ITY 2020: Ticketing experts gear up for recovery
For the past five years, IQ has published the standalone International Ticketing Yearbook (ITY), highlighting the ticketing business in more than 40 key markets around the world, as the live events business continued to grow.
Rather than skipping the 2020 edition (given the lack of concerts, festivals and shows, last year), we are paring back the yearbook to provide an overview of the past few months during the pandemic, and examining what ticketing experts have been working on while the industry plans to get back to business in 2021…
2020 event ticket sales
Despite international touring grinding to a halt in March 2020, the ingenuity of artists, event organisers and promoters has provided a limited number of shows and festivals around the world, while pay-per-view live-streaming concerts have also proved popular with fans internationally.
Every company IQ spoke to for ITY 2020 states that the sales slump has been unprecedented – mostly down by more than 90% – as physical events have all but disappeared over the past nine months. Reporting its fiscal results for the first nine months of 2020, Europe’s largest ticketing firm, CTS Eventim revealed a 79% decline in turnover, to €228.7 million, in financial quarters one to three.
For its part, Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation reported that festivals where fans can retain their tickets for next year’s show had seen approximately 63% of fans are keeping their tickets.
The company’s sales and survey data suggests that fan demand will be there when the time is right. “Our refund rate on rescheduled shows remains consistently low, with 83% of fans globally keeping their tickets,” says Live Nation in its latest financial results. “Our recent global survey indicates that 95% of fans are planning to return to live music events when restrictions are lifted, the highest point of confidence since the start of the pandemic.”
The pandemic has taken its toll on markets large and small.
In Dubai, Vassiliy Anatoli, managing director of events guide and ticketing platform Platinumlist, tells a similar tale. “Sales stopped mid-March with lots of refunds to follow. We resumed sales with comedy events in July, which sold out, with most post-Covid events being supported by the UAE government.”
Comedy proved successful elsewhere, too. Emil Ionescu, general managing partner of Romania’s leading ticket company, iaBilet, says local event organisers’ association Aroc has worked diligently on a reopening plan, with promoters able to put on open-air shows to a maximum of 500 people from the start of June.
“The thirst for live entertainment is enormous, and this thirst is intensifying the longer bans are in force” — Alexander Ruoff, COO, CTS Eventim
“Drive-ins worked like a charm for a few weeks, then they halted. People lost interest. But stand-up comedy took their place,” he states. “Concerts didn’t work so well, although some club venues did outdoor, all-standing events with 100–150, even 200, people, which sold out. But that was the best we had. It seems Romanians can’t replace that live music feeling with something that holds them at a two-metre distance with masks on their face.”
Also hit hard by the termination of mass gatherings, event discovery and ticketing platform Dices wiftly tweaked its model to exploit the demand for live-streamed shows. “We’ve worked on more than 4,000 livestream shows, broadcast from 30 countries, and sold tickets in 146 countries,” reveals its chief revenue officer, Russ Tannen. “From Laura Marling’s breathtaking performance at Union Chapel [London] to Kylie’s glittering disco performance, live-stream events on Dice are attracting bigger and bigger audiences.”
That experience is echoed by Zack Sabban, CEO of Event Genius and Festicket. “It’s been really interesting to see that during the height of the pandemic in Europe, our top performing events have been our FesticketLive livestreaming gigs, which sold more than 50,000 tickets.”
Despite that positivity, the results are, of course, a shadow of what Festicket had expected in 2020. “At the beginning of the year, sales were strong, especially for the summer festival season – we were beating all previous records,” says Sabban. But he is confident that fans’ pent-up demand can help the market make a strong comeback. “After the summer, our recovery began and as some of our festival partners launched on-sales for 2021, sales returned and we actually began to record improvements on last autumn’s numbers,” he claims.
Kenton Ward, CEO of Live It (formerly known as Bookitbee), says, “When lockdown was announced we hit a wall in the first month, with sales down by 97%. Since then we have seen this recover over time as we have worked with promoters and organisers to adjust their offerings. Currently, we are seeing about 45% of previous revenues for the corresponding time.”
Similarly, Rob Casson, Skiddle’s head of new business for UK and Europe, reveals Covid hit ticket sales by 82% initially. But he notes “a positive outlook on 2021 sales, with a lot of promoters putting new events on.” He also says that Skiddle has worked on numerous alternative events, in line with changing government guidelines.
“With a lot of promoters moving tickets over to next year, we forecast a continued impact on sales for 2021,” he warns. “However, we are already beginning to notice promoters being agile around the types of events they’re hosting in 2021.”
“Once the pandemic is over, the entertainment sector will experience a real boom” — Moritz Schwenkow, CTO, DEAG
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Total Ticketing managing director Pete Gordon recognises the issues of his peers elsewhere, but he reports success with online events, where “music, literary talks and workshops [have sold] relatively well.” Gordon adds, “We see a strong future for these events and expect them to continue to thrive alongside the face-to-face events once these return.”
One remarkably strong market for livestreaming has been Russia, where the vast geography often leaves fans outside of the main cities starved of live events.
Vladimir Ageev, head of strategy for MTS Entertainment, underlines the nation’s enormous appetite for live-streaming. “The pandemic allowed us to launch a series of [VR-format] online concerts this summer that introduced viewers to our MTS Live brand. We delivered 21 online concerts, which reached a total audience of 60 million viewers.”
Determined to exploit that popularity, he adds, “Online concerts allowed us to continue promotion of other MTS products: the number of traced audience for further monetisation totals approximately 63 million new clients, so we are planning further development of this line of business in the near future.”
