WME’s Apac head on why the future is Asian
In 2015, WME Music expanded its global footprint by acquiring Australian indie powerhouse Artist Voice, giving the agency a dedicated Asia-Pacific (Apac) division based in Sydney.
Five years on, the Apac office serves as an increasingly important gateway to Asia, with over 100 WME-IMG staff looking after more than 2,000 artists in the region, including Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Lewis Capaldi, King Princess, 6lack, Summer Walker, Crowded House, the Kid Laroi, Angus and Julia Stone and Chet Faker.
Here, Artist Voice CEO Brett Murrihy – now a partner at WME and head of Asia-Pacific for music – speaks about the agency’s Asia-Pacific growth, opportunities in the region, the benefits of not “outsourcing” its Asian business and, of course, the evolving coronavirus situation…
IQ: Congratulations on five years! How are things down under? It seems you’ve bounced back quickly from Covid-19…
BM: Without a doubt, the Asia-Pacific region has dealt with the curbing of Covid numbers better than any other territory. And government discussions are already taking place around travel bubbles between Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
So while Europe and America wait for a vaccine, Apac is open for business?
Well, depending on how quickly a vaccine is made available, it is conceivable that, with those number of territories open and available in the touring calendar, major artists will look to open their world tours in this part of the world.
This additional focus and touring will only continue to solidify the region as the one with the most opportunity and upside. Australian events are already at 75% capacity, and we have just sold out a 12-date arena tour run of New Zealand for Crowded House.
Beyond Covid-19, what are the unique challenges and opportunities working in the Asia-Pacific region?
The Asian territories are not homogenous – we face the challenges of multiple currencies, cultures, languages, religions, visas, tax, marketing mediums, streaming services and ticketing providers. With the rising middle class in Asia and their increased disposable income, many Asian countries are progressing through a “youth bulge” which presents us with a myriad of opportunities to accelerate artist development. The westernisation and youth of economic powerhouses China and India makes the territory the most exciting from both a domestic and international touring standpoint.
Our Apac business is heavily based around trust, relationships and respect. This is not something that happens overnight; it is ever-evolving and in a constant state of flux. These parameters couldn’t grow without physical proximity and attention towards building a long-term touring market. I feel the need to specifically cultivate and maintain these relationships with clients with a hands-on approach. For myself, learning Mandarin over the past 18 months is a part of the cultural integration, as well a mark of respect for the importance of the China market for the future of our artists and their careers.
“I feel it is only a matter of time before the other global major agencies establish local operations here”
It depends on the territory, then.
A one-size-fits-all approach to Apac does not work. There are unique nuances and differences in each individual country within the market, both from a cultural and business perspective. These differences must be understood and honoured if you wish to make real impact and avoid unnecessary costs. For example, a global streaming deal that is produced in the UK and sold to separate entities across Apac produces different withholding tax treatments for each jurisdiction that must be fully understood by the artist management in order to avoid costly errors. As an agency, these unique challenges have become our opportunities.
What does an artist need to do to make it big in Asia?
From an artist perspective, there are significant opportunities for those artists who are willing to spend time and attention specifically towards Apac. This includes studying and understanding each market and how they should be treated differently; understanding how the touring markets work, and when/how often they should be visited; understanding how the different local social media, DSPs, radio, TV and marketing works and how best to integrate into these areas in a meaningful way; and understanding how music releases should be approached, having informed and current knowledge of the local artists, and curating collaborations that will be organic and create a more localised and tailored approach.
This will lead to an understanding of the varied audiences musically and culturally, which will result in an improved result both professionally and financially for our artists.
Tell us about your local roster.
WME is extremely proud to represent 88rising globally, and the WME Asian roster includes Rich Brian, Joji, Niki, Jackson Wang, Higher Brothers, Stephanie Poetri, Keith Ape and Lexie Liu, to name a few. This year we also put together, in conjunction with 88risin,g the first Asian Head in the Clouds Festival in Jakarta, at Ji Expo, which had sold 20,000 tickets before the pandemic struck.
We also represent Mongolian artist the Hu and household- name Japanese rock band X Japan, who are doing incredible business globally, and South Korean artists Eric Nam, Epic High and Cat & Calmell, who likewise are generating a global following. Like everyone I’m sure, we are building relationships and A&R structure to be on the precipice of signing the next BTS, Blackpink, JJLin or Jay Chou out of Asia.
