Selling tickets in the UAE: A primer
Is this a good year for ticket sales?
The UAE has one of the most vibrant event scenes in the world. Customers are spoilt for choice, whether it’s family events, sports or EDM.
Many local promoters may say there has been a recession in ticket buying. But in my view there has just been too much on offer.
What kind of events are selling particularly well?
Many event organisers seem to be excessively targeting high-income customers with an average ticket price of US$100 or above, but there is a relatively limited amount of people who are able to afford that – and they’re spoilt for choice anyway.
From what we see, Indian, Arabic and sporting events are a particularly promising segment at the moment. Offering entertainment to low-income expats and local customers, which are a majority here, is something that has a lot of potential.
What are the challenges of the Emirati market?
I would say there is a lack of communication and planning between event organisers. Some of the new promoters in town jump into the game without doing in-depth research and consultation. We often see major events overlapping, where both organisers end up wasting huge investments despite our recommendations.
And, as I mentioned previously, mid- and low-income customer sectors are often ignored, which is a missed opportunity.
Which ticketing companies have the biggest marketshare in Dubai?
According to the official Dubai Tourism figures, Platinumlist has approximately 80% marketshare in entertainment events, with the rest serviced by Virgin Tickets and Ticketmaster.
Flash Entertainment, which is subsidised by the government, is the dominant event organiser in Abu Dhabi. Flash brings a lot of Live Nation’s big artists and works exclusively via Ticketmaster at the moment, for obvious reasons.
The UAE is relatively small and has different technical requirements to the rest of the world – you can’t simply copy and paste ticketing technology used in the UK or Australia
What are the strengths of Platinumlist?
The UAE is a unique ticketing market, especially with the introduction of the Dubai e-Ticketing system in 2013. This market is relatively small and has different technical requirements to the rest of the world – you cannot simply copy and paste ticketing technology used in the UK or Australia.
Our business model is different from other conventional ticketing companies. Over the years we have established ourselves as a comprehensive event guide that has reasonable traffic and returning customer base. Ticketing nowadays is not rocket science, in my opinion, and we provide it almost at cost price with an average percentage of 5% inclusive of card-processing charges.
We focus a lot on inbound marketing, which I believe is key; we have 12 years’ experience and a team that knows its digital and conventional marketing channels locally. We know every advertising and service supplier in town and make sure that our clients get the right prices without any backhanders. Such positive consulting, which we provide free to all our clients big or small, has won us a 99% client retention and a solid reputation.
What is Dubai e-Ticketing?
Since 2013 all ticketing companies in Dubai must draw their ticketing stock via API from the Dubai e-Ticketing system.
It is mandatory for every organiser planing an event in Dubai to set up ticket inventory on the e-Ticketing server and then appoint a licensed local ticketing company to sell tickets online.
Secondary ticketing is a hot topic elsewhere in the world – do you see any future for it in the UAE?
Resale of tickets for above face value is against Dubai law.
Being a primary ticket seller I see little gain from resellers for the music industry in general. Promoters invest huge sums in marketing and artist fees; obviously it is discouraging for them to see resellers harvesting demand by simply buying Google AdWords, hitting event organisers where it hurts most. The result is inflated prices, dissatisfied customers and no increment in sales – at least this is the case in the Emirati market.
However, promoters and primary ticketing companies have only themselves to blame: There is a clear gap for ticket marketing portals worldwide and it is being filled now.
Vassiliy Anatoli is managing director of Platinumlist.net, a Dubai-based events guide and ticketing platform.
Another event ticketer to sell through Facebook
Ticketbud, a Texas-based developer of self-service online ticketing software, has become the latest company to take advantage of Facebook’s recently introduced ticket-selling functionality.
The event ticketing, promotion and management firm, whose clients include Jammin at Hippie Jack’s and Austin Trail of Lights festivals, restaurant chain Dave & Busters and Sony’s Game Developer’s Conference, will give clients the option of integrating its ticket widget into the social network, allowing customers to buy directly from an event page using a ‘buy tickets’ button.
“We are seeing increased demand for the ability to sell tickets on social platforms such as Facebook,” says Kayhan Ahmadi, Ticketbud‘s chief operating officer. “This updated functionality grants users the win-win scenario of taking advantage of Ticketbud’s event creation, ticketing and attendee-management features while giving them access to Facebook’s social reach.”