Refunds and voucher schemes
The world’s ticketing operations were faced with their own unprecedented problems when Covid took hold earlier this year, as the prospect of having to refund billions of euros, dollars, etc, quickly became all too real, and exposed the entire live entertainment industry to some worrying home truths over cashflow, in particular.
Thankfully, millions of fans around the world proved their loyalty by opting to keep tickets for postponed events, rather than demand refunds, while in a number of territories, voucher schemes were approved by governments and local authorities, to provide the industry with some breathing space.
“In terms of our arena events, particularly music events, we have had a much higher number of people holding on to tickets than we expected,” observes Richard Howle at the Ticket Factory in the UK. “If fans want to see an act, they are prepared to book tickets up to a year in advance. The pandemic hasn’t changed their desire to see their favourite artists, so at the moment they seem willing to hold on a bit longer.”
However, Howle warns, “As dates get rescheduled for a second or third time, or as people get more concerned about their finances, this may change and we may very well see more people requesting a refund.”
Total Ticketing’s Gordon also reports that the majority of fans in Hong Kong have held on to the tickets for postponed events. “We have had some events that have been subject to multiple rescheduled dates, and fans have, on the whole, kept their tickets despite the moving target,” he says.
“I think some actors in the segment have been amazing to their staff, suppliers and customers” — Rob Wilmshurst, CEO, See Tickets
Tannen says that 90% of tickets for live shows that have been rescheduled have not been returned to Dice. “Our flexible returns and waiting-list functionality mean that, on Dice, fans can often get a refund any time before the gig, so many fans will hold on to their ticket in the hope that they’ll be able to make the date of the new show. If they can’t, they’ll offer it to the waiting list.”
The extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic put every government and economy in the world on alert, but in a number of territories, arts and culture industry associations have persuaded officials to allow voucher schemes.
Romania is one such country, thanks mainly to the patience of music fans. Ionescu reveals that live music trade body Aroc worked closely with government on a two-pronged solution for fans: either keeping a ticket that is valid for the rescheduled event, or requesting a voucher that can be used until September 2021 on future shows by that promoter.
“If people don’t use the voucher before September 2021, they can request a full cash refund,” Ionescu explains. “If the show gets cancelled, the fans receive a voucher, also valid until September 2021, for shows by the same promoter. So, most of the fans kept their tickets – less than 5% requested a voucher. What’s surprising and pretty awesome is that some people even bought tickets for the rescheduled events during the pandemic, just to help a little.”
Returns and refund requests vary depending on territory, culture, and even genre. Sophie Belova, former head of Europe and CIS for MyMusicTaste, has been specialising in taking K-pop acts around the world, and while she reveals, “K-pop fans are trying to keep their tickets for as long as needed,” she adds that 10–15% of tickets needed to be refunded.
The returns dilemma was less complicated for some. Platinumlist’s Anatoli says almost all shows were refunded, while in Hong Kong, Gordon says, “We’ve seen a higher rate of refunds where international travel would have been involved, presumably reflecting customers’ scepticism.” He notes, however, that customers have generally been happy to keep their tickets for domestic events.
That delicate act of persuading people to be patient has been an international effort. “We saw less than 10% of refunds across all our events. This was as a result of a PR plea to eventgoers,” comments Shai Evian, CEO of South African ticketer Howler.
“All signs point to a very busy summer season and a very busy 2021” — Maria O’Connor, chairman, Ticketmaster Australasia
Live It operates a slightly different model to many ticketing companies in that it is not the merchant of record for sales. “This means that the promoters and organisers get all of their funds in advance of their events, and we have worked closely with them to help manage cancellations, reschedules and refunds,” explains Ware. “As such, Live It do not have tickets outstanding but many of our clients have rescheduled, and ticket holders have agreed to move their attendance to a future event.”
In Russia, Ageev details how MTS tweaked its systems to help ticket buyers stay safe. “We introduced online mass ticket refund services for cancelled events, which was also made available to those who bought tickets at offline ticket offices. This made it possible to refund hundreds of thousands of tickets quickly and smoothly, without forcing people to leave their homes or lose money spent.”
Such attention to detail is admirable, but Festicket’s Sabban notes that different partners have different refund and exchange policies. “For events where keeping hold of tickets for rescheduled dates was an option, the majority of customers are choosing to do so. Not only because they want to attend the event next year but also because they actively want to support the event and make sure it will survive, go ahead next year, and continue to flourish.”
Advance sales for 2021
While uncertainty has undoubtedly been one of the keywords of 2020, optimism and, perhaps, a longing to return to normality, have resulted in healthy ticket sales for 2021 – a situation that news of vaccines is only helping to bolster as the new year approaches.
“Twenty twenty was definitely a tough year for the entire live shows and ticketing industry. Nevertheless, any crisis not only leads to problems but also provides new opportunities,” offers optimistic Ageev. As a result, MTS is planning a raft of new services to reinvigorate sales. Ageev lists these as, “Gift cards for events of certain organisers, the launch of a last-minute sale service (providing an extra discount a day before the event), and the launch of ticket sales for streaming events.”
While diehard music fans are happy to secure their access to concerts and festivals in 2021, the Ticket Factory’s Howle observes, “Fair-weather fans are still reluctant to book. So, when we have a new on-sale, we are seeing the usual sharp spike, but the drop off is much sharper than we would expect in normal times.”
