British industry body STAR is leading the push for a government-backed training scheme for young ticket agents, currently under consideration
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With significant change on the horizon in the USA, what’s the broader impact on ticketing worldwide? IQ investigates
By IQ on 06 Oct 2023
The latest edition of the International Ticketing Report (formerly the International Ticketing Yearbook) is now available in print, digitally, and on the dedicated year-round mini-site. Check out a key chapter below…
From the US president’s call for reform to frustrated fans being increasingly vocal about not getting tickets for high-demand shows, there’s never been so much scrutiny on the ticketing industry. With significant change on the horizon in the USA, what’s the broader impact worldwide?
Ticketing has long been a dynamic and fast-moving sector of the live entertainment industry. But it’s been quite some time since things were as heated as they have been in the last 18 months.
Media reports have been rife with topics such as the dynamic pricing of Bruce Springsteen’s tour and frustrated people unable to see one of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour dates.
Then, there’s been the involvement of the US president, Joe Biden, who’s been determinedly campaigning against hidden fees.
The largest ticketing company in the world, Ticketmaster, has long been campaigning for legislation on this issue.
The company’s global president Mark Yovich tells us: “Ticketmaster has shown all-in pricing for many years in a number of territories outside the US, as required by consumer law. Today we operate in over 30 countries and more than two- thirds of those display all-in pricing. We know it’s a better experience for fans and have long advocated for this in countries where it is not mandated. We also give fans in those markets a toggle to see prices including fees upfront.
“In the US, the industry noise is getting louder, and we are hopeful federal legislation is finally in sight, which would be great news for fans. Enforcement will be key to its success, as we have seen unscrupulous sites appearing in search results with misleading pricing even in the US states where all-in pricing is now law.”
“It’s a competitive industry, and we see other ticketing companies trying to win purchases by advertising the lowest ticket price possible – prices that exclude the fees”
Clarity on fees is also supported by Germany-headquartered global giant CTS Eventim. CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg says: “We fully support the goal of giving consumers maximum transparency, particularly on ticketing fees.”
“The president’s commitment to scrap junk fees is a huge step forward for a more enjoyable, more equitable live experience,” DICE CEO Phil Hutcheon told IQ in June. “DICE has always had upfront pricing, and it leads to more fans going out more often and ensures everyone can access the artists they love.”
The stumbling block to a wider roll-out of all-in pricing is that without legislation, the competitive nature of the industry will mean companies who are using fully transparent pricing could lose out to those that don’t. This would leave consumers confused and mean the firms that enact all-in costs could lose traffic to those that aren’t.
“It’s a competitive industry, and we see other ticketing companies trying to win purchases by advertising the lowest ticket price possible – prices that exclude the fees,” says Yovich. “This even happens in states in the US that currently mandate all-in pricing. Where Ticketmaster uses all-in pricing, we show the total price upfront. The discrepancy across platforms makes it impossible for fans to gain the full benefits of comparison shopping.”
He says Ticketmaster wants to see the law changed around the world, to create a level playing field.
“In the ticketing industry, what happens or what’s developed in North America is usually implemented internationally”
What happens in the US often reverberates across the rest of the world. If the US federal government legislates that ticket prices have to reflect the final cost upfront, then will those countries that don’t currently do that follow suit?
“In the ticketing industry, what happens or what’s developed in North America is usually implemented internationally,” says ticketing consultant Tim Chambers. “But will increased government regulation of ticketing or intervention by regulatory authorities follow suit? I’m not sure.
“Ultimately, governments are loath to regulate ticketing. They’ll provide guidelines, but they prefer self-regulation.”
Much of this debate played out in the media after two major on-sales: Bruce Springsteen’s 2023 tour, which drew ire from fans after some tickets reached more than $5,000 due to dynamic pricing, and Taylor Swift’s Eras outing. Presale chaos for her US dates was blamed on a cyberattack by ticket scalpers, who run bots. Although bots were banned in the USA in 2016 and the UK in 2018, they continue to be an issue on all hot tours around the world.
Yovich says the company continues to invest in its anti- bot tools, but adds it wants to see effective, enforceable legislation. “The financial incentives are incredibly high, and penalties are far too low to deter their use.”
