Analysis

The future of ticketing: dynamic pricing, data and Spotify


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The emergence of mobile ticketing-focused startups like Dice has inspired Ticketmaster to “up our game” according to Sarah Slater, director of business development, music at Ticketmaster UK.

Speaking on a panel about the future of ticketing at the FastForward conference in Amsterdam, Slater was responding to a question about Ticketmaster’s response to competition from the startups world.

“Dice has made us step up our mobile game completely, I think,” said Slater. “Our mobile game was not up to scratch at all… So being able to present Dice to the powers-that-be above has helped us massively up our game.”

Slater also backed the idea of using ‘dynamic pricing’ more for concert ticketing, so that the price of a ticket would fluctuate based on demand in a similar way to flight tickets and hotel prices.

Ticketmaster’s ‘Platinum’ service already allows artists to do this, but Slater thinks this option will be taken up by more of them in the future.

“In my world, I think we will get to a space where all ticketing is dynamically priced. The technology’s there to do it, the issue that you’ve got is consumer acceptance of it,” she said.

“Nobody sits on a flight and goes ‘well, what did you pay for your ticket?’ They do at a gig… but I do think it’s the way forward.”

Slater suggested that using dynamic pricing for more expensive tickets will increase the income of artists, while also potentially enabling them to lower the prices of the most affordable tickets to their concerts.

She stressed that this will require measures to ensure those tickets are restricted from ending up on the secondary market.

“In six years I think we’ll get to the point where we’re even dynamically pricing festivals,” said Slater. “It’s not a solution, but it is one way to be able to restrict resale. There is less margin for someone who dynamically buys that ticket to resell it.”

Not everyone on the FastForward panel agreed. Mark Minkman from Paradiso, which runs several venues in Amsterdam, for example.

“As a venue we like to keep our prices low, because we can maintain longer careers inside our venue. We like to be open for everyone, even people with a small income can come to these shows,” he said.

Minkman also said that the current debate around the secondary market is starting to have an impact on how artists want to sell tickets to their shows.

“What we see as a reaction is the most popular artists who can sell out the Paradiso in a couple of minutes, they want to sell the tickets themselves, because they can better regulate the secondary market,” he said.

Father John Misty is currently one example: he is getting fans to register their email addresses on his website to enter a lottery to win the chance to buy tickets for his upcoming gigs.

“I understand that development, but I like to have the clients’ emails for myself at the Paradiso! Not to sell more tickets, but to reach the right friends for our artists,” said Minkman.

Collecting data on fans was one of the key themes of the panel. Manager Matthijs Boom agreed that managers are keen to get more in ticketing for exactly this reason, based on his experience consulting for British band Bear’s Den.

“It’s very nice for the fans as well. If we know we sold 2,000 tickets in London or 1,500 in Amsterdam, if we can send everyone an email saying ‘we’re playing in a few months, and we’re having a pre-sale: buy your ticket through the Bear’s Den website,” he said.

The panel agreed that this information can be locked away in silos, with different elements in the live industry guarding their customer data zealously.

“The industry as a whole is very fragmented, the live industry has been historically quite fragmented as well, and the challenge around data is everyone is competing essentially for the same email addresses, held in silos,” said live-industry consultant Gareth Deakin.

The industry is watching Spotify’s strategy keenly, as the streaming service does more to promote live music. Some artists have worked with Spotify to email their keenest fans with pre-sale offers, while the service has also started emailing listeners with suggestions of upcoming concerts near them.

In November 2016, Spotify also announced a new partnership with Ticketmaster to integrate its concert listings into its service, including the emails to listeners.

“It’s one of the things we really think will make a massive difference, especially the more emerging artists, rather than your stadium-fillers,” said Slater, although she said it’s too early to give any indication of what kind of uplift the partnership gives ticket sales.

“Can I come back to you in 12 months?” said Slater. “Until we’ve tried it in the UK and got some data… but we’ve seen some great results from Spotify pre-sales recently.”

Minkman offered some criticism for Spotify, saying that Paradiso would love to work with the company and its data. “But since Spotify has grown into a bigger company, they are not so open any more. We cannot discuss using this data and giving insights that we make,” he said.

Slater said that closer links between the live / ticketing industry and streaming services are important, as is continued improvements to mobile ticketing technology.

“A lot of people don’t sit on their desktop on a Friday morning at 9 o’clock waiting to get their Ed Sheeran ticket. They’re on mobile, they’re on tablets,” she said. “They’re not engaging through email any more, they’re engaging through Spotify and other platforms.”

Slater also fielded a question about why concertgoers are still buying paper tickets rather than going fully digital.

“Because you want to put it on your wall!” she said, before noting the operational reasons: different venues in the UK are run by different ticketing companies, which don’t necessarily accept one another’s barcodes for e-tickets.

“It’s getting better, we’re all working together and it’s a lot more harmonious than it used to be. But the other thing is that people do like to collect a ticket,” she said. “People want something they can keep in this world of digital technology.”

Stuart Dredge

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