In Asia, Total Ticketing’s Gordon believes vaccine news is helping confidence return. “We have seen a definite surge in interest and enquiries, although the outlook for the early part of the year is still far from certain. Once events are on sale, uptake has generally been good, and there is definitely a strong appetite for getting out and having experiences again.”
“Tcketing has been at the front line of dealing with the downside of the pandemic, and will play a crucial role as recovery begins” — Jonathan Brown, CEO, Star
Tannen also reports heartening results. “Next year’s Primavera Sound sold out on Dice in record-breaking time – just over a week – while our exclusive Communion Presents series of socially distanced live shows […] sold out in a couple of days.”
Underlining that growing confidence, Casson tells IQ, “We expect consumer demand to be pent up from 2020 and even more events to be put on by promoters in 2021, especially in light of the news about a potential vaccine.”
But the story isn’t the same everywhere. “It’s certainly not the case here,” says Ionescu. “Sales are still down by 95% for future events, so events that sold 100 tickets per day now sell around one or two.”
However, local knowledge means Romanian promoters have been holding back on confirmed shows for next year, even where A-list acts are concerned. “No big shows have been put on sale for 2021, so we don’t have any numbers,” confirms Ionescu. “Small shows that have gone on sale sold just a few tickets, so people are still very careful about what they spend their money on.”
Future sales are not a viable prospect in South Africa, as yet, either. But Howler has used the lockdown period to concentrate on international expansion, with at least one solid result, so far. “We have signed an exclusive long-term ticketing deal with Spanish promoters Elrow,” says Evian. “This is one of the largest and most sought-after contracts in the industry and something that we are very excited and proud to have won, over all the global major ticketing companies.”
Also in growth mode, Festicket’s Sabban says, “We’ve experienced strong sales for those promoters who have been willing to go on sale over the past few months for 2021 events. Unsurprisingly, the appetite and demand amongst fans across the globe is huge at the moment – everyone is searching for something to look forward to.”
Live It’s Ward notes, “We are seeing stronger than expected sales for events planned for 2021, which we put down to pent-up demand and (currently) lowered competition for share of wallet in the sector.”
“2022 will likely be the best year the industry has ever seen” — Bryan Perez, CEO, AXS
He continues, “We are picking up a number of new clients who have found that their previous ticketing provider was no longer able to provide funds before the event – many of these are poised to go live as soon as they feel the time is right to launch.”
Hopes of the various vaccines may have injected a much-needed shot of optimism, but while those programmes will take months to roll out, international touring will remain unrealistic. But Dubai-based Anatoli believes that the demand for entertainment can still be met by a supply of local talent. “Our strength is the reach to the local audience,” he says. “Since traveling is currently restricted, we have seen a significant rise in sales for local attractions and we have become the leading OTA for most local attractions during this time, which is a welcome relief.”
And in Russia, there are signs that the market could come roaring back. “The easing of restrictions delivered sales figures above our expectations,” says Ageev. “The pace of market recovery in August–September exceeded our forecasts by 50%. Then there was a second wave [of the virus] and new restrictions followed. Overall, we expect the market to rebound next year as the restrictions again ease, with full recovery to pre-crisis volumes in 2022.”
As a result, Ageev and his colleagues are confidently making “big plans” for 2021 and beyond. “MTS aims to maintain a leading position in Moscow region and actively develop in other Russian regions. We are feeling optimistic about the future,” he says.
Across the live entertainment industry, Covid has proven a unifying force, with once-bitter rivals declaring a truce to work together to lobby governments. Whether such amnesties will continue post-pandemic remains to be seen, but in a number of territories, new associations have been set up that should ensure an element of co-operation going forward.
“The collective effort across the whole industry has been really heartwarming. And, although there’s always an element of rivalry between our companies, in ticketing we are a group of people that get on well as individuals,” says Howle.
“The virtual format helps grow the reach of quality content, bringing artists closer to their audiences” — Ashish Hemrajani, CEO, BookMyShow
“The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (Star) has played a really important role in uniting and representing the industry – the whole team there have been amazing. Star have facilitated regular online socials where ticketing companies can gather, crack open a beer and share war stories. These have been invaluable – there has been real comfort in knowing that you are not alone in the trials and tribulations of this pandemic.”
At Dice, Tannen says the pandemic has improved relationships with talent, as 80% of the livestreaming shows have been arranged directly with artists and their management. “We’re enabling artists to make the events happen,” he states.
Total Ticketing’s Gordon says promoters have rallied round to support each other during the pandemic. But he flags up one area where work is needed. “Venues, in general, remain a difficult area in Hong Kong with rental prices making the sustainability of small venues very challenging, whilst the larger venues are often exclusive with specific ticketing companies – a situation which sadly seems not to be changing.”
Sabban emphasises that the Covid crisis accelerated the need for greater co-operation, given the numerous festivals, concerts and shows that were hit by lockdown restrictions. “As ticketing companies, we all have a responsibility to the industry to offer fans a great level of service and make sure that a poor set of communications for a cancelled event or a delayed refund doesn’t put fans off buying tickets to their next event,” says Sabban.
That’s certainly the case at ground level, where K-pop specialist Belova reports agents have gone above and beyond, while, “Venues [have been] kind enough to propose mutually agreeable deals where penalties won’t be applied if acts wish to move dates again.”
One area of co-operation and collaboration that often goes under the radar has been the effort that companies have put in to help fight the coronavirus.
The Ticket Factory, for example, tasked its tech team with devising a way of selling socially distanced events and methods to collect and manage track-and-trace data. Similarly, Total Ticketing has been working on real-name ticketing and ID/contact data capture for track and trace. “[We’ve been collaborating on] how to use our seating algorithms to handle reduced capacity and seating layout restrictions, and how to handle electronic health declarations ahead of the event and on arrival,” says Gordon.
