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With the mobile-first Big Neon, Teree aims to cut through the blockchain "hype machine" with a tout-proof – and, crucially, ready-to-go – ticketing solution for US clubs
By Jon Chapple on 04 Dec 2018
Ticketing industry veteran Dan Teree – the former president of TicketWeb and co-founder of Ticketfly – today announced the launch of Big Neon, a blockchain ticketing company with a difference: the hundreds of thousands of tickets, worth millions of dollars, it already has under contract.
Staffed by what Teree calls “the best of the best from the former Ticketfly crew”, including former director of business development Ryan O’Connor, the mobile-first platform plans to use the Tari blockchain protocol to manage the sale and resale of tickets to help its partner promoters maximise revenues.
First announced in May, Tari is built on the Monero blockchain and specialises in ‘digital assets’, such as tickets, loyalty points and virtual goods. The open-source protocol’s chief contributor to date is Tari Labs, a company founded by Teree, angel investor Naveen Jain and Monero lead maintainer Riccardo ‘Fluffypony’ Spagni.
With Eventbrite’s recent announcement that the Ticketfly brand is to be retired to make way for Eventbrite Music, and the continuing popularity of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, “the timing couldn’t be better” to launch Big Neon, Teree tells IQ.
Teree’s pitch to Big Neon’s launch partners – many of which were formerly served by his old companies – was, “‘You will be in good hands with Big Neon, as we are solely focused on you – the independent music promoter – so every feature we build will be to help your business,’” Teree explains.
As with other blockchain-based ticketing providers, Big Neon touts (pun intended) its eventual ability to easily and securely restrict unwanted resale, allowing promoters to “recapture revenues that are currently lost to the secondary market”, he continues.
Where the new company diverges from other start-ups in the space, Teree suggests, is in the wealth of established live music/ticketing industry experience behind it. When pitching to clients, “the blockchain aspect is secondary” to what Big Neon can actually achieve for them, Teree explains. “My data is on an SQL database, but I don’t go around talking about MySQL all the time – it’s the same with Big Neon.
“For some people, blockchain is just a pump machine”
“For some people, [blockchain is] just a pump machine – with lots of these upstarts it’s like, ‘Who are you? I’m not quite sure you’re familiar with how the live music industry works.’
“But we have real clients who put on huge shows with thousands of fans. And given our experience, they trust that we understand their needs and will deliver the goods.”
Those clients – initially at least – are mid-sized venues in North America, ranging from 300-capacity clubs to 8,000-capacity ballrooms. Around 300,000 tickets are already under contract, says Teree, with the company having signed several “multi-year, multimillion-dollar exclusive ticketing contracts”.
In the wake of the well-publicised hack of the Ticketfly system in June, as well as a similar breach at Ticketmaster International, Teree is also keen to stress the platform’s security advantages compared to more established ticketers.
“Weighed against some of the recent data breaches, one thing we’re emphasising is Big Neon’s open-source nature,” he explains. “Open-source code is inherently of a higher quality – developers know that when other people are going to be looking at their code, they need to be more conscious and careful – and security is job number one in a blockchain. It’s central to what we’re doing.”
Big Neon has “a team that does nothing but try to hack ourselves,” Teree continues. “We have to treat our software as if a person’s entire life savings are on it.”
“It’s not about upending the way the real world works; we’re just here to make our clients more money”
Big Neon as a company will generate revenue using the tried-and-tested model of levying a fee on each ticket sold. “It’s not about upending the way the real world works; we’re just here to make our clients more money,” Teree says. However, the open-source Tari network has more ambitious longer-term goals.
“We’re a protocol project as well,” says Teree. “Big Neon will be a great business, but over time we also hope other big ticketing players will adopt Big Neon’s open-source tools and the forthcoming Tari blockchain so their ticketing clients can benefit from a blockchain-enabled ticketing system. Our goal is to make Tari so useful that people can’t afford not to use it.”
“In several years’ time,” he adds, we hope Tari “not only will be supporting the ticketing industry, but other digital asset-related industries as well, such as virtual goods in video gaming.”
Back in the present day, however, Teree is fully focused on Big Neon, after around six months of operating in “stealth mode”. The ability to use blockchain to control and monetise the secondary market for the benefit of independent promoters is, he says, “from my vantage, the biggest innovation in the ticketing industry since the first ticket was sold online.
Will Eastman of Washington DC’s Blisspop Productions, owner of the U Street Music Hall (500-cap.), is an early Big Neon convert. He comments: “We decided to join Big Neon because of the founding team’s proven track record and their intense focus on building an entirely mobile and modern experience for patrons. Being a part of bringing blockchain-based ticketing to life makes me feel like we’re part of history in the making.”
“I haven’t been happy with my ticketing company for quite a while,” adds Jeff Whitmore, founder of the 800-cap. Public Works venue in San Francisco. “From what I’ve seen so far, I’m pretty damn confident the Big Neon team will deliver more innovation and genuine customer service in their first year than the other ticketing companies have in the last decade. With Big Neon, I feel that I’ve got a voice that is actually listened to.
“And let’s face it, the industry can use a good swift kick in the ass. My money is on Big Neon to provide that kick.”
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