E-Mail Of The Day

I was a part of the artist-facing team at Ticketmaster from 2003-2010, back then we called it Music Services. Basically a strategic attempt to increase Ticketmaster’s leverage in the upcoming then-CCE-soon-to-be Live Nation contract renewal negotiations (LN didn’t own TM at the time, but they were their biggest client). But if LN was going to threaten to build their own ticketing company in advance of that negotiation – which of course they did attempt – then Ticketmaster was going to start speaking directly to the artist managers and agents.

Our job was to deploy TM’s newest technologies on behalf of the artist to the benefit of the tour and their fans. Back then we started dynamic pricing with auction technology – and many of the bands were quick to adopt it even though the consumer experience was janky. But it increased the show gross and ostensibly decreased broker profit potential. Then we started shifting to the premium buy-it-now model also known as Platinum. Then we bundled recorded music and fan club subscriptions with the ticket. Then we rolled out “paperless ticketing” to try and thwart scalpers while keeping prices in check. By 2007 you would have been hard-pressed to find a major stadium or arena act that wasn’t working with us and deploying one or more of these platforms. There were exceptions of course like Pearl Jam, Radiohead, etc. but for the most part we were getting this stuff sold throughout the industry with little issue.

Then the company moved me to London and we built a similar team overseas and started deploying those technologies with European and global tours. Over there, Viagogo and Seatwave were just starting to break through – whereas Stubhub had already sold to eBay here in the states. Short story – while there was certainly more resistance at first in Europe, eventually the artists and promoters couldn’t resist the extra dollars/pounds/euros that came. Side note: while the European promoters will be the first to publicly demand equity and fairness for the fans, we found that many of those people were selling tickets out the back door to touts and that the culture in the industry was far more duplicitous than even here in the states. Not everyone, but more than you’d think. But the point is that yet again, in a new continent now, we were getting most of the tours to sign up for the technologies and platforms we were selling.

Then around 2009 we started selling the idea of “all-in” pricing to the artists. It was like the power went out. We couldn’t get anyone to say yes. Roger Waters was doing a tour in 2010 and his manager Mark Fenwick and I had laid the groundwork to really launch “all-in” on a global scale with that tour. Remember we are now in that window of time when LN and TM had already announced their intention to “merge” but it had still not been approved by the regulators. Well, short story is that Ron Delsener didn’t like the idea of all-in, he told Fenwick to kill it – and Fenwick did. And in retrospect it’s hard to blame them, the tour wasn’t going to get a huge tangible benefit from going all-in.

Our industry is the only one where you see the retailer’s mark-up. Imagine going into Nordstrom and seeing that the AG jeans you want to buy are $150, but then there is a $100 Nordstrom fee on top so now you’re paying $250. It doesn’t matter if you know that Nordstrom is going to take $70 of that $100 and send it back to AG – that purchase experience is brutal. But ultimately no matter how many studies you put in front of a manager or agent that show you’ll sell more tickets by going with an all-in price and avoiding the drip-pricing, they don’t believe taking on the risk of shouldering the burden of being the lightning rod for high prices that the ticketing companies are meant to serve as is worth it. Again, hard to blame them.

Vito Iaia

Ps. Ask the fans in Europe whether or not they like the fact that tickets to their favorite show are going onsale on three different ticketing companies websites this Friday at 10am – and that they have no idea which site will have the best or most inventory – and see what they say. As much as people slam the exclusive model in the states – it works for the fans. At least in the primary market…

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