“Ticket protection is now genuinely a customer expectation” — Ben Bray, development director, TicketPlan
IaBilet used the time to create social distancing tools to help ticket buyers and promoters, while it also published regular newsletters for the 1,000+ promoters it works with to inform them of new laws, ordinances, and government measures, related to ongoing Covid restrictions. “But the most important thing I think we did was the Client Service,” states Ionescu. “Our team managed to keep the industry on track, and we kept the fans informed, the promoters informed, the authorities informed. We didn’t get much sleep for three months, but hard work is no stranger to us, especially during these times.”
Festicket’s focus on how to help organisers get back to business includes developments in track-and-trace ticketing; unmanned self-service scanning terminals that allow fans to scan themselves into events, thus “improving audience flow whilst reducing staff-to-fan contact points significantly”; and marketing cashless solutions that Sabban believes will be widely adopted in 2021.
“To make things even more Covid-secure, our egPay solution now offers mobile and self-service unmanned top-up stations in addition to a contactless system, allowing organisers who feel the move to a full RFID/NFC cashless system is not right for their event, to take offline contactless card and mobile payments. We’ve put a big emphasis on flexibility and ensuring we have solutions for all events and promoters,” adds Sabban.
Speaking on behalf of Live It, CEO Ward discloses that the company is launching an affiliate and promotion network. “We have developed an entirely new booking app and front end, and have support for socially distanced seating and dynamic planning for seated events in line with social distancing guidelines in different territories,” he says. “The Live It platform now has additional functionality allowing organisers to (optionally) require positive confirmation of vaccination or negative testing for attendees booking tickets and a process for managing the collection of proof of this.”
For its part, Platinumlist has developed an automatic seating-gap system, which Anatoly claims can maximise venue seating capacity while keeping groups of people safely separated. And 7,000 kilometres across the equator in South Africa, Evian says Howler created a Covid screening application that can pre-screen event goers for Covid-19 symptoms in line with government regulations. “This is helping event organisers successfully host events amidst the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Evian.
Emil Ionescu at iaBilet believes empathy has been key over the last few months. “We learned you need a lot of empathy, understanding and patience in everything you do, especially in ticketing,” he says. “Empathy for the fan who spent his savings on a ticket and doesn’t know if his favourite band will play or where his money is; empathy for the promoter who needs information, a little pat on the back or a hug during hard times, and most importantly to know that his money – and future – are safe.
“Big-scale ticketing is about trust. So when we start rebuilding, ’empathy’ will be our keyword in everything we do.”
“We see great uptake for each and every event that manages to go ahead” — Pete Gordon, MD, Total Ticketing
Communication has been another key component during the pandemic, with a number of companies highlighting the importance of human contact. “We are proud that we managed to keep our phone lines open throughout lockdown, and that has been invaluable in providing comfort and support for our ticket-buying customers,” says Howle.
“All ticketing companies went into this pandemic not knowing how to deal with it, so we knew that having experienced staff on hand would be crucial,” says Casson. “Skiddle’s phone lines stayed open throughout the lockdown and we responded and solved thousands of enquiries each week. There were, and still are, regular government updates regarding events, and it is our job to make sense of these, and provide guidance to customers and promoters as best we can.”
“The pandemic made us stop and really think about what we could offer to the industry,” recalls Festicket’s Zack Sabban, who cites the importance of agility, communication and resilience. And he notes there are definite avenues of opportunity, as a number of clients have spoken of desires to “streamline their ticketing, travel, access, marketing and onsite payment processes with one provider.”
Dices Tannen contends that the advent of pay-per-view concert broadcasting has been the biggest takeaway from 2020. “We’d never had a conversation about live-streaming until March,” says Tannen. “Now it’s a huge part of ours and our partners businesses. But the real lesson was the emotional engagement that a live-streaming concert can create, fans love live-streams, and they’re here to stay.”
Agreeing that live-streams will provide new revenue streams to the industry from now on, Sophie Belova cites the ability of the pandemic to level the playing field, fuelling one of the reasons behind her faith in K-pop. “You are never at the very top forever and even the biggest names are vulnerable as well,” she says. “Younger audiences will return first, so [promoters should] consider hip hop, rap and K-pop as the top ticket sellers for 2021–22.”
Also concentrating on the paying public, Total Ticketing MD Gordon comments, “It’s been a challenging year for everyone in the industry, and remaining positive and supporting each other is critical. Customers have had a disappointing year too, so making sure they are looked after and know that they can buy from us with confidence is a key focus.”
Green shoots of optimism
As 2020 clicks through its final days, unfortunately there is still no green light for mass gatherings to resume. However, with vaccines already being given to patients in a number of territories, there is at least a shaft of light rumoured to be in the vicinity of the end of a tunnel.
“Any crisis not only leads to problems, but provides new opportunities” — Vladimir Ageev, head of strategy, MTS Entertainment
Indeed, some glass-half-full proponents are predicting that festivals may return to the northern hemisphere when the summer months roll around, although under questioning, uncertainty looms large when the subject of international artists is raised. The ticketing community is similarly cautious.
“My personal view is that rapid mass testing is going to be key to the recovery of our sector,” states Howle. “Once that happens, then this industry will be back with a vengeance.
“The diaries are already packed for the second part of 2021 and for 2022, and I truly believe that after this year of lockdown and misery, the public are going to be craving the excitement and joy of live entertainment and will pack our arenas, theatres and stadia once more.”
