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Countdown to the Arthurs 2020: Andrew Parsons

Individuals and events will be crowned across 11 categories at the Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner on 5 March, as the music industry’s response to the Oscars returns to the glamorous Sheraton Grand Park Lane hotel.

Last year’s 25th anniversary awards saw success for Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant, FKP Scorpio’s Folkert Koopmans, ICM Partners’ Kevin Jergensen and Live Nation’s Selina Emeny, as well as the teams at the Royal Albert Hall, British Summer Time Hyde Park and Mad Cool Festival, among others.

As the Emma Banks-hosted ceremony draws ever closer, IQ chats to some previous winners to find out what receiving an Arthur meant to them and to discover their biggest hopes and dreams for the future.

Up first is Andrew Parsons, managing director of the UK division of Ticketmaster, four-time recipients of the Arthurs’ Golden Ticket award.

 


Arthur has been very kind to us over the years. Well, every other year really but who’s counting? (I am). It is always great to receive recognition from within the industry but all the more so from a room full of event partners past, present and future to whom we owe so much. Even if half of them won’t remember who actually won anything come that painful next morning!

Arthur resides on the edge of a desk, where all awards should be kept. He unfortunately took a bit of a battering on the night though from victory laps with team TM. So, Arthur’s head is now somewhat disconnected from his pedestal.

It is always great to receive recognition from within the industry, all the more so from a room full of event partners past, present and future

Emma Banks’ regal-like presenting performance at the Arthurs is always very good value. And Alex Hardee’s stand-up routines are now pretty legendary. Overall though, it is that the awards do not take themselves too seriously that makes them so unique and such a positive experience – nothing that will overly get in the way of a good dinner with friends.

ILMC is a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues from other territories. Our Ticketmaster Australia ticketing cousins always live up superbly well to all the stereotypes and are a guaranteed excellent night out every time.

On a serious note to finish, 2019 was the year we brought accessible ticketing online and mobile. All fans should be able to have the same level of access to buying tickets the way they want on any given on sale and we were determined to make that happen. It was also the year that digital tickets exploded onto the scene opening up so many opportunities. We can’t wait to see where 2020 takes us.

 


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Ticketmaster launches accessible tickets online

Ticketmaster has launched online tickets sales for disabled fans in the UK, allowing customers to buy accessible tickets online for the first time.

Ticketmaster’s online booking validation process allows fans with accessibility requirements to purchase the correct tickets easily. Customers who make an online accessible order are asked to submit their requirements, such as a seat for a personal assistant, a wheelchair-accessible space or access to the best location to view sign language interpretation, via their Ticketmaster account. All information will be saved for future purchases.

The system will be rolled out for upcoming events as Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC) venues, which include the 13,000-capacity SSE Hydro, Glasgow and Motorpoint Arena Cardiff.

“At Ticketmaster we believe equal access to live entertainment is paramount,” comments Ticketmaster UK managing director Andrew Parsons.

“We knew we had to do more for disabled fans and our team has worked hard on this ground-breaking technology that endeavours to make ticket buying simple for all. Every fan should have the same access to the events they love, it’s an ongoing process and one we continue to prioritise.”

“This is real progress for millions of disabled fans who are entitled to a variety of ways in which they can book their tickets”

A recent survey compiled by music accessibility charity Attitude is Everything (AIE) found that 83% of disabled gig-goers have been deterred from buying tickets due to inaccessible booking systems. Many reported paying extra to be able to buy a ticket online, or having no option to purchase online at all.

Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of the charity, says she is “delighted” that accessible tickets are now available online.

“This is real progress for millions of disabled fans who are entitled to a variety of ways in which they can book their tickets,” says Bull. “In designing their new service, Ticketmaster has worked closely with us and our Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition to achieve the five steps to inclusive ticketing that we set out in our February 2018 State of Access report. We wish them every success.”

The new system will roll out across more events, venues and countries in the near future.

Motorpoint Arena Cardiff and Ticketmaster UK were among nominees for AIE’s Outstanding Attitude Awards this year.

 


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MVT launches advisory books for grassroots venues

At an event at City Hall in London last night (15 July), Music Venue Trust (MVT) launched two new books which offer practical advice to the grassroots venues sector.

The illustrated, open-source books, commissioned by MVT and produced by writer David Pollock and photographer Jannica Honey, aim to draw on the association’s work over the past five years to offer assistance to those wishing to open a new venue (How to Open a Grassroots Music Venue) and those already running one (How to Run a Grassroots Music Venue).

