. That’s what The Grateful Dead did for years, but that takes a toll with a lot of time spent on the road! And most markets are already saturated with large venues that can handle concerts, so more of them isn’t going to “grow the business”….

Ticketmaster has done a very good job of getting $.07 out of every nickel. they have done it the old fashioned way, through attrition and head count. They have modernized and streamlined their processes and I’m sure are trying to do more. But efficiencies only do so much. Ticketmaster needs to find NEW revenue sources in order to continue to grow!

That is where a number of acquisitions have come into play. And these aren’t just the normal ticketing acquisitions that you would think of (their purchase of Museum Tix, Ticket Web, etc.). Ticketmaster has really been trying to expand into other services, including things such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and not just to venues, but to promoters and to artists themselves as well. This acquisition is a perfect example of this.

By providing all of these services and points of contact, Ticketmaster essentially becomes a “one-stop-shop”. Or to put it another way, they have become just like your bank or any other on-line portal…. You are so invested in them, that even though they don’t always provide the best service, it’s good enough so as not to endure the hassle of having to change service providers. Ticketmaster has you painted into a corner… :-). But don’t fret, it’s nothing that isn’t done every day, like I said, look at your bank as an example.

The difference is that banks have started to catch on. They now offer “kits” that make it easy to change all of your info (auto billing to your credit/debit cards, other billing info, direct deposit, etc.). One of these days someone will catch on that they need to provide more than just ticketing, and more than just ticketing to the standard ticketing crowd…. Then not only will huge new business markets become available as new revenue sources, but Ticketmaster will finally have some decent competition!

eBay buys StubHub for $310 million

News.com: Online auctioneer eBay has agreed to buy sports ticket reseller StubHub for $310 million in cash, the companies said on Wednesday, confirming an earlier report the deal was imminent.”

What an interesting purchase. On one hand, I totally understand it. EBay acquired the largest in a field that they weren’t themselves. What I don’t understand is the love of the secondary ticketing market. But then I am a “primary ticketing” guy, being a founder of Ticketmaster.com, etc.

Michael Arrington has said it very well in his posting on TechCrunch. Just look at the title he uses, “…Dirty World of Ticket Scalping”.

There is no doubt that the scalping world and secondary ticketing market is shady, and that’s being polite. What the internet has done for these worlds is shown some light on them, but does that make them legit?

The other thing that really comes into question for me is how long these businesses are going to last (the electronic secondary market that is)? I am obviously very familiar with a Ticketmaster contract, having negotiated a few in my day :-). Basically what it says is that Ticketmaster is the exclusive computerized ticketing source. Not to mention the rules printed on the back of a season ticket (which are often sold in the secondary market), which often states that it can’t be resold.

One of these days, contracts/rules, etc. are going to be enforced and there are going to be a lot of invalidated tickets out there. There are going to be a lot of very angry customers. And legitimate businesses that were doing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue will be left with very little. The secondary market is a very, very fine line!!! (I need to write more about this…)

So was $310 million worth it? Sure was if you were on the StubHub side! And I know a lot of these guys too, it kills me. How many ticketing opportunities have I lost because of my “primary market ethics”…? Jerry Seltzer was my first boss at Ticketmaster, I know his parter as well. And when I developed the first commercial version of Ticketmaster Online, we used Starwave (we were both “Paul Allen companies”) and I met with Mike Slade just about every Wednesday for almost a year. They would have been good coat tails to ride… :-). Chalk that up as a learning experience!

So congrats to the StubHub guys for making a lot of money with a good idea and great execution! To eBay, I say congrats too, and good luck… 🙂

Ticketmaster Argues with its Largest Client, Live Nation

There was an article in the Los Angeles Times a couple of days ago about Ticketmaster and their negotiations with their largest client, Live Nation.

While it is an interesting article, and it does touch on the salient points: this could be a negotiating tactic, it has been in the past; high prices are hurting the industry, lower prices will grow the revenue base; information about the customer is valuable.

What I wish it delved into more, but at least it did gloss over it, is that Live Nation owns it’s own ticketing system (albeit an older one that it inherited from the acquisition of a promoter that ran a regional system). They also want to start pushing their brand as “Live Nation”. A smart thing… you’ve heard me say it before, “You spent millions on naming rights, why are you telling people ‘Get your tickets at Ticketmaster’?”

In the end, I think that little will change. Live Nation will get a much sweeter deal and Ticketmaster will retain the client. Not until there is a significant player in the industry (software/money/resources wise) will there be a threat to Ticketmaster….

Ticketmaster and Their Change of Heart Regarding the Secondary Market

There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (article and video, $ site) about Ticketmaster and what they are doing about their rivals selling tickets in the secondary/brokerage market.

The crux is that Ticketmaster is finally getting competition for services, but I don’t think that the article hit the nail on the head. I have some experience in this area, and I don’ think that this is the real issue…. Ticketmaster isn’t going to lose a whole lot of business to folks reselling tickets. This has been an issue for many years and the only difference between today’s digital age and the past is that the digital age has done a lot to legitimize the business. So the secondary market isn’t as shady as it was…

Who cares?!? Re-sales of season tickets and the secondary is small compared to the number of tickets available. Ticketmaster is even rolling out these services (the article even comments on this). Clients don’t want to have to deal with multiple inventories, so if you are a Ticketmaster client, there is very little need for StubHub (and their use would be a violation of the Ticketmaster contract, from what I know), and you’ll most likely use the same services offered by Ticketmaster.

So what is Ticketmaster’s greatest threat? In my opinion it’s the internet itself. In years past, what made the ticketing industry is that they aggregated a fractured market and provided distribution…. Customers (the public) could go and get tickets at outlets/phones/internet (i.e. tons of “touch points”) and clients got a service and a potential revenue center (money sharing of service charges, etc.). But that aggregation and access is now done by the internet itself. And with today’s branding and marketing push, why would a company let another take that away from them?

Staples paid millions of dollars for the naming rights of The Staples Center in Los Angeles, and yet all the ads for shows say, “Get your tickets at Ticketmaster”. With the advent of the internet, where even Ticketmaster is selling 60-70% of their tickets online, why isn’t the tag line, “Get your tickets at StaplesCenter.com“?

So what is Ticketmaster’s biggest threat… branding!

Ticket Scalping and the ‘Net

News.com: Can the Net make ticket scalping legit?

The above article at News.com talks about the internet legitimizing the ticket brokering business. We could have a long discussion about this, and while it has brought brokering out of the shadows, it’s not legit. If it were, then why is brokering tickets as we know it (c’mon, it’s scalping isn’t it…?) illegal in 13 states?

Now I’m not saying that there aren’t legitimate secondary markets for tickets (and more are coming…), but brokering/scalping isn’t it!