Live It’s Ward observes, “The events sector is traditionally not as impacted by economic recession as many other sectors, and whilst the global economy as a whole will recover slowly, events will see a V-shaped recovery as vaccination programmes allow the roll-back of measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.
“Twenty twenty-one is not going to see everything back to normal, but the pent-up demand from people wishing to get back to a level of normal and the ingenuity of the sector is already providing opportunities for growth and expansion into new sectors. There will be casualties within the industry from organisations that are over extended or were performing poorly prior to the pandemic, but there will equally be businesses that thrive.”
In the southern hemisphere, Shia Evian at Howler tells IQ that 500-cap, events are already reopening in South Africa. “We expect regulations on the large-scale events to be in place for another 6–9 months, and hopefully we’ll be back to full force this time next year [December 2021],” he predicts.
Anatoli forecasts a long road to recovery in the Gulf states, but says Platinumlist believes that autumn next year will start to hit 2019 sales levels.“We are selling a lot of events in December with even bigger plans in January and February, and I believe that by Q3 2021 the local market will recover back to its usual volumes.”
Some glass-half-full proponents are predicting that festivals may return to the northern hemisphere when the summer months roll around
Sabban agrees. “From the event partners we work with who have launched 2021 onsales over the past couple of months, it is clear that the demand from fans is huge,” he says. “We have no doubt that our industry will rebound and it’s highly likely that lots of new events will spring up once a return to some form of normality has arrived.”
Ahead of ‘normality,’ however, Sabban reveals that Festicket is working with event organisers to evaluate methods to introduce Covid-19 testing kits pre-event as a possible additional entry requirement.
Internationally, positive vaccine trial results are undoubtedly buoying both fans and organisers, and from an Asian point of view, Pete Gordon says, “It’s clear that there’s huge demand from customers to continue to go out and have meaningful in-person experiences with their friends and other people. We see great uptake for each and every event that manages to go ahead, so as the world starts to recover and reopen, we believe that it will be a particularly fruitful period for the industry.”
And with a nod to the continued development of livestreaming, Gordon says, “If the parallel income streams being generated by remote events continue alongside that too, then we think the future is bright indeed.”
That’s music to the ears of Dice. “We’re now seeing how successfully live-streams and live events can work in tandem with hybrid events – where you have socially distant live events with the opportunity to live-stream to fans at home,” says Tannen. “We’re at the forefront of something genuinely innovative. We’ve only scratched the surface, but there’s so much the medium can offer artists, fans, venues and the industry.”
Ionescu concludes that the need for culture and human contact will ensure a healthy future for the ticketing sector. “The comeback will be atomic,” he proclaims. “I am an optimistic guy, I have faith in people and in this business, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it for more than half my life.
“Fans will realise after this big break how important culture, music and entertainment is for the soul and their mental development.”
Christmas has come early this year: Read IQ 95 now
IQ 95, the latest issue of the live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.
December’s IQ Magazine is packed with the essential news, features, comments and columns – featuring a spectrum of voices from the international live industry.
The ILMC 33 conference guide gives readers a glimpse of next year’s global gathering of live music professionals, sharing details on how to register, who is playing and what to expect.
While the International Ticketing Yearbook assembles industry leaders from around the world to discuss the past, present and future of the ticketing business.
Elsewhere, IQ hails some of the Unsung Heroes who have been putting the welfare of others first during this trying year.
This year’s ITY assembles industry leaders to discuss the past, present and future of the ticketing business
And readers can also expect comments from Iceland Airwaves’s Will Larnach-Jones and European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, alongside the second edition of our Covid Kit features and a 40th-anniversary feature on the iconic Resorts World Arena.
That’s in addition to all the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news analysis and new agency signings, the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.
Whet your appetite with the preview below, but if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now and receive IQ 95 in full.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Authenticity, AR, facial recognition: The future of ticket tech
From methods of tackling fraud to improving the visitor experience, ticketing firms are exploring a variety of tools.
High on everyone’s minds is the rapid rise of mobile tickets – as frequently reported in the market profiles throughout ITY 2019. But this is just the start of a mobile-first paradigm shift.
“We’ve got a generation of new consumers coming through now and they don’t just expect their services to be on mobile, they expect them to be mobile first,” says industry veteran Steve Machin, global director of ticketing strategy and innovation at FanDragon. “People are buying tickets now who don’t ‘go online’ to do something, they just use their phone. This move to mobile will make the shift away from CDs look like a slow meander.”
Security is the top priority, says international ticketing consultant Tim Chambers. “Unfortunately, prevention of fraud costs time and resources and all too often organisations fail to plan for worst case, without any regard as to how to recover post-incident, and assume they’ll continue to get away without specialised focus.”
He adds: “Related to this is the issue of combatting automated bots that impact site availability (DDoS), on-sale queueing, event webpage reload, ticket purchase and other operational factors. Unfortunately, as an industry, too little has been done with shared expertise, best practice or market intel.”
Maureen Andersen, president and CEO of the International Ticketing Association (Intix), thinks ticket authenticity is a significant focus for companies when considering how new technology can help them.
“As an industry, too little has been done with shared expertise, best practice or market intel”
“Tickets delivered to your mobile is well established, but what will be more important in this matter is that the distribution is tied to your mobile, for example, by using a barcode that’s refreshed frequently. Ticketmaster has now released SafeTix, which is not unlike other technologies out there, but that the largest ticketing company in the world has done this shows how important authenticity is.”