“One of the most important factors is definitely how reliable our systems are, even when handling high or extremely high traffic”
Demand for Swift tickets in Australia was so high that at one point there were 4m people on Ticketek’s website at the on-sale – 20% of the country’s population.
“The bot attacks reached about 300m on the first day,” says Cameron Hoy, managing director, Ticketek, and chief digital officer at TEG, the Australia-based firm with ticketing brands across Australasia and the UK. “The resources that it takes to deal with those things are considerable.”
He says the number of attacks from bots is so high because the computer programs are openly being sold on major online sites, so they’re very easy for even novices to acquire and use.
Being able to handle such high levels of demand is crucial for the fan experience, and as such, reliable tech is a key focus for CTS Eventim, as Schulenberg says: “As a technology leader in our market, we strive to offer the best and most powerful solutions in every respect.
“One of the most important factors is definitely how reliable our systems are, even when handling high or extremely high traffic. And our commitment to effectively tackling abuse and fraud – such as using illegal bots. Our EVENTIM.Pass app provides digital-only tickets, which benefits promoters and fans by putting an end to unauthorised ticket resales.”
“We’re lucky to work in a space that’s filled with so much passion”
Ultimately, though, people’s post-Covid desperation to see the hottest concerts, fuelled by a strong sense of FOMO, means there will never be enough tickets for everyone. Social media amplifies their disappointment, with ticketing firms the target of their ire.
Yovich says: “We spend so much time at Ticketmaster pioneering new technologies and refining the fan experience to manage expectations, such as advanced smart queues that provide real-time position status and inventory updates; ticketing that avoids queues altogether through our Request system; and interactive seat maps and ‘view from seat’ options that help fans make informed decisions. There is so much more we are working on that will continue to remove friction.”
TEG’s Hoy says: “How do artists, ticketing companies, and the rest of the industry come together to manage super-high demand on-sales, when we know there is more demand than tickets? One answer could be to run a ballot. I know one of the reasons promoters might feel disinclined to do that is they’re unsure if it will be as hot as people think, but as an industry we can work together to solve this.”
And he says that while ticketing companies often need a thick skin to deal with fans’ disappointment, sometimes the amount of vitriol online can be difficult to handle. “We’re lucky to work in a space that’s filled with so much passion, and we
get to connect people with things that they love. And that’s a privilege in many respects. But there are some days when it can be pretty rough.”
Another reform Hoy would like to see around the world is making ticketing accessible for everyone. “As the world becomes more aware of the significant array of accessibility needs beyond that of mobility, we need a more equitable online purchasing process. The purchase experience should be the same for all members of the community, whether or not they have accessibility needs. That requires the whole industry working together to make sure that from the outset we’ve built the right technology and user interfaces to enable and cater for all needs but also that venues ensure there’s an appropriate amount of inventory available and communicated.”
“AI will revolutionise many of our processes – and it’s already doing so”
Looking to the future, Hoy says AI and machine learning (ML) will play an increasingly important role in the future. “We’ve been doing a lot of work with our data science team for ten years, meaning we can do much more in terms of predictive modelling to help promoters and venues understand demand curve; help inform their investments in particular acts and artists; and to help inform operational delivery, service delivery, and other things.
“I’m really proud of the work that we’ve been doing in building out a data science team that sits in the very centre of our ticketing company. Ticketing businesses are in a uniquely advantaged position to be leveraging AI and ML technologies given the wealth of data generated in the process of delivering our services. We are very focussed on investing further in this space to unlock value for both customers and clients.”
AI is an important part of the work that CTS Eventim does, too, says Schulenberg. “AI will revolutionise many of our processes – and it’s already doing so. It will help us analyse the huge volume of data we’ve aggregated so we can make our recommendations even more accurate and our sales platforms even more powerful. It will help guide marketing campaigns for our partners and support us in refining our after-sales service. With AI, we’ll be able to react faster, better, and more intelligently than ever before – especially with high volumes and short-notice projects. We began engaging with AI a while ago so that we could give our partners access to the best, most powerful tools on the market at any time.”
The rapid pace of change in the ticketing industry shows no sign of slowing up. And with improvements for all ticket- buyers high on many companies’ agendas, the coming 12 months are likely to be as dynamic as the last.
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