According to Mark Davyd, CEO of the UK charity – founded in 2014 to protect, secure and improve grassroots music venues – each book contains 15 chapters of information covering topics including licensing, company structure, what facilities need to be provided, and ideas for diversifying what venues offer, as well as interviews with venue managers and case studies.

A guidance section at the back of the books is complemented by cross-referencing with online resources on the MVT website (musicvenuetrust.com/resources), which will be updated regularly.

“We want these books to inspire people to join us and open their own venues”

As well as a limited print run, both books are available as downloadable PDFs from both MVT’s and the Mayor of London’s websites.

“When I was 17, I put on my first gig, and over the next ten years I met lots of other like-minded people who wanted to do the same,” explains Davyd. “Eventually, after five years of trying, we got together and opened our own venue. Nobody ever gave us advice, and we must have made every mistake possible. Most people I know in the grassroots music sector have a similar story, which is why we wanted to publish these guides.

“We want these books to inspire people to join us and open their own venues, and the message is simple: you can build a stage the band doesn’t fall through, you can get a licence that doesn’t prevent you from opening on a Wednesday, and you can avoid having to rebuild the venue from scratch, only this time with enough doors.”

Andrew Parsons, managing director of Ticketmaster UK, says: “Developing the next generation of talent is hugely important to us; grassroots music venues are an essential part of an artist’s career and a vital cog in the music industry machine. We have worked with MVT since 2015 and know the struggles that these venues face. These guides are another important step to keep music playing in grassroots venues across the UK.”

Rou Reynolds addresses MVT book launch

Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds, an MVT patron (pictured speaking at the launch), adds: “Grassroots music venues are vital spaces for musicians, music fans and communities in general. It’s been a tough time for venues up and down the country over the past few years and there’s been no government support.

“It’s great that MVT has launched these new books, sharing the knowledge and experience of those who run the venues that are surviving and shining a spotlight on the touring circuit.

“I think it could help encourage the opening of new venues and support networks.”

Music Venue Trust says it’s looking into the possibility of further development of these guides. Anyone interested in being involved should email info@musicvenuetrust.com.

 


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TM shares hotly tipped live acts for 2018

Ticketmaster UK has named seven emerging artists it’s tipping to make waves in the live world in 2018.

The company’s New for 2018 list is curated by its UK artist services team, which has worked on more 600 tour campaigns in the past 12 months, and features acts from across the musical spectrum.

The class of 2018 are:

“We’ve worked with some huge artists this year, including Liam Gallagher, Sam Smith, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles, who have all been massive tours for us,” says Ticketmaster UK chief Andrew Parsons. “But maybe even more exciting has been the new acts we’ve started working with. To see the fans that artists develop even before they’ve received any substantial media exposure is always incredible. It’s testimony to quality of their music and their ability to put on a show.

“We love being part of an artist’s live career from the very beginning. The acts playing upstairs in pubs today could be those headlining O2 Academy Brixton or even The O2 tomorrow, and it’s vital that Ticketmaster lends support and guidance to these emerging artists.”

More information about the seven acts is available on the New for 2018 website.

 


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Amazon Tickets: “Fair prices”, no fees, no resale

Ahead of its rumoured international launch, Amazon Tickets’ general manager, Geraldine Wilson, has discussed Amazon’s fledgling UK ticketing operation, outlining its commitment to “fair prices for fans” with booking fees included in tickets’ face value.

Speaking at the 29th International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in London last week, Wilson said concert ticketing is an “obvious” area of expansion for Amazon given the ecommerce giant’s strength in physical musical sales and streaming. “Our customers love music, and this was an obvious place to go,” she said.

On pricing, Wilson said Amazon its mission is to be “competitive on prices”: “When we are selling theatre tickets, for example, we don’t want the customer to pay any more than they would at the box office,” she explained. “We try and work within that.”

She also criticised the practice of charging booking fees on tickets at check-out, saying she “personally [has] a real problem” with hidden charges. “We always show an all-inclusive price,” she commented.

“We are all about getting tickets to fans in our customer base at a fair price. I think secondary is wrong on every level”

When the panel (Ticketing: The survival plan) moved onto secondary ticketing, Wilson was adamant Amazon was not going to move in that direction. “We are all about getting tickets to fans in our customer base at a fair price,” she said. “I think it [ticket touting] is wrong at every level.”

