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Selling tickets in the UAE: A primer

Platinumlist MD Vassiliy Anatoli discusses Dubai's e-Ticketing system, the controversy over resale and the wasted potential of ignoring mid- and lower-income concertgoers

16 Nov 2016

Vassiliy Anatoli, Platinumlist


Is this a good year for ticket sales?
The UAE has one of the most vibrant event scenes in the world. Customers are spoilt for choice, whether it’s family events, sports or EDM.

Many local promoters may say there has been a recession in ticket buying. But in my view there has just been too much on offer.

What kind of events are selling particularly well?
Many event organisers seem to be excessively targeting high-income customers with an average ticket price of US$100 or above, but there is a relatively limited amount of people who are able to afford that – and they’re spoilt for choice anyway.

From what we see, Indian, Arabic and sporting events are a particularly promising segment at the moment. Offering entertainment to low-income expats and local customers, which are a majority here, is something that has a lot of potential.

What are the challenges of the Emirati market?
I would say there is a lack of communication and planning between event organisers. Some of the new promoters in town jump into the game without doing in-depth research and consultation. We often see major events overlapping, where both organisers end up wasting huge investments despite our recommendations.

And, as I mentioned previously, mid- and low-income customer sectors are often ignored, which is a missed opportunity.

Which ticketing companies have the biggest marketshare in Dubai?
According to the official Dubai Tourism figures, Platinumlist has approximately 80% marketshare in entertainment events, with the rest serviced by Virgin Tickets and Ticketmaster.

Flash Entertainment, which is subsidised by the government, is the dominant event organiser in Abu Dhabi. Flash brings a lot of Live Nation’s big artists and works exclusively via Ticketmaster at the moment, for obvious reasons.

The UAE is relatively small and has different technical requirements to the rest of the world – you can’t simply copy and paste ticketing technology used in the UK or Australia

What are the strengths of Platinumlist?
The UAE is a unique ticketing market, especially with the introduction of the Dubai e-Ticketing system in 2013. This market is relatively small and has different technical requirements to the rest of the world – you cannot simply copy and paste ticketing technology used in the UK or Australia.

Our business model is different from other conventional ticketing companies. Over the years we have established ourselves as a comprehensive event guide that has reasonable traffic and returning customer base. Ticketing nowadays is not rocket science, in my opinion, and we provide it almost at cost price with an average percentage of 5% inclusive of card-processing charges.

We focus a lot on inbound marketing, which I believe is key; we have 12 years’ experience and a team that knows its digital and conventional marketing channels locally. We know every advertising and service supplier in town and make sure that our clients get the right prices without any backhanders. Such positive consulting, which we provide free to all our clients big or small, has won us a 99% client retention and a solid reputation.

What is Dubai e-Ticketing?
Since 2013 all ticketing companies in Dubai must draw their ticketing stock via API from the Dubai e-Ticketing system.
It is mandatory for every organiser planing an event in Dubai to set up ticket inventory on the e-Ticketing server and then appoint a licensed local ticketing company to sell tickets online.

Secondary ticketing is a hot topic elsewhere in the world – do you see any future for it in the UAE?
Resale of tickets for above face value is against Dubai law.

Being a primary ticket seller I see little gain from resellers for the music industry in general. Promoters invest huge sums in marketing and artist fees; obviously it is discouraging for them to see resellers harvesting demand by simply buying Google AdWords, hitting event organisers where it hurts most. The result is inflated prices, dissatisfied customers and no increment in sales – at least this is the case in the Emirati market.

However, promoters and primary ticketing companies have only themselves to blame: There is a clear gap for ticket marketing portals worldwide and it is being filled now.


Vassiliy Anatoli is managing director of Platinumlist.net, a Dubai-based events guide and ticketing platform.