“A one-size-fits-all approach to Apac does not work”
Why base WME Music’s Apac operation in Australia instead of, say, Shanghai?
Apec the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, was founded by Australia and first operated from Canberra. Historically the Asian record labels have also been overseen and run out of Australia, and this year Live Nation have now followed WME’s lead in overseeing the Asia-Pacific operation from Melbourne, Australia. Operating in the same time zone and having the ability to work as a hub is a major advantage in being able to do business and confirm deals in real time. We have been able to confirm late cancellations or remaining festival slots through our availability and accessibility, and this has been significant.
It is also worth noting that many of the major Asian promoters, record executives and artists have schooling ties within Australia, giving a collective Asian consciousness and togetherness with Australian counterparts.
What are the benefits of having a dedicated Apac office?
Whereas many of our competitors outsource their Asian artist service capability to the individual promoters on each tour, the Apac time zone means that we are immersed in a region that has 60% of the world’s population in 48 countries and leads the world in mobile usage, content consumption and ecommerce.
WME is the only global agency in the Asia-Pacific market that is holistic with artist development strategy, though live touring, branding, fashion, film and TV, digital and sports. Most independent domestic agencies in Australia, meanwhile, don’t book internationally past Australia/New Zealand and only represent ‘local’ artist repertoires in live. This provides WME with a decided market advantage.
Do you see your rivals following suit?
Our Sydney office displays an upward trajectory, with consistent new signings and significant revenue growth, so with this successful footprint I feel it is only a matter of time before the other global major agencies establish local operations here. For us, it is about maintaining and increasing the advantage we have established for our global roster of artists in this incredibly important market. As a group, we now have in excess of twenty years of local knowledge, which is is current and constantly updated.
Aside from the increasing importance of the Apac market, how do you see the next five years shaping up?
WME plans to continue to build our footprint in the next five years, as I envisage a period of hypergrowth for our office. Pre-pandemic, our Q1 2020 was the biggest on record, and we have reason to be very buoyant on what our roster and future holds.
We are confident that we are able to sign the hottest talent in the world, as well as attract established artists looking to build on previous forays into Asia Pacific.
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Melvin Benn: ‘I’m very optimistic about 2021’
Amid a challenging summer 2020, Festival Republic is feeling “incredibly optimistic” about next year’s European festival season, managing director Melvin Benn has said.
Speaking to IQ, Benn says Festival Republic (FR) – whose festival portfolio includes the UK’s Download, Wireless and Reading/Leeds Festivals, Germany’s Lollapalooza Berlin and the Republic of Ireland’s Electric Picnic – is working to the assumption that its open-air events will “be back in full force next summer”, most likely after the release of a vaccine against Covid-19.
With UK scientists now said to be 80% sure a vaccine will be ready by September, Benn (pictured) says festivalgoers being immunised against the coronavirus is currently FR’s “plan A” for 2021, with some sort of test-and-trace system also a possibility should the vaccine not be ready in time.
“I take great confidence in the fact that test and trace is a plan B for me,” he explains. “I don’t think we could have imagined the unity the scientific community has showed in working together to find a vaccine against this disease.”
Underscoring his optimism that a vaccine for Covid-19 is close, Benn adds: “If you look back at all the incredible inventions and creations – aeroplanes, cars, medicines; everything we take for granted in our normal lives – and then you think that, cumulatively, there are more scientists alive and working now than ever existed before… Are we going to solve this? Of course we are!”
“I’m already getting companies contacting me and offering tests”
IQ caught up with Benn the week after Wireless Connect, one of two virtual festivals the Festival Republic team has staged this summer (three if you include parent company Live Nation UK’s Isle of Wight Festival) in lieu of the physical events.
“The learnings” from all three, says Benn, are “immense”, and allowed FR to “discover what people respond to” in a digital event.
“Download TV was very much more a linear TV broadcast, just using YouTube rather than a terrestrial channel, and we learnt a huge amount,” he continues. “It was really the first time we’d done an as-live broadcast like that.
“With MelodyVR [for Wireless Connect], that was even more complicated, as we did a 360° virtual-reality broadcast, with artists going into a studios in London and the US. Whereas people were performing in their kitchens for Download…” (The virtual Isle of Wight Festival, meanwhile, was a simpler affair, broadcasting past performances on Sky television.)
