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Dice: ‘We got a lot bigger during the pandemic’

Dice founder and CEO Phil Hutcheon has told IQ how the company was able to continue its growth during the pandemic.

The UK-based mobile ticketing and discovery platform for live events and livestreams, which is already live in the UK, US, France, Italy and Spain, last week confirmed its entrance into the German market.

Launched in 2014, the firm announced last autumn that it had raised up to US$122 million in Series C funding, led by new investor SoftBank, which it said would enable it to expand into every market.

“Weirdly, we got a lot bigger during the pandemic,” Hutcheon tells IQ. “The pandemic was a real opportunity for a lot of people who are super-busy – partners, venues, promoters and artists – to see what Dice is, have plenty of time to assess it and go, ‘Actually, this is great,’ and sign up to it.

“The US is now Dice’s biggest market. What we’ve seen in New York is incredible – 1.2 million people in New York used Dice last month – and the engine just works. Our thing is to remove what we call the ‘Facebook/Instagram/Google tax,’ and help venues invest in their spaces and performances instead of buying ticket ads on social media. That was one of the reasons we started.”

“We actually worked harder than ever during the pandemic – we were relentless”

In April 2020, shortly after the onset of Covid-19, Dice ventured into livestreams and has since partnered on exclusive livestreams with the likes of Laura Marling, Lewis Capaldi, Nick Cave, Kylie Minogue, Little Mix, The Smile and Bjork.

“We did 6,500 ticketed livestreams,” notes Hutcheon. “But we also took it as an opportunity for a breather, because you’re growing super fast, you’re rolling out into different market and, you’ve got all these new features going up, so the engineering team focused on building software that whole time.

“There was no ‘business as usual’, so we were like, ‘Let’s use this time to get these massive pieces of development done.’ We actually worked harder than ever during the pandemic – we were relentless.”

Dice now has more than 350 shows available in-app in Germany, where it has launched a new Berlin office and plans to recruit more team members over the coming months, with 60 in place by the end of the year. It has already partnered with artists, promoters and venues across the country, including Goodlive Artists, Zart Agency and Hamburg’s Uebel & Gefährlich to support its growth.

“We don’t go into a market and build from the ground up, we like to work with a really good partner to set things off”

“We always wanted to launch in Berlin, but we needed to wait for the right time,” says Hutcheon. “We started everything towards the end of last year and now, with a team and the first deals in place, we’re super-excited.

“We don’t go into a market and build from the ground up, we like to work with a really good partner to set things off – that’s how we typically initiate a new market. It’s showing them what the product is, how it’s worked in other cities and the benefits, because Dice is two products: you’ve got the consumer app, but also the enterprise software that runs all of the events.

“It’s also about making sure that we’ve got enough events. We have hundreds of events in Germany, whereas if it launched and there were only six events on day one, then it’s not going to have much of an impact.”

Dice also rolled out its app in India in 2020, starting with exclusive livestreams from international and local artists including retroFuture, Pabllo Vittar, Anushka Manchanda (Nuka) and Raghav Meattle.

“That market is obviously going to be a big investment for us as it reopens,” says Hutcheon. “I think that could be special for us. We have very high hopes for India.”

While reluctant to go into detail on future expansion plans, Hutcheon suggests a common thread runs through the territories it has entered so far in terms of venue infrastructure.

“Where Dice really works is for venues between 250/300-cap to 10,000-cap,” he suggests.

“I’m heartened that TV subscriptions are going down – I think that spend will go back into seeing people perform”

Hutcheon also shares his belief that there could be a positive legacy from the live shutdown and various lockdowns.

“Before the pandemic, everyone was like, ‘I wonder what’s gonna be like when we all live virtually: we’re all going to have 3D headsets on, sitting at home and doing all these things in the metaverse,'” he reflects. “Well, we’ve just spent a year and a half living fully digital, and it wasn’t very good, so seeing people out again is amazing.

“We’re so happy with our mission of getting people to go out even more often and we’re really going to invest in the community this year. It’s super-easy to find out what’s going on on Dice because of all the algorithms. And if you’ve got no one to go with, well, pretty soon you’re going to be able to meet new people through Dice.

“The biggest thing that Dice has an impact on is getting people to go out more often. I’m heartened that TV subscriptions are going down because I think that spend will go back into seeing people perform.”

Dice recently bolstered its leadership team with the appointments of Falko Mortiboys as VP of fan experience, Ali McCloud as VP of partner relations, Antony Jackson as head of expansion, Europe and Leon Sherman as head of artist partnerships, UK & Europe.

 


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Ticketing platform Dice expands to Germany

Ticketing and discovery platform Dice has announced its expansion to Germany.

Dice now has more than 350 shows now available in-app in Germany, including concerts with Bicep, Little Simz, Years & Years and Marc Rebillet.

To support its growth, Dice will partner with artists, promoters and venues across the country, including Goodlive Artists, Zart Agency and Hamburg’s Uebel & Gefährlich.

“We invest heavily in making it easy for fans to buy tickets, discover more amazing events and invite their friends,” says Dice founder and CEO Phil Hutcheon. “Our mission is to get people out more and I’m proud that Dice is partnering with the brilliant Goodlive Artists and Zart from launch.”

Dice has become the primary ticketing partner for hundreds of Goodlive Artists’ events across major cities like Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich, already teaming on sold-out shows with PinkPantheress, Fred Again.. and Marc Rebillet.

It’s all about bringing artists and fans together as well as bringing new fans to artists”

Dice will also work with Berlin-based music promoter Zart Agency, promoter for acts such as Sam Fender and Ben Howard, ono events such as the Sacred Ground Festival.