Wilson also appeared briefly during ILMC’s opening session, The Open Forum: The big round up, joining panellists as they discussed the ramifications of Amazon’s potentially disruptive entry into the international ticketing market.

Reactions were mixed: From a manager’s point of view, said Biffy Clyro’s manager, Paul Craig, Amazon Tickets’s launch – and more ticket sellers in general – are a good thing, as each has different reaches and user-bases. CAA agent Emma Banks, however, cautioned that too many cooks could make it difficult to effectively price shows. “Ticketing is very complicated in the UK,” she said. “You have arena box-office deals, promoter deals with ticketing companies… another ticket agency further squeezes the allocations.”

 


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Why hasn’t dynamic pricing taken off in music?

If 2016 will be remembered in the live music business for any one thing, it will be as the 12 months in which the pitchforks well and truly came out against secondary ticketing.

It was the year of the Waterson report and the Bots and Boss Acts, of FanFair and #ResaleNO, and the year in which Italy surprised the world by announcing plans to outlaw ticket touting altogether.

Although most of the industry – with, of course, the exception of the secondary sites themselves – agree on the desirability of minimising touting, it remains divided on the best way to do so. Italian-style legislation is one possibility; as is blocking individual sites, as has happened in Belgium.

Another is the dynamic pricing of tickets, in which prices fluctuate based on market demand – already common for sporting events, as well as in the booking of airline tickets and hotel rooms. Despite market leader Ticketmaster throwing its hat in the dynamically priced ring for select tickets in 2007 – followed by then-CEO Irving Azoff calling for more dynamic pricing in music – the practice has yet to find widespread acceptance in the live music industry, despite its obvious potential for making the for-profit secondary market far riskier for touts, if not redundant altogether.

The reason for that, says Barry Kahn, the CEO of Qcue, a leading developer of dynamic pricing software, is primarily logistical: “From our side, it’s a challenge working with [concert] promoters because ticketing relationships run through venues: for example, Madison Square Garden with Ticketmaster,” he explains. “If you’re an artist coming through MSG you don’t touch the ticketing system.”

Kahn says the majority of his current clients are sports teams, with “not a lot of dynamic pricing on the concert side”. While he is clear he “[doesn’t] want to say it doesn’t justify the fees” – “I’ve never seen a client that didn’t have a large positive on ROI [return on investment],” he says – he admits “it is a more expensive proposition” to dynamically price tickets, and for that reason is more popular for long runs at a single venue.

“I’ve never seen a client that didn’t have a large positive on ROI”

Manager Adam Tudhope – co-founder of Everybody’s (Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Keane) and a prominent anti-touting campaigner – says he “doesn’t doubt that it [dynamic pricing] might be one of the tools that people use alongside other ones [to minimise touting] – and I say good luck to them”.

Tudhope says it’s important that artists and promoters are upfront with their audience – that if they do decide to dynamically price, they let fans know the reason ticket prices are fluctuating – and that the ‘demand’ determining prices isn’t fixed by the secondary market.

“The ethical stance when selling tickets to fans is to be as transparent as possible,” he says. “If an artist and their business advisors think the audience can afford to pay more – and they want to make more money out of the show – then as long as they’re straightforward with their audience about what their offering is, I don’t see a problem with dynamic pricing.

“Doing it via secondary is underhand and rips off the fan, because they don’t know what the whole market has to offer.”

Ticketmaster UK, which dynamically prices most of its high-profile shows under the Ticketmaster Platinum banner, tells IQ its Platinum tickets aren’t pegged to how well shows are telling on its secondary platforms (Seatwave, Get Me In!). “Platinum prices are based on the demand,” explains managing director Andrew Parsons. “We place a portion out for sale starting at what we estimate market price to be; this is based on previous experience and our data tools. We also gauge market price on how quickly the initial allocation sells – we change price as we release more seats.”

Parsons says dynamic pricing is suitable for multi-venue tours, as opposed to just residency-style shows, explaining that the company can easily “manage it across multiple promoters and venues”.

“There are often many decision-makers involved … It can sometimes be challenging to get everyone on the same page”

While Parsons says he’d “love to think” there will be a time when Ticketmaster’s general-admission (GA) tickets are also dynamically priced, he explains it’s much easier to implement with premium seats. “With Platinum there’s a clear differentiating element: you’re selling the best seat,” he says. “That’s understood by both consumers and artists. It’s harder to do when it’s GA.”