While Benn says the definition of a successful year for him is having “fans in a field”, he says the FR team has done “extraordinary things with the three outings we’ve had so far”. “I hope we can build on that in future,” he adds.
By charging for online events, IQ wonders? Benn is tight-lipped, though he concedes that, “as an add-on, [virtual festivals] have potential”. “There’s a lot of discussion going round, but it’s really too early to say,” he continues. “What we do know is that there’s an appetite for live – in all its forms – that can’t be replaced.”
“We’re feeling very optimistic about next year. I think the pent-up demand is absolutely there”
On that topic, Benn notes that of the three 2021 festivals Live Nation/Festival Republic has on sale – IoW, Download and Creamfields – all are “selling really well, so we’re feeling very optimistic about next year. I think the pent-up demand is absolutely there.”
Even in the event of a vaccine not being available by next summer, Benn is adamant that FR, and the wider UK/European festival market, is “in a really good position”.
“I’m already getting companies contacting me and offering tests that are incredibly reliable, and can be done in a short amount of time,” he explains. “At the moment [in July] they’re too expensive – but given that they didn’t even exist in March, I assure you that by the time April or May comes around next year, there’ll be a testing company on every street corner and it will be relatively inexpensive.”
As for how fans might respond to mandatory testing, which has mooted as a requirement for entering festivals in the absence of a vaccine, Benn adds: “I’m very optimistic about human beings. We’re incredibly versatile creatures and we’ll change and do what we need to do in order to participate in the things we enjoy.
“So if that’s the only way, so be it. You can’t beat the experience of a festival.”
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“It’s all about the right opportunities at the right time”
Just 12 months after first breaking €1 billion, German ticketing and live entertainment powerhouse CTS Eventim today posted its best-ever yearly financial results, growing revenue 20.1% to more than €1.2 billion after a year of strong organic ticketing growth and a string of promoter acquisitions.
In an exclusive interview that first appeared in IQ 82, CTS CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg speaks on plans for further acquisitions, the company’s big data “treasure trove”, and why the EU must do more to help European companies compete against the US tech giants…
IQ: Live Nation, Superstruct and even a Dutch pension fund [Waterland Private Equity] are all currently on a shopping spree, acquiring international concert promoters and festivals left, right and centre. What role does the acquisition of concert companies play within CTS Eventim’s growth plans?
KPS: An important one. We don’t consider the European markets as individual countries operating in isolation from each other. More and more artists expect us to provide them with cross-border touring opportunities. International top acts usually don’t just play in Germany or Spain; they do European tours.
Besides, many artists are now able to reach a considerable audience outside their domestic markets. This is why we are expanding our promoter network internationally. We now have a presence in ten countries – and more will follow.
In Italy, CTS Eventim recently acquired four concert companies (D’Alessandro & Galli, F&P, Vertigo and Vivo Concerti). Was this a coincidence or does the acquisition of four companies in a single country reflect a strategic approach?
Italy is one of the most attractive live entertainment markets in Europe. There is a high demand for shows, iconic venues and, above all, a tremendous variety of artists, both young and established, who are also popular in other countries.
Eros Ramazzotti just embarked on his world tour with our subsidiary Vertigo, with performances in 30 countries on three continents. So, yes, we have expanded and developed our portfolio in Italy very purposefully.
Besides, our four promoters cover different genres. The fact that we became number one in this market within a few months was of course also partly owed to seizing the right opportunities at the right time.
“We will continue to grow both organically and through acquisitions”
Outside Europe, CTS Eventim only has subsidiaries in Brazil. In general, the company tends to pursue a cautious but systematic purchasing policy. Is there currently nothing suitable in Asia or North America that would allow CTS to gain a foothold or get involved in these markets?
Here, too, it’s all about the right opportunities at the right time. In the past couple of years, the market environment for acquisitions in the live entertainment segment was no doubt more favourable than that in ticketing. However, given our double-digit, organic growth rates in online ticketing we are under no pressure whatsoever to make a move.
Since the IPO [in 2000], CTS Eventim has acquired more than 30 companies. We will continue to grow both organically and through acquisitions going forward.
In the ticketing sector, CTS Eventim focused on digitalisation and the development of the internet as a sales channel at an early stage. What impetus for the live entertainment business can be expected from these areas, and is there an internal transfer of knowledge between the two departments (ticketing and live entertainment)?