“We are seeing increased demand for the ability to sell tickets on social platforms such as Facebook”
In April both Ticketmaster and Eventbrite announced they would begin selling tickets directly through Facebook event pages.
As IQ wrote at the time, mobile device users in the US spend 87 per cent of their time in apps versus just 13 per cent in browsers (browsing, for example, the Ticketmaster or Eventbrite website) – and 50 per cent of their time in their most-used app and 78 per cent in their three favourite apps – demonstrating exactly why ticket agencies and white-label platforms would want a piece of what will be for many their most-used mobile app.
According to Statista, Facebook currently has more than 1.5 billion active users – over ⅕ of the planet.
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World’s largest etailer to launch live ticket biz
Alibaba Group, the world’s largest ecommerce company, is moving into concert ticket sales with the expansion of its US$2 billion Alibaba Pictures ticketing business.
Taobao Dianying, Alibaba Pictures’ film-ticketing subsidiary, has been rebranded ‘Tao Piao Piao’ (roughly “hunting for tickets”) and has partnered with China’s largest entertainment ticket seller, Damai.cn, to allow Damai customers to purchase tickets through its Tao Piao Piao and Alipay mobile apps.
The news comes on the back of Alibaba Pictures raising CN¥1.7 billion ($260 million) in series-A financing, which, according to a Hong Kong Stock Exchange filing on Sunday, values the company at over ¥13.7bn ($2.09bn).
In June 2015 it sold $1.57bn worth of shares to fund its expansion into new sectors (although investors were actually buying shares in a Caymanian shell corporation, as the PRC forbids foreign ownership of Chinese companies).
The entry of Alibaba into the concert ticketing market comes amid the launch of similar ventures by fellow tech giants Amazon, Facebook and Sky
Alibaba Pictures handles ticketing for more than 5,000 cinemas in China – 95% of the country’s total box office – according to Alibaba-backed news site Alizila, with daily ticket sales peaking at around three million on the best day, up a hundredfold (from 30,000) on just over a year ago.
The entry of Alibaba, which has a market capitalisation of over $196bn and offices in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the US, the UK and India, into the concert ticketing market comes amid the launch of similar ventures by fellow ecommerce giant Amazon, Rupert Murdoch-owned broadcaster Sky and social network Facebook (which has partnered with Ticketmaster and Eventbrite to allow tickets to be sold via its web and mobile platforms).
According to research company IBISWorld, the worldwide market for online ticketing for live events is worth over $4bn and experienced average annual growth of 3.4% from 2010 to 2015. Juniper Research estimates, meanwhile, that 23 billion live event and transport tickets will be sold globally using mobile apps by 2020.
Live Nation revealed in its financial results for the first quarter of 2016 that market leader Ticketmaster sold over 17 million tickets globally in February – its most-ever in a single month.
Could chatbots soon be selling concert tickets?
The CEO of a Seattle tech start-up which has sold over US$1 million worth of vinyl records in eight months through a text message-based ‘conversational commerce’ channel says the technology could soon also be applied to concert tickets.
ReplyYes chief Dave Cotter, a former Amazon general manager and the co-founder of the private SquareHub social network for families, tells IQ its first two channels – the aforementioned The Edit, and Origin Bound, which sells comic books/graphic novels – are “just the beginning”, and that the live music business is poised to take advantage of the growing trend towards text-based ecommerce chatbots.
So how does ReplyYes work? Each person who signs up to The Edit or Origin Bound (by texting ‘start’ to join the service) receives a text message daily with a personalised record or comic suggestion. Users can then reply ‘yes’ to purchase the item, or ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ to help ReplyYes’s algorithm learn their preferences.
“Beyond the ability to be able to deliver messages more quickly than email, there’s no app people have to download, which reduces the friction,” explains Cotter. “In other words, text messaging works on every phone, smartwatch or any device that supports SMS.”
“The chat platform is really exciting right now. It offers a much more intimate channel for retailers and brands to connect with their customers, and with much better open rates”
However, “the nuances of human conversations are really hard for a bot to handle”, he continues (just ask Microsoft, whose Tay chatbot became a sex-crazed Holocaust-denier in less than a day), so ReplyYes has humans on the other end of the phone, too. “When bots can’t handle it, it can be a really bad customer experience. Bots are good at tasks, not conversations; this is why [we have] human operators as well, to jump in when bots aren’t right for the job.”