Greg Loewen, CEO of Qcue rival Digonex, says he believes take-up of dynamic pricing in live music is being affected by a false belief among many promoters that dynamic pricing is an unreliable or unproven technology.

“Pricing is really hard, especially for a tour,” Loewen tells IQ. “Every night is in a different market and a different venue. Optimising pricing under those conditions is extraordinarily time-consuming and challenging, and not many dynamic pricing tools are designed to handle that level of complexity, so promoters may assume there is no reliable way to dynamically price a tour.” He insists that isn’t the case: “We hope to talk to those folks!”

One of Digonex’s live-entertainment partners is a well-known American comedian, who has seen significantly increased ticket revenues as a result of adopting dynamic pricing. “When we started out, his manager was concerned about the price going up too much,” explains Loewen. “But because of his popularity, we’re now seeing significant growth in ticket price – and we haven’t had a single complaint from any consumers.”

Despite the success stories in sports and live comedy, both Loewen and Kahn admit dynamically pricing live music is more difficult.

“There are often many decision-makers involved: promoters, agents, venue management, artists,” says Loewen. “It can sometimes be challenging to get everyone on the same page regarding a significant change like adopting dynamic pricing. It takes time.”

“As promoters we spend far too much time having to discuss ticketing and allocations – time that could be better spent on marketing and selling shows”

Former Metropolis Music director Conal Dodds – now running Crosstown Concerts with Paul Hutton and Fraser Duffin – says he can’t see it becoming commonplace in touring. “I think [it] works on theatre runs, and could work on festivals and residencies, for instance, but it would be incredibly complicated to strike a deal on the basis of one-off shows or tours where more than one promoter is involved,” he explains.

While Crosstown is committed to minimising touting for its shows – and has an exclusive ticketing partnership with Songkick to that end – Dodds says, as a promoter, he just isn’t interested in getting into the nitty-gritty of ticketing, gradually or otherwise: “As promoters we spend far too much time having to discuss ticketing and allocations – time that could be better spent on marketing and selling shows, which is where we all earn our monies.”

Kahn believes in order for dynamic pricing to see wide adoption in live music, “you need a restructuring in contracts”, with promoters “properly incentivised to take more risks” via a more generous share of the show’s revenue. At the moment, he says, there’s “too much risk and not much upside for the promoter”, leading to the temptation to “purposefully” pass tickets to secondary sellers.

There’s also the thorny issue of the potential for dynamic tickets to drop in price if the demand isn’t there. “Bands,” says Kahn, are simply “unwilling to drop prices… How often does that happen?”

Parsons says the eradication of ticket touting is “very much up there” in the considerations of those artists who do opt for at least partial dynamic pricing. “We’ve had discussions with artists who think it’s a problem,” he explains. “There’s a growing appreciation that you do need to take some steps [to minimise resale], and one of them is dynamic pricing.”

He adds there’s still “almost a stigma” about taking more money from fans, even in a “world where there’s no [income from] recorded”: “If you [artists and promoters] don’t take this money, other people will – you’re the ones with the creativity and who are taking the risk.”

“If you don’t take this money, other people will”

Loewen, too, is firmly in the Michael Rapino/Professor Waterson camp when it comes to the pricing of primary tickets, opining that “the level of activity in the secondary market suggests that many tickets are not priced efficiently”.

“Many view dynamic pricing as code for ‘price gouging’,” he says, “and are concerned about alienating their loyal fans with primary ticket prices that are perceived as too high.

“This is an understandable concern, although we all see that in instances of excess demand many fans will still pay the higher price – the only difference being that more of the profit is captured by the secondary market as opposed to the artists.”

He adds that dynamic pricing “isn’t only about increasing prices: sometimes it’s about lowering them too.  It’s about finding the ‘right’ price that more accurately reflects true market demand and is fair to consumers.”

Tudhope, however – who has spoken of his wish to see ticket touting criminalised in the UK – isn’t wholly convinced. “Dynamic pricing, ethically done, might be appropriate for some of my artists’ audiences, and not for others,” he concludes. “This is the main point, and an important argument to make against the secondary sites who say ‘put on more shows!’ and ‘make your ticket prices higher!’.

“If the artist and I decide that there should only be one show, and that it be priced reasonably, that should frankly be our choice – not down to a market that is completely skewed by the often-illegal practices of touts.”

 


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