Ticketmaster sold more than $1bn of secondary tickets in the first nine months of 2016, according to the latest financial results of its parent company Live Nation.
Still a small part of its overall business, but growing fast: while Ticketmaster’s overall gross transaction value (GTV) of tickets sold was up 14% year-on-year to $19bn in the first three quarters of 2016, its secondary GTV rose by 33% to pass the $1bn mark.
According to Live Nation, what’s driving this growth is Ticketmaster’s strategy of integrating its primary and secondary businesses more closely: namely directing people to its secondary outlets when primary tickets are unavailable.
“Our integrated secondary and primary ticketing output continues to benefit fans allowing them to see their options in one location, driving secondary GTV up 33% year-to-date to over $1bn,” Live Nation boss Michael Rapino told analysts in the company’s earnings call.
“We think we have the start of a huge opportunity,” he continued later. “We think the big runway still ahead of us is we know that there is still hundreds of millions of dollars in secondary.”
Chief operating officer Joe Berchtold developed that notion when talking about how Ticketmaster is increasing its share of the global secondary-ticketing market despite strong competition from the likes of eBay’s StubHub.
“Absolutely the [secondary] market continues to grow, but we’re taking share. No question,” said Berchtold. “If we give fans a great offer, if we give them a great product – and it all starts with that product, primary and secondary together, leveraging the scale that we have of people coming to Ticketmaster and our ability to reach those fans by direct marketing to them – then we will continue to grow and take share regardless of what everybody else does in the market.”
It’s precisely this integration of primary and secondary ticketing that has been criticised by the increasingly-vocal anti-secondary campaigners, who see the “a Ticketmaster company” component of Seatwave and GetMeIn’s logos as legitimising the secondary market’s inflated prices.
(Clearly, Ticketmaster’s standpoint would be that secondary IS a legitimate market already: this debate continues to be polarised on that point.)
One of the main arguments against secondary is that artists don’t benefit from its additional revenue, so it was interesting to see Live Nation pitching more-dynamic primary pricing as the solution.
“We think we have a lot of opportunity on the front end of the house to keep pricing it through VIP, Platinum, P1, so the artist can share in the upside versus the secondary business,” said Rapino.
His comments about Live Nation’s wider significance for musicians across all its divisions rather than just ticketing – “We absolutely like to remind the artists and the community that we spend over $3bn to $4bn a year paying the artists for their art” – are part of this debate too.
Still, expect to see the $1bn secondary figure cited regularly by anti-secondary campaigners in the weeks and months to come, to bolster their criticism of Ticketmaster’s approach.