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International Ticketing Report 2021: Changing Landscape

IQ Magazine's one-off International Ticketing Report provides an indispensable annual health check on the global ticketing business

By Gordon Masson on 09 Nov 2021

The International Ticketing Report is a one-off annual health check on the global ticketing business, with emphasis on the sector’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The past two years have been turbulent for the business, but with consumer demand for live events now at an all-time peak, the challenges of fulfilling the most packed event schedule in history will test ticketers to the hilt.

Staffing, vouchers schemes and refunds, demand, consumer behaviour, communication, new products & services, secondary ticketing, pandemic lessons and recovery are among the challengers addressed by industry-leading experts in this extended report.

The report, originally published in IQ105, is in lieu of the International Ticketing Yearbook – a standalone global guide to the live entertainment market that will return in 2022.

IQ will publish sections of the International Ticketing Report over the coming weeks, starting with an instalment that reflects on the changing landscape. However, subscribers can read the entire feature in issue 105 of IQ Magazine now.

In years gone by, IQ’s annual examination of the ticketing business has merited a standalone book – the International Ticketing Yearbook (ITY). However, the pandemic decimated the business, globally, with many operations forced to run with a skeleton staff that had to deal with the thousands of postponed and rescheduled shows and events, often multiple times, as well as the complexity of refunds and/or voucher schemes.

As the countdown to 2022 begins in earnest, the ticketing sector was among the first in the live entertainment sector to start bringing its employees back into the workplace. And the results have been phenomenal. On-sales such as Ed Sheeran and Coldplay have both seen more than a million tickets snapped up, while hundreds of artists and acts are planning to hit the road, meaning many venues are experiencing seven-days-a-week bookings for the first time in their history.

Covid willing, 2022 should be a record-breaking year for the live events industry. But there are still significant territories operating under pandemic restrictions, and the prospect of more virulent variants of Covid-19 emerging over the winter months in the northern hemisphere remains an all-too-real threat for promoters and event organisers everywhere.

Setting such concerns aside, momentarily, IQ spoke with a number of leading industry executives about the challenges – past, present, and future – to gauge the health of the international ticketing business.

“We’ve been leading the move to mobile tickets for some time, but the pandemic has fast-tracked their adoption industry-wide”

Changing landscape
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is driving seismic changes in the ticketing sector worldwide, acting as a catalyst for digitisation but also prompting certain operators to question their participation in the business.

Ticketmaster president, Mark Yovich, says, “We’ve been leading the move to mobile tickets for some time now, but the pandemic has fast-tracked their adoption industry-wide. The benefits were always there but are even more clear-cut in a post-Covid world.”

He explains, “For the fan, it provides a convenient and frictionless experience. For the event organiser, more insight than ever before. In the past when someone would buy four tickets, it was a matter of guessing who those other three tickets went to. Now we know who walks through the door and can serve them up a more personalised and enjoyable experience from the moment the ticket lands in their Ticketmaster account right through to showtime.”

Digital services are also a priority for CTS Eventim chief operating officer Alexander Ruoff. “The entire industry must work to get fans back to shows in similar numbers to 2019,” he says.

“Ticketing will become even more digital. In markets where electronic entry-control has not been standard, we will see this after the pandemic. As digitalisation continues, we will be able to offer exciting new products. One example is the Eventim.Pass digital ticket, which has already been used for Ed Sheeran’s European tour.”

“The reality of the liabilities that ticket companies carry in the event of cancellation has really hit home during the pandemic”

Ruoff explains that Eventim.Pass tickets can only be resold via the company’s official resale platform, fanSALE, “which means they are fully traceable,” he says. “It is an important contribution in the fight against the unauthorised secondary ticket market.”

Jamie Scahill, head of marketing for Skiddle, says even clients that were reluctant to adopt digital and paperless systems are now changing direction.

“For example, during the pandemic, Skiddle provided ticketing for local football clubs in the UK using our RapidScan ticket scanning app software to provide contactless entry,” he says. “Such clubs had not adopted paperless entry pre-pandemic and this trend is looking set to continue across a range of sectors in the events industry.”

That’s a development that Richard Howle from The Ticket Factory welcomes. But he recognises that economic hardship has taken its toll. “Commercially, it has made us more risk-averse,” he admits. “I know that some promoters and organisers are struggling to get advances as the ticketing industry becomes more cautious.

“The reality of the liabilities that ticket companies carry in the event of cancellation has really hit home during the pandemic and that will reflect attitudes and commercial decisions going forward, particularly for new promoters and event organisers,” he warns.

“Over 70% of eventgoers would be more encouraged to attend an event if it had a cashless system”

The advantages of digital tickets are crucial to Fair Ticket Solutions, whose founder & CEO, Alan Gelfand, notes, “The need to know the identity of every attendee has finally come to fruition. This will ultimately move the industry to a futuristic goal of some form of biometrics becoming an attendee’s ticket, such as their face or palm. Additionally, an attendee’s health status will now have to be linked to their ticket or else physical checks will still have to be applied at gate entry causing delays nobody wants.”

While debates over biometric tickets will be a feature of industry conferences in the months ahead, the pandemic has also caused untold financial damage to the ticketing sector, meaning that some of the smaller operators, in particular, may not re-emerge.

“The pandemic has weakened the players who were in a more challenging position, notably in terms of cash flow,” states Weezevent CEO Pierre-Henri Deballon. “It also highlighted the difficulties of some players in managing high-volume refunds, while it has underlined the advantages of having access to more flexible and adaptable technology like Weezevent.”

Benjamin Leaver, CEO, Event Genius & Festicket, claims that event organisers who adopt contactless and cashless technology will benefit. “A survey we did recently revealed that over 70% of eventgoers would be more encouraged to attend an event if it had a cashless system,” says Leaver, citing his company’s own egPay system.

“Beyond that, we’ve seen a definitive rise in the usage of alternative payment methods, such as our payment plans and Pay with Friends feature. These allow customers to reduce immediate costs, allowing them to purchase more events at one time, and also goes hand in hand with the increase in average order value.”

“Much intellectual property has left the industry as a result of ticketing companies downsizing their workforces”

While Dice president Russ Tannen points to the adoption of live-streaming as a direct result of lockdown restrictions, at AXS, director of ticketing Paul Newman cites four fundamental Covid factors: purchase patterns have altered, with last-minute bookings having increased; the increase in the uptake of ticket insurance; the need for increased levels of communication to customers, such as Covid protocols and other advance show information; and the acceleration of the move to digital tickets and contactless venues.

“We have seen a strong migration to timed entry ticketing for museums and attractions as well as digital tickets and hands-free check in,” affirms Steven Sunshine, CEO of California-based TixTrack.

Across the Pacific, in Hong Kong, Martin Haigh at Total Ticketing is counting the casualties. “Ticketing companies that are part of larger integrated companies have appeared to have weathered the storm more easily. That being said, we’ve seen conglomerates in Thailand, Japan, and Korea look to sell their ticketing divisions – something that has never been on the cards in living memory,” he observes.

“Much intellectual property has left the industry as a result of ticketing companies downsizing their workforces. Independent ticketing companies have looked for bridging loans or investment to remain afloat. Many have pivoted towards livestreaming; many have looked at ancillary revenue streams more closely with things like ticket insurance and ‘buy now, pay later’ being pushed very hard during the check-out process.”

One company noticing a surge in interest is TicketPlan, which offers ticket protection services. “Attachment rates for ticket protection and insurance will continue to be high, as ticket buyers now understand the potential risk of being unable to attend and will continue to purchase products such as TicketPlan on a wider range of bookings,” comments company CEO Ben Bray.

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