Launched in May 2019, SafeTix uses a barcode that changes every few seconds, meaning it can’t be copied or screenshotted. Fans can transfer tickets to friends or family using mobile phone numbers or an email address. A new digital ticket is tied to the recipient’s account and phone, each time a ticket is transferred or sold, making the journey of each ticket visible to organisers.
Of course, knowing who all the attendees are provides venues and companies with a rich source of data – an opportunity to track what experiences are valuable to any given consumer.
Generation Z is more comfortable with being tracked in exchange for a fast service, says Andersen. “They know they leave a digital footprint, but they want information right in their hand and they want it immediately. They understand they’re being tracked and they’re okay with it because they get served options and they’re all about options.”
She points to statistics showing that in Las Vegas while 68% of visitors attend a show or event, two thirds of them decide what to see after their arrival, and 60% of event tickets are sold within 72 hours of event. “This is because people are waiting to look at all the options that are fed to them before they make a decision. They’re in the moment. It’s only the older generation that’s worried about being tracked.”
Nonetheless, we are moving towards a world where consumers will have more control over their data. That will affect not just the ticketing industry but all sectors of public-facing commerce, from the motor industry to travel.
“People are waiting to look at all the options that are fed to them before they make a decision”
“This means we will need to be able to deliver hyper-relevant services to individuals even when you don’t know who they are,” says Machin. “You’ll be tracking behaviour in an anonymised way. This is one of the benefits of blockchain.”
FanDragon’s ticket-wallet feature means while the person owning the wallet remains anonymous, their behaviour can be analysed. For example, if a wallet buys tickets every time a certain artist comes to their town, but suddenly stops, that sort of information might be interesting to the client. Similarly, if a wallet has 600 tickets in it, it’s a scalper.
“Tickets are no longer simply ‘a revocable licence to attend the event listed on the front,’ they are a personal communication hub,” says Machin. “Once you buy a ticket, you can have experiences, messaging or content delivered to your phone because the organiser knows you’re going and who you’re going with. It means the event experience can start much sooner. It’s a much deeper relationship but that requires greater responsibility not to impinge on people’s privacy and data.”
My face is my ticket
Using your face to unlock a smartphone has been commonplace since Apple launched FaceID in 2017 (other earlier phones used facial recognition but it could be easily hacked). But when Live Nation Entertainment invested in biometric company Blink Identity in 2018, the prospect of being able to walk into a venue without needing to get your phone or paper ticket out took a step closer to becoming reality.
Justin Burleigh, LN-owned Ticketmaster’s global chief product officer, says: “We didn’t want to have a database of millions of customers’ faces, so instead this technology uses the same mechanism as the facial recognition tech that unlocks many smartphones. By scanning a face and converting that information into code, it negates the need for storing images of people’s faces.
“Facial recognition will be able to create some really compelling experiences for backstage, or VIP personnel control. For example, if you’re carrying some beers and food it will mean you don’t have to reach into your pocket for your phone or ticket to gain access.”
“Facial recognition will be able to create some really compelling experiences for backstage, or VIP personnel control”
However, he adds, “We have a lot more to do in the lab before this gets rolled out. We want to get it right because we know if we get it wrong we won’t be given a second chance.”
It’s not just the world’s biggest ticketing company that’s interested in the technology. Former Ticketmaster CEO and later head of commerce at Twitter, Nathan Hubbard, recently announced a facial recognition-powered ticketing platform of his own, Rival. Its first client is Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, owner of Denver’s Pepsi Center (20,000-cap.), although migrating from AXS had some teething problems.
And while there may be what Machin calls some “ickiness” around the idea of facial recognition at music events at the moment, the technology’s use at airport security is commonplace. And as people become more comfortable with it in this context, that will smooth the path for its arrival in entertainment.
Enhanced real life
Augmented reality is becoming increasingly sophisticated and more common in live entertainment, so how will the ticketing industry respond to that? Andersen reckons the answer will be driven by how much consumers want to buy into these things and what they want to experience.
“Whereas a 50-year-old might want to come into a venue and sit down, buy a hot dog and watch the show, somebody younger wants to engage with technology that recognises them as an individual. You could be watching the game from your seat but also see it from the players’ perspective by looking at your device.”
Other examples include creating 3D virtual venue models that can be expanded using AR. This could mean being able to see a model of the venue before you go to a show and finding out where everything is, as well as seeing sponsorship activations, and even connecting it to a Facebook account to see where your friends are sitting. You could find out where the bar queues are shortest, or where to get your favourite pretzel.
“SafeTix is not unlike other technologies out there, but that the largest ticketing company in the world has done this shows how important authenticity is”
That’s the present situation. But what nascent tech or business models might we see in the near future?
Ticketmaster’s Burleigh says he is excited to see new hardware come online, such as more powerful NFC tech, which would mean people don’t have to take their phone out of their pockets to scan on entry. He would also like to see more powerful cashless opportunities across venues. Andersen suggests a subscription-based model could have potential in the future.
“Like a Netflix model, where you buy something today and have access to it later – for example, if you want to go to a big game or play-off you can get access to early booking because you’ve paid a subscription.”
It’s not without precedent. In the cinema industry, MoviePass allowed people to go see films for a monthly subscription fee. Currently, the venture is in difficulty as the company behind it struggles to control its cash burn. However, US cinema chains AMC Theatres and Cinemark are also running subscription models with some success. AMC’s programme, which allows customers to see three movies a week for $19.95 a month, has over 900,000 subscribers. Could that model be transferred to live? While it’s unlikely to work for the largest companies and artists, it could be more viable for grassroots-level venues and promoters.