The fact that we focused on online ticketing from day one is now paying off in many fields for us: in addressing and serving our customers, as well as in the analysis of large volumes of data. We can offer promoters great added value here – including those who aren’t part of CTS Eventim. We advise them in matters of tour planning, provide them with insights about their visitors and help them reach even larger audiences.
The potential of big data is far from being fully utilised and exploited. Our treasure trove of data is particularly valuable because our online shops also generate high gross transaction value. In Germany, we are already in the top three companies in this connection.
“I would like to see European companies being able to compete as equals with their competitors from America and Asia”
Given the reservations of Germany’s Cartel Office [which forbade CTS’s acquisition of promoter Four Artists], acquisitions in Germany in the company’s two core business are unlikely.
In the January 2019 issue of Capital, you noted: “European companies that operate at a national level are clearly at a disadvantage.” This would suggest that CTS isn’t the only company affected by this. Do you expect a change in policy in this respect?
We are by no means the only company that is speaking out for more of a level playing field here. I would like to see European entertainment and technology companies being able to compete as equals with their competitors from America and Asia, on a regulatory level as well. But for this, we need a new kind of antitrust [competition] law that thinks as boundlessly as companies do.
The new European parliament, which will be elected in May, has the opportunity to set the right course – it should be in our common interest to ensure that the creative and tech industry is given a reliable framework for investment in Europe.
When Amazon announced it was entering the ticketing business, the stock market reacted by immediately discounting the company’s shares. And yet, it could happen at any time that one of the digital giants again seeks to tap into the ticketing business. Given the IT resources and reach of these companies, is this an aspect that worries you?
Amazon is a fascinating company with extraordinary innovative strength. But developments in both the US and UK suggest that the barriers to market entry are more complex in ticketing than in other industries. Thanks to our broad value chain, we can offer artists outstanding reach, and consumers the biggest possible selection.
We have highly professional sales structures and stable, trustful partnerships with promoters. Establishing such a network takes time and patience, and may not necessarily correspond with how American corporate giants do business. So we remain attentive and calm.
“CTS Eventim will continue to focus on growth in our core businesses: ticketing and live entertainment”
Like every large company, CTS Eventim depends on good and qualified employees. Now, due to demographic change, more and more companies are struggling with the shortage of skilled workers. Is this true for Eventim as well?
We operate a scalable business that requires highly qualified and talented employees. We have more than 300 employees alone just to take care of the ongoing technological development of our ticketing platform. In addition, we employ product managers, scrum masters, data scientists and so on. So it’s only natural that we compete with big high-tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google for the best minds. You’ll find state-of-the-art technology and collaboration with outstanding experts here with us, as well as with them.
But our core product is live entertainment, which is much more emotional. So we’re the right place for anyone who shares this enthusiasm for innovative topics and fascinating live experiences.
Your recent major deal in connection with the car toll collect system is a new line of business for CTS Eventim. What does this new business mean for CTS Eventim’s company structure?
The award of the contract by the German ministry of transport means, first of all, that we are capable of successfully transferring our existing technology and ecommerce expertise to new lines of business. So this commission is a milestone for CTS Eventim. Together with our partner Kapsch TrafficCom, we have set up an operating company that will make the car toll collection as convenient as possible for everyone involved. So while this will be done using our ticketing expertise, it will happen outside the existing group structure.
CTS Eventim will continue to focus on growth in our core businesses: ticketing and live entertainment. The proceeds from this new project will give us additional room to manoeuvre in the future, but tolls won’t become our core business.
Klaus-Peter Schulenberg makes his ILMC debut on Wednesday 6 March to reveal future plans for CTS Eventim’s live business. Be in the room to hear the news first.
‘It isn’t fair most ticketers don’t refund’: Skiddle on industry ethics
Ben Sebborn, co-founder and director of UK primary ticket agency Skiddle, has called for higher ethical standards in the global ticketing sector, saying many of the major players still have some way to go in offering customer service on par with other industries – and that no-questions-asked ticket refunds should be the norm.
Speaking to IQ, Sebborn, who co-founded Preston-based Skiddle with Richard Dyer in 2001, hails the success of his company’s Cool:Off refund initiative, wherein ticket buyers are given 72 hours to change their minds, which contributed to a huge 67% increase in sales in 2016. “It isn’t fair that most ticketing outlets don’t offer refunds,” he says. “If the customer demand is there, then the industry needs to adapt to reflect this demand.”