These human operators – unlike, say, the staff of a call centre in Bangalore – are also experts in their field, picked for their “deep knowledge of the channel”. (The staff of The Edit, for example, include a “puppy-loving neighbourhood riot grrrl”, a “feisty text artisan who puts the ‘wreck’ in ‘record'”, a Golden Girls-watching, Justin Bieber-loving, ‘Psycho Killer’-singing vinyl therapist and Britanny, who is “fuelled by laughter and driven by hip hop.”)
While ReplyYes is by no means alone in exploring the possibilities of chatbots for ecommerce – Facebook, for example, earlier this month announced the launch of a feature that will enable businesses to offer automated customer support via its Messenger app – it remains one of the most successful examples so far of how the technology can be harnessed to build a solid customer base, boasting 50,000 users across both platforms, and has secured over $2.5m in investment from various venture-capitalist groups since its inception.
“I do think it’s great for live [music],” concludes Cotter. “The chat platform is really exciting right now. It offers a much more intimate channel for retailers and brands to connect with their customers, and with much better open rates.”
Ticketmaster, Eventbrite to sell tickets through Facebook
Following Facebook’s announcement in December that it would start selling concert tickets directly through its event pages via a ‘buy tickets’ button, the social media behemoth has signed up its first two ticketing partners: Ticketmaster and Eventbrite.
The former will start selling event tickets on Facebook by the end of April as part of an agreement that will see it pay the social network an affiliate fee for each ticket it sells, while Eventbrite will pilot a similar scheme but will not pay any fees for the duration of the trial period.
According to DigitalGov, Americans using mobile devices spend 87 per cent of their time in apps versus just 13 per cent in browsers (browsing, for example, the Ticketmaster or Eventbrite website) – and 50 per cent of their time in their most-used app and 78 per cent in their three favourite apps – so it’s obvious why the ticket agencies want a piece of what will be for many their most-used mobile app.
Dan Armstrong, vice-president and general manager of distributed commerce at Ticketmaster, tells BuzzFeed News: “By putting the ability to buy tickets directly within Facebook we hope that we’re going to provide a more seamless purchase experience and sell more tickets.”
“By putting the ability to buy tickets directly within Facebook we hope that we’re going to provide a more seamless purchase experience and sell more tickets”
While Facebook has publicly stated that it is not actually going to sell tickets itself, another digital giant, Amazon, is: At roughly the same time as Facebook announced it was to enter the ticketing sector, Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, began ramping up its ticketing activities through the creation of Amazon Tickets in the UK, building on earlier initiatives in the theatrical and live events sectors.
Ticketing industry consultant Tim Chambers told IQ in December: “When it comes to Facebook and Amazon’s ticketing aspirations, if I were a ticketing retailer I’d be a lot more concerned by the latter at the moment. Amazon seems to view ticketing as a tool for customer retention and acquisition, rather than a business in which it wants to make money.
“But the thing about Amazon is that of the thousands of people, say, in the Bristol postcode who bought Adele tickets, Amazon knows exactly who they are and what they buy culturally, making it relatively easy for them to send the ‘if you liked this, you may also like this’ offers.”
Crowdsurge, which merged with concert-discovery service Songkick in June 2015, was among the first companies to experiment with selling tickets through Facebook, introducing an application in 2011 which allowed fans to purchase tickets from selected artists’ Facebook pages, including Kaiser Chiefs, The Kooks and Miles Kane. However, the merged company – which trades under the Songkick name – lacks a Facebook app of its own: If a user tries to access what is advertised as its app (at the address apps.facebook.com/songkick-concerts) it simply redirects to the Songkick website.
Two-hour queues after internet goes down at WrestleMania 32
Thousands of wrestling fans were kept waiting outside the AT&T Stadium for up to two hours yesterday after wi-fi problems took ticket scanners out of action at WrestleMania 32.
According to Wrestling Inc, event host World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) delayed the start of the first match, which pitted Ryback against Kalisto for the US title, in response to the long queues. Those queueing were reportedly not kept updated by organisers, and many complained of dehydration.
Wrestling Inc posted a video to Twitter showing frustrated fans chanting: “Let us in! Let us in!”.
— WrestlingINC.com (@WrestlingInc) April 3, 2016
The AT&T Stadium is owned by the city of Arlington and operated by American football team the Dallas Cowboys. Beyoncé will play the 101,000-capacity stadium on 9 May as part of her The Formation world tour.