Whatever the future holds for ticket tech, Chambers predicts that the fragmented nature of all the options means there will need to be open-API schemes to ensure that a seamless customer delivery service is provided: multiple backends but unified consumer experience.
“This is increasingly evident in [London’s] West End theatre or with the NFL ticket retail and distribution agreements, and will inevitably spread to other sectors and territories to become much more commonplace,” he says.
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International Ticketing Yearbook 2019 out now
The International Ticketing Yearbook 2019 (ITY), the latest comprehensive review of the state of the global ticketing industry, is now available to read in print and online.
The print issue of ITY 2019 will be distributed along with the recently published IQ 85, providing in-depth profiles of 44 key global markets and features exploring the best in ticketing technology, innovative paperless ticket solutions and the impact of consolidation across the ticketing sector.
Following on from the success of last year, ITY 2019 contains figures for the estimated value of live music ticket sales in each market and a projection of sales for four years’ time. The statistics, taken from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) year-end estimates, signal the 20 markets that are expected to gross the most from ticket sales in 2019, with the United States, Germany and Japan leading the pack.
“Dynamism and innovation” continue to characterise the sector, according to editor James Drury, with “modernising forces” overhauling the ticket buying process in Brazil, Scandinavia, Hong Kong, Mexico, Poland and Singapore, among others.
Advances in facial recognition and augmented reality technology, the growth of “subscription-based models” and the “explosion in mobile ticketing” are among the most exciting of recent developments, according to Drury.
“New tech is not only helping combat fraud, but also means there can be a better understanding for who is attending events”
“New tech being used by ticketing firms is not only helping combat fraud, but also means there can be a better understanding for who is attending events,” says Drury. “This offers exciting opportunities to understand audiences better and provide better services and experiences as a result.”
Consolidation of the ticketing sector is also put under the microscope in the new edition of ITY.
“The last 12 months have seen some significant acquisitions, not least CTS Eventim’s move into France, and Live Nation Entertainment’s buy-out of Mexico’s Ocesa Entertainment,” writes Drury, stating that the “two big-money developments” could have “wide-reaching impact”.
The fight against secondary ticketing also rumbles on, as promoters and ticketing executives in Norway, Spain, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Japan and Italy voice their discontent with the continuation of for-profit resale.
The print edition of the International Ticketing Yearbook is free to subscribers of IQ Magazine (subscribe here), and will be distributed at events including Reeperbahn Festival in Germany, Eurosonic Noorderslag in the Netherlands, Moscow Ticketing Forum in Russia, Ticket Summit and Intix in the US, LatAm in Chile and the Ticketing Professionals Conference in the UK over the next 12 months.
Read the digital copy of ITY 2019 below:
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Hot ticket: International Ticketing Yearbook 2018 out now
The International Ticketing Yearbook 2018, the latest update to the live industry’s ticketing bible, is now available to read as a free online resource.
ITY 2018 – the print issue of which will mail with IQ 80 – once again offers a mix of features highlighting trends in ticketing technology, including paperless ticketing, technological solutions to ticket touting and industry wide innovation, and comprehensive profiles of 44 key global markets, cementing its status as an invaluable resource for anyone working in live entertainment.
For the first time, ITY’s country profiles also contain figures for the value of live music ticket sales in each market, along with a projection for 2022, drawing on research by PwC.
From booming China to struggling Greece; resale-conflicted Ireland to mobile-addicted Chile; paper hold-out Italy to rapidly digitising Brazil; and boycott-hit Israel to politically turbulent Turkey, the global live entertainment ticketing business remains as dynamic and fascinating as ever – and ITY 2018 is your in-depth guide to all the latest developments.
“Reading through this year’s country profiles, there are two main trends that seem to occur again and again: consolidation and fragmentation,” explains IQ/ITY editor Gordon Masson.
“The strategic importance of ticketing to live entertainment continues to be of primary importance and focus”
“Consolidation: the big aggregators are getting bigger (Live Nation, CTS Eventim, TEG Live, BookMyShow) and new private-equity entrants are taking notice of the ticketing business like never before, perhaps because continuing mergers and acquisitions offer them guaranteed returns.
“Fragmentation: As always in ITY, there are numerous newbies aiming to disrupt the business with new technologies and services. In the US, biometrics and ID-ticketing are a major topic of debate, while direct-to-fan solutions, dynamic pricing, mobile-only, ticket bundling, resale and white-label B2B systems not only dominate ticketing conferences, but increasingly make up the majority of the trade stands too.
“As the reach of advance ticket retail spreads internationally, and across genre – music, cinema, performing arts, sports, theatre – the strategic importance of ticketing to live entertainment continues to be of primary importance and focus.”
The print edition of the International Ticketing Yearbook is free to subscribers of IQ Magazine (subscribe here), and will be distributed at events including Eurosonic Noorderslag in the Netherlands, Moscow Ticketing Forum in Russia, Ticket Summit and Intix in the US, LatAm in Chile and Forum de la Billetterie in France over the next 12 months.
Read the digital edition of ITY 2018 below:
ITY 2017: The ticketing industry bible returns
The digital edition of the International Ticketing Yearbook 2017, the third iteration of of the industry’s only in-depth guide to the global live entertainment ticketing business, is now live.
ITY 2017 – the print issue of which mailed with IQ 74 – offers a mix of features highlighting the latest in ticketing technology, including self-service, blockchain and overall innovation, and comprehensive profiles of more than 40 markets, making it an invaluable resource for anyone working in live entertainment globally.
