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Ridiculous lawsuit of the week: TM sued over Hamilton ticket fiasco

Hit musical Hamilton has put audiences into a frenzy around the world. However, no musical lover has been left quite so frenzied as Texas lawyer Joshua Davis, who is suing Ticketmaster for damages after being refused a refund for his mistakenly purchased Hamilton tickets.

Davis says he intended to buy three tickets for 14 or 15 March to see the musical, which is based on the life of American founding father Alexander Hamilton. The tickets were a present for his eldest daughter’s 12th birthday on 9 March.

Yet, the tickets purchased were dated 17 January. The lawyer claims that the date changed after he clicked the “back” button on his browser. Noticing the change, Davis believed to have terminated the purchase, but his card was charged US$2,325.50 for three tickets on the incorrect date.

Davis contacted the ticketing giant immediately after the mistake, waiting on hold for a “prolonged” period of time before speaking to a resolution specialist. TM refused to exchange the tickets for others on the intended date, or to issue a refund. The solution offered was resale through the Ticketmaster website, with an additional administrative fee.

“Ticketmaster’s position within the marketplace constitutes a monopoly on the lawful sale of tickets”

The company instructed Davis he was not to sell the mistakenly purchased tickets for any less than the price he paid for them, “artificially inflating ticket prices and impairing plaintiff’s ability to mitigate his damages and sell his tickets.”

Davis is now suing the ticketing corporation for fraudulent inducement and breach of contract. A court document obtained by Above the Law sets out the case:

“Not only did Ticketmaster’s website fail to respond to Davis’s attempt to cancel the charge, but Ticketmaster failed to refund the most basic of internet browsing errors literally minutes after the mistake is identified.”

“Furthermore, Ticketmaster’s position within the marketplace constitutes a monopoly on the lawful sale of tickets, specifically Hamilton tickets, giving Ticketmaster an unlawful position as a monopolist that can abuse consumers.”

The company has 50 days to respond to Davis’s claims.


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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).

Vendini tops $2bn in sales

Event ticketing and marketing platform Vendini has hit US$2 billion in gross sales.

The San Francisco-based company, which began as a ticket agency for college and small theatre venues, reached its first billion in March 2015, 14 years after its founding.

Chief revenue officer Keith Goldberg attributes the success to a number of recent acquisitions, including rival ticketer Charged.fm, and the company’s bringing aboard of “some of the best design and programming heavyweights; people with a passion for and knowledge of the live event industry”. In the past year, he adds, Vendini has signed up “hundreds of new venues”, including 41 in the college theatre sector alone, including the Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tennessee – one of the largest theatres in rural America.

“With recent acquisitions, we’ve assembled all the software and platform pieces the underserved mid-sized venue needs for ticketing, fundraising, subscription sales, logistics, marketing and patron management”

New festival customers, meanwhile, include the Atlantic Film Festival and Canadian promoter This is Blueprint.

“Several things have enabled us to fill the gap in the ticketing industry which until now has been the underserved mid-sized venue,” says Goldberg (pictured). “With recent acquisitions, we’ve assembled all the software and platform pieces these venues and event promoters need for ticketing, fundraising, subscription sales, logistics, marketing and patron management.”

Mark Tacchi, Vendini’s CEO and founder, says the company’s future lies in adding new marketing, fundraising and customer relationship management (CRM) components for all its served markets. “Vendini is making it easy for our members to create a powerful ticket-selling loop,” he comments.


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