“The love for music, technology and innovation is what excites us most about Dice,” say Max Wentzler, managing partner, and Hauke Steinhof, MD at Zart Agency. “It’s all about bringing artists and fans together as well as bringing new fans to artists. The Dice team has the same spirit that Zart Agency has. The Waiting List is the best answer against the secondary ticket market we’ve ever seen.”

In addition, upcoming concerts at Hamburg’s 900/200-cap Uebel & Gefahrlich by the likes of Animal Collective, Ibeyi and Ben Klock are now available via the Dice app.

“Life is about creating memories and nothing beats the energy you get from a live show”

Germany is Dice’s sixth global market, following successful launches in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and the US.

With Germany being a key market for growth, the company has opened its new office in Berlin with four senior individuals focusing on venues and promoter partnerships. It plans to recruit more team members over the coming months, with 60 in place by the end of the year.

“People have asked for years what would it be like if everyone lived their lives digitally,” adds Hutcheon. “Well, with the pandemic, we just experienced it and it’s not good. Life is about creating memories and nothing beats the energy you get from a live show. We make it easy to get people away from screens and into shows.”

Dice recently bolstered its leadership team with the appointments of Falko Mortiboys as VP of fan experience, Ali McCloud as VP of partner relations, Antony Jackson as head of expansion, Europe and Leon Sherman as head of artist partnerships, UK & Europe.

 


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Dice abandons no-booking fee model

Dice, the famously fee-free mobile ticketing platform whose founder, Phil Hutcheon, once criticised ticket fees as being “like a drug”, has quietly introduced booking fees of its own for some shows, saying its no-fee model meant it lost money on every ticket sold – and increasingly struggled to gain ticket allocations for bigger events.

Following a public Twitter back-and-forth with the band Shame, Russ Tannen, Dice’s UK managing director, has explained the move, saying the company’s growth, coupled with its recent expansion into North America, left a choice between introducing fees and Dice “being a small player forever”.

“As we grew (thanks to you guys) we discovered that to get a significant allocation of tickets for bigger shows, we had to agree to include a ‘booking fee’,” writes Tannen in a blogpost aimed at Dice’s customers. “This was particularly the case for our expansion in North America.”

“Ultimately,” he continues, “it was a case of either drop ‘best gigs’ or drop ‘no booking fees’. So we decided to start incorporating some fees to a small number of shows and dropped the ‘no booking fees’ line in January 2017. What didn’t change is our commitment to always try and be the lowest price.

“I wish we had written a blog post explaining all of this back then. And I’m sorry for not posting this sooner.

“So what are these fees? It’s essentially a small markup that covers some of our costs, and fulfils contractual obligations to some of our partners. We hate hidden extras and fake price breakdowns so the upfront price is always what you pay at the end. We believe in presenting one simple price to fans and there are lots of shows where we don’t have any mark-up at all.

“I hope this explains where we are right now. We started Dice to completely change how people discover and attend live experiences all around the world, and we’re as committed to this as we have ever been.”

 


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Dice launches in the US

Disruptive UK ticketing company Dice is to launch in the United States, it announced this morning.

Initially offering tickets to shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco (Sam Smith, Khalid, Matthew Dear and Vevo’s SF Hallowe’en event in San Francisco are among its first events), Dice US has big plans for the world’s largest, and most competitive, ticketing market, says Dice founder and CEO Phil Hutcheon.

“We’re focused on a younger demographic that’s fed up with how ticketing is,” says Hutcheon. “They’re disengaging, and we need to be careful because live music is in competition with Netflix, with bars [and] with eating out”.

“We have ambitious plans to roll out across the US in the coming months”

“If you keep screwing over fans, they won’t come back. Dice is the ethical platform that fans trust to get tickets. We get fans in, keep scalpers out and we have ambitious plans to roll out across the US in the coming months.”

Dice launched in the UK in 2014, carving out a niche with a booking fee-free model that ties tickets to mobile devices, making unauthorised resale impossible. It earlier this month announced it was introducing ‘hangover days’ for worse-for-wear staff, and in May debuted an industry first no-questions-asked refunds policy for customers no longer able to attend shows.

 


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Dice introduces ticket refunds

Mobile ticket app Dice has introduced what is believed to be a world first in concert ticketing: refunds for those who can no longer attend.

Announcing the news yesterday, Dice founder Phil Hutcheon said refunds are initially only available for sold-out events (although, he adds, “over 80%” of Dice-ticketed shows sell out) but that the new initiative should benefit buyers and sellers alike: the former “no longer have to scour secondary ticket websites” for sold-out shows, instead adding themselves to a waiting list for returned tickets, and the latter can rest safe in the knowledge they’re not supporting secondary platforms frequented by “speculators and brokers who hoover up […] tickets and immediately resell them”.

It similar to Skiddle’s Cool:Off service, which gives buyers 72 hours to change their minds, although Dice is setting no time limit on its refunds.

Using “machine learning” to assist in pushing that 80% figure closer to 100%, Hutcheon says London-based Dice is hoping to “figure out how to roll out refunds on all [its] events this year.”

“Everyone wins: Fans get tickets at fair prices, venues are packed and artists don’t have to worry about people flogging their tickets for insane prices”

“Everyone wins ,” comments Hutcheon, who says Dice has worked “closely with the industry” on the launch: “Fans get the tickets at fair prices, venues are packed and artists don’t have to worry about people flogging their tickets for insane prices.”

He adds that refunds are “just the start of a flood of new features” on the app, which has carved out a niche in the competitive UK ticket market by selling tickets at face value, with no booking fees and irretrievably tied to the mobile device from which they were bought, making unauthorised or for-profit resale impossible.

It recently became the ticketing partner of 12 small and mid-sized UK venues, including Manchester’s Night and Day Café, the Moth Club in Hackney and Birthdays in Dalston.

 


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