Sebborn (pictured) says Cool:Off, along with its sister Re:Sell ticket exchange scheme, is good for both fans and promoters – the latter because tickets returned for a refund can be sold on, leading to fewer empty seats. “We introduced our Re:Sell and Cool:Off schemes for this very reason, and since their introduction they have been overwhelmingly successful, not just for customers, who want and need flexibility with their tickets, but for promoters, too,” continues Sebborn. “The refund option reduces the amount of no-shows at the event, increasing the amount of money taken at the bar and on merchandise.”
In terms of that 72-hour period, Sebborn says a three-day cool-off is “key for customers who have decided they can’t attend an event. However, if a customer gets in touch outside this period, we will offer name changes and the Re:Sell option on the tickets free of charge.”
With Skiddle on course for another year on strong growth, Sebborn attributes the company’s success to its focus on the consumer. “We like to think of ourselves as music lovers first and businesspeople second,” he explains, “so with every business decision we think, ‘How does this help our customers?’. If it doesn’t, we don’t implement it. It’s as simple as that.”
“We like to think of ourselves as music lovers first and businesspeople second”
That customer-centricity, Sebborn claims, is something that’s sorely lacking in the live entertainment ecosystem at large, where fans are forced to battle dishonest touts, clunky websites and “silly restrictions” on shows for a chance to see the artists they love.
Specifically, he highlights four areas where the industry can improve:
“For-profit secondary ticketing is always going to be an area of focus for Skiddle until the problem is resolved and fans get a fairer deal. We are constantly rolling out new measures to prevent touting, from printing customer names on tickets and changing names for free to withholding barcodes until just before an event and scanning our ticketing queue to remove known touts.
“We are doing all we can, but, realistically, the bigger players need to get involved, too.”
“Ticketing technology is extremely behind the times and needs to drastically improve. Our industry has always been slow to adapt – even in 2017, for example, a lot of outlets don’t have adequate mobile-friendly sites. We have always invested heavily in tech because we want the ticket-buying process to be as easy and efficient as possible. We recently introduced a swipe-to-review feature with Tinder-style technology that’s been really well received.”
“In terms of the events themselves, one thing that really bugs us is that for bigger events, the organisers often insist on silly restrictions for artists – such as not being allowed to play within 100 miles of that event in the months leading up to it. This increases demand but also reduces options for music fans, who can’t see their favourite artists or bands in their hometowns as a result of these restrictions.”
“Other areas of focus for us include working in partnership with charities and enterprises to make live music safer for women, and more accessible for people who are less able. It’s an important, but often overlooked, area.”
Despite these music biz bugbears, Sebborn says the industry is beginning to change, with “new and emerging competition from start-ups and other growing ticketing outlets” forcing the old guard to become more customer-friendly.
“For too long the big boys dominated the ticketing industry on every level,” he comments, “meaning that there wasn’t only a lack of competition, but also a lack of choice. It was a proper elephant in the room – everyone knew the ticketing industry was too focused on making money rather than the customer experience, but all the major players got away with it for far too long. This isn’t as much the case anymore.”
“One of the reasons Skiddle has been successful is because we purposefully tried to shake things up. We wanted to offer something different – ticketing with a conscience – and our products and behaviour reflect this. Don’t get us wrong: there is still a long way to go, and these issues can’t be stamped out overnight. Unacceptable and unethical behaviour still exists in our industry. But by speaking out and offering greater choice, we can play our part in ensuring ticketing changes for the better.”
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Giddings: Rod’s got a train set—I’ve got a festival
John Giddings has said he has no plans to step down from Isle of Wight Festival, as he celebrates a “bumper year” for the long-running UK event.
Giddings – speaking to IQ in a brief moment of downtime amid a five-night run for Phil Collins at Lanxess Arena (18,000-cap.) in Cologne – says his day job with Solo Agency, whose other upcoming shows include Iggy Pop, Little Mix and U2, means the festival remains a “hobby” rather than a moneyspinner: “Every penny I’ve made from the festival I’ve invested back into it,” he explains. “Rod Stewart’s got a train set – I’ve got a festival!
“How many other people can say they can pay artists far too much money to come and play on the Isle of Wight and invite all their mates…?”
If social media is anything to go by, Giddings’s friends weren’t the only people who had a good time at the 16th festival, held over four days last week (8–11 June).
Although he “never gives out” attendance figures, Giddings (pictured) says the 2017 event had a “very good atmosphere” and points IQ towards social media – on which he keeps a keen eye throughout the weekend – for a sample of attendee feedback. (A quick look on the festival’s Facebook page sees visitors saying they had an “awesome weekend” at a “fantastic” event – and lots of praise for the surprisingly clean loos.)
“It’s good to have a visible promoter – it gives the festival an identity”
“You need to read social media,” continues Giddings. “It’s the first thing people will turn to if they have any complaints – so if they’re congratulating you, you know you’ve done well.”
Giddings’s personal highlights of the festival include Friday-night co-headliners Run-DMC and David Guetta (“five out of five”), Arcade Fire, who made their Isle of Wight debut on Saturday after “a number of years’” worth of approaches, and Rod Stewart, who closed the festival on Sunday night.
He also praises the new talent on display, including The Amazons, The Sherlocks, Bang Bang Romeo and Judas, all of whom got “great reactions” from the crowd.
As with Download, held concurrently in Leicestershire, there was a beefed up police presence at the festival, with armed officers from Hampshire Constabulary deployed throughout the festival site. Giddings says the police “behaved so well”, both in making attendees feel safe and getting into the festival spirit (a selection #policeselfies were posted on the @FestivalCop twitter account).
Isle of Wight Festival 2017’s policing commander, Hampshire’s Supt Simon Dodds, says the support his officers received from festivalgoers was “overwhelming”. “The fact that the policing family and the public were able to communicate so well has made the experience all the more safe, reassuring and enjoyable for all,” he explains.
Giddings resurrected the long-dormant Isle of Wight Festival brand in 2002 after a 32-year hiatus – “I’m lucky because I’ve got an iconic name from the 1970s, so it’s on everyone’s bucket list,” he jokes – and agreed to sell a majority stake in the festival to Live Nation earlier this year.
“You need to read social media … If people are congratulating you, you know you’ve done well”
While that deal is now under investigation by the Consumer and Markets Authority, Giddings has no regrets about joining forces once more with the world’s biggest promoter, using the metaphor of a train leaving the station: “it was either get on board [with Live Nation] or be left on the platform.”
Along with Download’s Andy Copping, Bestival’s Rob da Bank and the Eavises at Glastonbury, Giddings is one of the few UK festival promoters well known to (and easily contactable by) the general public – a status he embraces. “It’s good to have a visible promoter,” he explains. “It gives the festival an identity.”
Returning the theme of social media, Giddings explains that he welcomes criticism from festivalgoers, saying feedback from attendees is key to continually improving the event. “I don’t think I’m perfect,” he says. “I appreciate constructive criticism, because I want to make it better for everyone.”
With many festival bosses already having a rough idea of what they want their 2018 line-ups to look like, Giddings says he hasn’t had time to even “start thinking about next year yet”. Does this mean he’s looking to step down any time soon, IQ wonders?
Not so, explains Giddings, who says he has “no idea” when he might hand over the reins. “Nobody would do this job for the money,” he concludes. “We do it because we enjoy it. So I’ll stop doing it when it stops becoming enjoyable…”
10 questions to ask before hiring a ticket agent
It’s easy to find a ticket agency that says they’ll sell your tickets, but it’s not always easy to find one that lives up to this promise. Partnering with a ticket agent that values your business and offers speed of response, flexibility, data insight and a true partnership approach is key to a long, happy and commercially beneficial relationship.
1. Are they asking the right questions?
When choosing a ticket agent, it’s one thing knowing what you’ve been promised but has the agency really asked enough to know what they’re signing up for?
Who is the target audience and its relevance to their data? What are the anticipated sales and the likely sales cycle? What’s your marketing plan and when do you need the agency’s activity to kick in? These are just some of the questions a ticket agent should be asking you. Otherwise, how can they truly know what they need to do and when in order to deliver?
2. Will they share the pain for driving sales?
Not everyone will. Some agents might get you set up and plugged into their standard marketing packages super-quick, but you don’t want that to be the end of it.