“The feedback we’ve received from previous editions has been extremely encouraging,” explains editor Gordon Masson, “and that’s reflected in the growing number of countries under the microscope, with the likes of Chile, Hungary, Kazakhstan and New Zealand making their debuts in 2017.”
In addition to the new markets profiled, ITY 2017 features an extended section on China, which is seeing dramatic market shifts as the big ticketing players launch new services, sidelining many of the once-leading small and medium-sized platforms; while in Japan market leader Ticket Pia is mirroring the big Western promoters/ticketers by moving into venue ownership.
“Deep-pocketed hedge funds are eagerly targeting investment opportunities in ticketing, confident the live entertainment industry still has room for growth”
In Germany, meanwhile, CTS Eventim is still dominant, but is seeing increased competition from Live Nation GSA/Ticketmaster, while in Sweden virtually all tickets sold are now digital, mirroring the country’s near-cashless society.
“There’s barely a week goes by without a merger or acquisition,” continues Masson, “and now deep-pocketed hedge funds are eagerly targeting investment opportunities in ticketing, confident the live entertainment industry still has room for growth.”
The print edition of the International Ticketing Yearbook is free to subscribers of IQ Magazine, and will be distributed at a number of the world’s leading conferences and events, including Intix, Ticketing Professionals, Ticket Summit, Eurosonic Noorderslag, ILMC, Reeperbahn Festival, EuroLatam and Moscow Ticketing Forum, over the next 12 months.
Read the digital edition of ITY 2017 below:
ITY 2017: It’s coming…
Work has begun on the third edition of the International Ticketing Yearbook, IQ’s essential annual guide to the global live entertainment ticketing business.
Building on the success of the first two editions, ITY 2017 will once again feature in-depth profiles of more than 40 markets worldwide – outlining the value of the of the market, genres and splits, distribution of sales, taxes and charges, cultural analysis and more – alongside dedicated break-out features on standalone sectors of the global industry, including white-label services and new ticketing technology.
As in previous years, we’re actively looking for companies to be part of the 2017 Yearbook – with a particular focus on emerging start-ups, exciting innovators and anyone blazing their own path in the fast-changing international ticketing business.
Anyone who wants get involved should email IQ/ITY editor Gordon Masson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A range of commercial opportunities are also available; for more information contact Archie Carmichael on +44 (0)20 3743 3288, +44 7710 544 705 or email@example.com.
Click here to read ITY 2016.
Ticketea grows 50% in 2016
Last year was the best to date for Spanish DIY ticketing platform Ticketea, with 5.2 million tickets issued worldwide using its software.
The figure amounts to 50% year-on-year growth – only slightly less than the remarkable 55% growth, as reported in the International Ticketing Yearbook 2016, achieved by the Madrid-based company in 2015 – pushing the value of transactions since Ticketea’s founding in 2010 over the €150 million mark.
The company also increased the number of events, including concerts, music festivals, conferences and smaller-scale events such as birthday parties and speed-dating events, using its platform 16%, to 20,500.
A total of 25.7m people from 181 countries visited the Ticketea site in 2016, which the company notes, had they “formed a queue at a box office, would start in Leon [in Spain] and reach Tokyo”.
Ticketea won prizes for best use of technology and best service provider at the inaugural Iberian Festival Awards last March.
International Ticketing Yearbook ’16: Out now
The 2016 edition of the International Ticketing Yearbook, IQ’s essential, in-depth guide to the global live entertainment ticketing business, is live.
Featuring profiles of the ticketing sectors in more than 40 live entertainment markets worldwide, as well as features on the state of the global secondary business (p8), why some of the world’s leading internet and e-commerce companies are getting into ticketing (p14) and the digital innovators disrupting the industry with game-changing technology (p18), this year’s ITY augments our own findings with data kindly supplied by financial powerhouse PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to give an even more accurate picture of the international ticketing market.
“The feedback we had on the inaugural ITY was excellent, so for the 2016 edition we’ve tried to delve a bit deeper into the ticketing business to provide our readers around the world with some additional analysis,” says ITY editor Gordon Masson.
As with the 2015 Yearbook, the country profiles in ITY 2016 analyse each territory’s primary and secondary ticketing markets, including value, distribution, taxes and charges and the wider cultural context. In addition, using PwC’s data, we were able to reveal the top 20 live music markets worldwide and their approximate values in US dollars.
“The feedback we had on the inaugural ITY was excellent, so for the 2016 edition we’ve tried to delve a bit deeper into the ticketing business to provide our readers around the world with some additional analysis”
“The PwC data has been useful, as it has provided us with a chance to put together a chart of the top 20 live music markets in the world. However, there are certain countries where PwC were unable to provide accurate figures – for example, the United Arab Emirates and Romania are both given an estimated market value of just US$1 million, which is obviously wrong. But we’re hoping that our top 20 chart might inspire trade associations around the world to provide us with better data for our 2017 research so that we can provide a truly global overview of the value of the live music industry in our next edition. In the meantime, we hope that people find the information in the Yearbook meaningful in their day-to-day business and we’d encourage anyone who has any ideas on how to enhance the ITY report to get in touch with us.”
The print edition of the International Ticketing Yearbook is free to subscribers of IQ Magazine, and will be distributed at a number of the world’s leading conferences and events, including ILMC, Eurosonic Noorderslag, Reeperbahn Festival, the Ticketing Professionals Conference and MaMA Festival & Convention, over the next year.
To read the digital edition, click the cover image below: