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The annual guide to the global live entertainment ticketing business
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France is a market on the up but like everywhere else, it’s been forced to get there via the overwhelming downer of Covid. In ticketing terms, it is a traditional market with a dominant player, an increasing amount of technology, and plenty of competition.
In October 2019, CTS Eventim completed the acquisition of a 48% stake in market leader France Billet from owner Fnac Darty and merged its existing activities in France into the partnership. There’s no much bolder move available in the French ticketing market, as France Billet is the single biggest operator, offering 60,000 shows per year and selling as many as 13 million tickets.
The terms of the deal will see CTS Eventim fully own the ticketer, becoming the largest in the country.
There’s no much bolder move available in the French ticketing market
It does so through an extensive multichannel, multi-brand distribution network that encompasses Fnac, Intermarché, GÉANT, and Système U websites and stores – more than 1,800 stores and over 3,500 websites.
The empire also includes a range of proprietary ticketing software, Tick & Live, a joint venture with Fimalac Entertainment, and spin-off products including Aparté for producers and venue managers and DataSport for organisers of sporting events.
In 2019, France Billet added last-minute ticket purchase site BilletRéduc to its stable and in September 2020, Panda Tickets, its last-minute collaboration with Veepee (formerly Vente-Privée), closed its doors.
In June 2021, Ticketmaster France took a bite out of the France Billet network, poaching Carrefour Spectacles, one of the most established ticketing retailers in the French market.
Under the partnership, TM France facilitates all of Carrefour Spectacles’ ticketing activities, including online sales and those through the 600+ ticket offices located in Carrefour Group stores around France.
“Simply put, we think our customers will have a better experience buying tickets with Ticketmaster”
“Simply put, we think our customers will have a better experience buying tickets with Ticketmaster,” said Jean- Baptiste Prévoteau, Carrefour director of merchant services.
The pandemic period produced other uncomfortable moments for France Billet, which found itself in the firing line over its response to consumers as Covid bit and events were postponed and cancelled.
French industry associations PRODISS and SMA were highly critical of the communication and refund policies of Fnac Darty and France Billet, accusing them of ignoring ticketholder questions and complaints and of trying to shift responsibility to promoters.
But the world eventually started spinning again, and in April 2022, there was good news for France Billet as it struck a deal to supply ticketing software to the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Competitors to France Billet and Ticketmaster include the Vivendi-owned See Tickets (formerly Digitick), Figaro Group’s Ticketac, and Le Figaro Billetterie platforms and white-label B2B online ticketing, cashless and registration specialist Weezevent, which merged in March 2021 with Belgium’s PlayPass.
Elsewhere, Switzerland-based Smeetz – a data-driven ticketing and dynamic pricing software supplier for attractions and cultural venues – has recently launched operations in France.
Meanwhile, DICE partnered with Super! across its entire portfolio of events, including Pitchfork Festival in Paris, and also with La Machine du Moulin Rouge, home of the world-famous cabaret. British fan-to-fan resale site Twickets is also planning a French operation.
DISTRIBUTION OF SALES
The balance of online and bricks-and-mortar is a time-honoured one in France, where the leading ticketers have a major retail presence. The difference these days is that mobile is increasingly claiming the growing online segment.
“Digital tickets and print-at-home are the go-to, but paper tickets remain a popular option for people to collect for free in one of our 1,600 outlets,” says Ticketmaster France managing director François Thominet.
“Digital tickets and print-at-home are the go-to, but paper tickets remain a popular option…”
PRODISS has previously reported that 31% of people are most likely to buy their live entertainment tickets from a point of sale – compared to 51% online and 17% who can go either way – while 30% rarely or never buy online.
VALUE OF MARKET
France is the world’s fifth-largest recorded music market, and its live market is also a powerful thing, when given the chance. PRODISS/EY has put the overall economic impact of live music at €4.9bn, with 39% of that concentrated around Paris. The live industry itself was worth €1.5bn pre-pandemic, of which around half was ticket sales.
In France, it is illegal for tickets to be resold without the authorisation of the promoter, and they mean it: in February, Global Service Concierge, which operates ticket resale platforms Live-booker.fr and Next-concert.com, was fined €150,000 by French consumer protection agency DGCCRF for implying its tickets were being resold with the authorisation of the promoters.
In November 2020, the same company was ordered to compensate PRODISS €100,000 over a similar charge.
In November 2020, a court in Paris told Google that it could not allow companies reselling tickets without a promoter’s permission to buy their way to the top of search rankings.
Also in November 2020, a court in Paris told Google that it could not allow companies reselling tickets without a promoter’s permission to buy their way to the top of search rankings.
Nonetheless, Secondary ticketing goes on. Historically, Viagogo has dodged the French law against reselling without the event organiser’s permission by operating from Switzerland.
In July, the Stade de France trialled an all-digital ticketing approach for Ed Sheeran’s two sold-out shows. The system, operated by SecuTix via its blockchain-based mobile ticketing technology TIXnGO, linking tickets to mobile phone numbers and using a secure app to distribute them securely to the 176,000 fans.
People who bought tickets for friends or family members were able to transfer them via the app itself, using an email address. The digital ticket generates a dynamic QR code on the day of the concert that changes frequently and cannot be captured or sold on.
INTERNATIONAL / DOMESTIC SPLITS & GENRES
In 1994, France set a 40% radio quota of French-language songs, which now holds at 35%. French acts are still remarkably strong at home, though international shows do well, too: Harry Styles plays the Stade de France next June, but Mylène Farmer plays two nights the same month. There is also a growing sense that the Internet offers
France the opportunity to globalise the music it loves. As Live Nation France managing director Angelo Gopee said in 2018: “US and UK artists have long been planning their entire touring year between Asia, Australia, South America, Europe, and the US. Only now is this also the case for French artists. For us French promoters and artists, it’s a great opportunity.”
As in so many mature markets, evidence of rapturous sell-outs in France is easy to find: in June, Main Square Festival in Arras attracted a record 150,000-strong crowd over four days, while Les Francofolies de La Rochelle drew 280,000 visitors in five, and Hellfest in Clisson reported 420,000 fans over the course of a week.
But lurking beneath the back-in-business headlines is some less joyous news. The four-day Aluna Festival, which drew 65,000 people to the Ardèche overall, reported a financial deficit. “It’s depressing,” founding president Jean Boucher told Le Dauphine.
Realistically, it is going to take some time for France – and the rest of the world – to bounce back at all levels.
Realistically, it is going to take some time for France – and the rest of the world – to bounce back at all levels. “When we say the festivals are resuming, we must not think that we have regained the growth of 2019 before the health crisis. This is not the case,” said PRODISS general manager Malika Seguineau, according to France 24.
Before the pandemic, however, France’s infrastructure was augmented with a number of useful new additions. In 2017, Paris got two brand-new music venues in the 40,000-capacity Paris La Défense Arena and the 2,000-6,500-cap La Seine Musicale.
Meanwhile, festivals such as Rock en Seine (acquired by AEG that year) and Lollapalooza Paris (also launched in 2017), have given the capital events of its own to add to stalwarts such as Main Square, Les Francofolies, Eurockéennes de Belfort and Musilac, in Aix-les-Bains.
TAXES & CHARGES
The general rate of VAT on concert tickets in France is 5.5%. For concerts, collection society SACEM levies a charge of 11% of the ticket’s face value.