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Ticketing: Demand for change

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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International Ticketing Report 2023 out now

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.

Since it was first published in 2015, the ITR has been the only global guide to the live entertainment ticketing market.

The eighth instalment features in-depth profiles of the top 40+ live entertainment markets around the world, as well as insights and information from the most important companies in each market.

“Over the past 12 months, it feels like ticketing has rarely been out of the news,” says ITR editor James Drury.

“The US president’s demand for all-in ticket pricing (as Ticketmaster has long been calling for) is seeing rapid change across the world’s largest music market. And while this practice is commonplace in many other countries (Australia mandated clear ticket pricing a decade ago), it’s heartening to see a major shift in this direction, which can only benefit fans.

“As the connection between fans and their favourite artists, ticketing companies have long been the focus of disappointment when the limited inventory means not everyone can get a ticket. But this year, with record levels of demand for tickets to see Taylor Swift (and accompanying attempts by people to secure tickets using bots), the noise and vitriol directed at ticketers has reached a peak. But how can we resolve this?

“In this edition of the International Ticketing Report, we’re exploring some of the biggest issues to have hit the headlines, talking to the heads of the top firms about what reforms they want to see happen worldwide to make ticketing better for everyone.”

IQ subscribers can read the digital magazine here, or access the mini site here. To purchase a print copy of the report, please email [email protected].

 


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ITR 2022: Mark Yovich’s global perspective

Unprecedented numbers of events, the ever-shifting technology landscape, new sales patterns, and recovery from Covid – 2022 will certainly go down as one of the landmark years in ticketing.

Throughout the International Ticketing Report we see stories of change across all markets, but let’s zoom out for a moment to consider the worldwide perspective.

In this exclusive interview, Ticketmaster president Mark Yovich takes stock…

 


ITR: Looking back at summer 2022, what’s your assessment of how business has been?
MY
: Summer 2022 will go down as one the biggest in Ticketmaster history. September alone was a record-breaker, with teams in fields, stadiums, and arenas across the Northern hemisphere scanning more than 34m tickets – the largest scan volume we’ve ever seen in the span of just one month. We always knew it was going to be big, but this summer really has blown previous years out of the water. Looking at our own house, we truly have the best people in the business – they rose to the challenge to deliver one of the most electric summers of live.

What lessons do you think Covid has taught the ticketing industry, and what does the ‘new normal’ look like to you from a global perspective?
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the demand for live events endures. The demand from fans clamouring to get back into theatres, clubs, fields, and stadiums has been palpable. It’s a testament to just how important live events are in all of our lives. That act of coming together with friends, family, and other fans to experience the power of live music together is incomparable.

As for the ‘new normal’ – digital is king. We knew this long before 2020, but the pandemic certainly hastened adoption of digital ticketing. Globally, our clients are using double the amount of mobile tickets this year than they were in 2019. Ticketmaster has long been a pioneer in this space, and we continue to invest in innovation to lead the industry.

As we move ahead, it’s obvious that business is now more global than ever. Which is why we evolved ourselves into a single global team, one that is even better equipped to solve the needs of our clients and delight fans wherever they are in the world.

“If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the demand for live events endures”

What key themes do you think the industry will be facing in the coming 12-18 months?
Sitting back and waiting for the fan to come to us is a thing of the past. It’s all about convenience and adapting to consumer behaviour patterns. That’s why we’re bullish with our partnerships that help our clients reach potential ticket buyers in whole new ways – on the channels they use the most. This year, we partnered up with Snapchat where we have seen more than 7m event swipes already, and TikTok where we have 55m unique users already engaging with Ticketmaster content. Partnerships like these are invaluable. They further establish Ticketmaster as the place for clients to showcase their inventory and will only continue to lead to increased conversions.

What technologies do you think will be playing an important role in the near future for ticketing?
Fans are at the heart of live events. We are hyper-focused on using fan insights to evolve our marketplace experience for ticket buyers, to even better support our clients’ goals. Our teams have been hard at work evolving our marketplace experience so that it is deeply rooted in responding to fan needs.

As we look at other innovations, NFTs continue to be an exciting area of exploration. We are working in partnership with clients to extend the life of the live event experience before, after, and during the live event experience through the distribution and gamification of NFTs. I expect to see even more creativity in this space roll into 2023.

 


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International Ticketing Report 2022 out now

The latest edition of the International Ticketing Report (formerly the International Ticketing Yearbook) is out now, accessible in print, via a dedicated mini site and as a digital magazine.

Since it was first published in 2015, the ITR has been the only global guide to the live entertainment ticketing market.

The seventh instalment features in-depth profiles of the top 40+ live entertainment markets around the world, as well as insights and information from the most important companies in each market.

The Report also offers features on ticketing tech, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and an in-depth interview with Ticketmaster president Mark Yovich.

“2022 has seen one of the busiest periods for ticketing companies ever”

“With most countries joyously greeting audiences in venues once more, 2022 has seen one of the busiest periods for ticketing companies ever,” says the Report’s editor James Drury.

“And despite the challenges this pressure brings, the sector has been responding with ingenuity. Every year there are new tech and hot topics to discuss, and as always we’re taking an in-depth look at them. In this edition, you’ll discover some of the companies that are finding creative solutions to some of the industry’s problems, while we take a special look at NFTs and what their growing popularity means for promoters and ticketers alike.”

This year’s ITR is available in print, digitally, and on the dedicated year-round mini-site. IQ subscribers can read the digital magazine here, or access the mini site here. To purchase a print copy of the report, please email [email protected].

International Ticketing Report 2021: Changing Landscape

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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