The best agents will understand what you need to sell, and by when, and act in a consultative way when you need to stay on track. Also, standard marketing packages are great when you go on sale, but what about when your event is nearing? You need to be confident there will be additional marketing channels and activity that you can activate when you need to – or the chance to switch tack and try new things if campaigns aren’t working or the world changes and a new approach is needed.
Ultimately, will they put their money where their mouth is and put in place a commercial model that rewards success and penalises under-performance?
3. What happens when your ticketing website goes live?
In today’s world, there’s no such thing as a finished website, app or mobile experience. Again, it’s great getting set up and on sale quickly but once your ticketing website goes live, that’s just the beginning. Once customers start transacting and the data starts building, this is where there’s a golden opportunity. This is when you can use what you’ve learnt to increase sales and drive revenue through new development.
A smart development team and consultative agent should be analysing your website data regularly, looking at trends and conversion paths, AB testing changes, and then regularly releasing updates to your website to improve conversion.
4. Are they boasting about big data numbers or planning targeted marketing?
Yes, email marketing can be a numbers game but relevance wins every time. A sales-focused marketing team will never send irrelevant emails to their data. Irrelevant events and content mean that people switch off, which really means they unsubscribe. It also works both ways: no event promoter wants their customers bombarded by irrelevant information just because they signed up to hear from that agent.
Targeting and re-sending campaigns to the right demographic or geographical region with intelligence from previous purchases or click behaviour is the way to go.
5. What’s their ethical stance in the world of ticketing?
No one wants to see their tickets appear on secondary sites for inflated prices, lining the pockets of touts. In this industry, it’s hard to stop – especially when there’s a hot ticket.
It’s worth finding out whether the agent you’re talking to has any particular stance on the secondary market. Chances are if they are against it in principle, they’ll be more proactive in terms of helping customers who get duped, cancelling their tickets which pop up on secondary websites and blocking bots which buy tickets in big numbers.
To do your job properly, you need 24/7 access to up-to-date data. Ensure the agent you’re considering hiring has a rich reporting suite
6. How will they treat your customers?
When a customer buys a ticket, it’s often the first interactive point of engagement with your event. If that experience is positive, they’ll be left feeling excited about the event and looking forward to hearing from you.
Sometimes things can go wrong and customers may have questions about their tickets and orders. When that happens, you need to feel confident that the agent’s customer service team is going to keep your customers happy and represent the brand of your event in the right way.
7. Is your event going to suffer from small fish syndrome?
Find out who the ticket agent’s other clients are and what else they’ve got going on at the time of your on-sale. How do you think your ticket sales rank in comparison? At the start of your contract, make sure you agree expectations and ways of working. This isn’t just about technical aspects and marketing.
If it suits you, schedule a weekly check-in with your account manager. Ultimately choose an agent who shares the same values as your business.
8. Is their commercial deal fair?
Pricing will often drive the conversation when all other factors are equal. However, consider what the cheapest price reflects or misses out – if someone is more expensive, are they factoring in additional services, and more importantly, do you need them?
Equally, ensure that everything your customers expect is going to be covered by this deal. If there are problems, can someone resolve them? The last thing you want is to be inundated with ticketing queries when you’ve employed the services of an agent. Ultimately, for most promoters, ticket sales are one of the biggest revenue streams and the custodian of your online brand experience. So, knowing the cost of everything – but not the value – could be your downfall.
9. Is their data clear and reporting useful?
To do your job properly, you need 24/7 access to up-to-date data. Ticket sales are one thing but data powerful insights, like where and when – and by who – those sales have been made, are something else. Ensure the agent that you’re considering hiring has a rich reporting suite that you can access, and ideally is bespoke to the types of metrics you’d like to see.
10. Are they thinking about the future of the industry?
Ticketing should be their bag, but the world of ticketing is changing. Largely driven by technology and consumer buying behaviour, ticketing will look very different in 10 years. It’s worthwhile working with an agent that’s going to share these insights with you.
As your event changes and develops, you’re going to need a partner who will keep you at the forefront of ticketing technology, ensuring that you don’t miss out on a new way to drive sales, engage customers or enrich the in-event customer experience while you’re busy focusing on delivering your events.
Tarah Gear is director of marketing at The Ticket Factory, a UK-wide ticketing agent and the box office for the Genting Arena, Barclaycard Arena and National Exhibition Centre (NEC).