Amazon will not be moving into the secondary ticketing market, with Amazon Tickets general manager Geraldine Wilson also criticising other ticket retailers for hidden costs that the customer only sees when they get to the online checkout.
Wilson was speaking at last week’s ILMC conference in London, where she shared a stage with Ticketmaster UK managing director Andrew Parsons.
Inevitably, the topic of secondary ticketing came up, and Wilson was asked if her company would follow the lead of Ticketmaster (which owns both GetMeIn and Seatwave in the UK) and create a secondary ticketing arm. She immediately shot down any suggestions.
“No, not in the UK – and we are only in the UK,” said Wilson. “We are all about getting tickets to the fans in our customer base at a fair price.”
She criticised the processes that currently allow secondary to happen at scale and made it clear that she was personally and professionally opposed to it.
“I don’t understand how these [secondary] companies get tickets in large quantities,” she said. “One way is by gaming the system and we have to make sure our technology means they can’t. There are other ways to get these [secondary] tickets and I just think it is wrong at every level.”
Wilson also said that her mission is to streamline pricing and not run with a system whereby extra charges are presented to the customer late in their purchasing journey – something many other primary and secondary ticketing companies are guilty of.
“We always show an all-inclusive price [for tickets],” she said. “I personally have a real problem with [hidden charges]. We, as a company, are well known for wanting to make sure we are very competitive on prices for our customers. Where we are selling tickets for the theatre, for example, we don’t want the customer to pay any more than they would pay at the box office. We try and work within that.”
Wilson also provided some of the backstory to how Amazon Tickets was set up, and why it was not an easy sell to senior executives at the company.
“Why did we go into tickets?” she said. “I was actually the person who put the business case to my team. If we had just gone to our senior management and said, ‘Let’s go into tickets. It’s a huge business and we think we can sell lots’, I can tell you now that case would never have got approval.”
Wilson argued that a move into ticketing – given Amazon’s involvement with other aspects of music retail – was an inevitability.
“The reason we got into tickets was because it was a fit with our customers,” she suggested. “We do a lot of stuff with music. We sell recorded music, we have streaming music and there is huge investment going in there, we sell merchandise, we make original content [on Amazon Prime around music]. Our customers love music and this was a very obvious place for us to go.”
It was less a case of replicating what other ticketing companies were doing, and more a case of looking at what they were doing wrong and bringing Amazon’s CRM insights into improving the offering, claimed Wilson.
“We also looked at the CX [customer experience] and thought that we could bring a lot to this area and really improve the CX,” she said. “That’s why we went in. And we got absolutely scrutinised for that.”
Given Amazon’s market cap of over $400bn, which dwarfs Live Nation’s market cap of $5.7bn, there will be concerns that a company of this scale can enter the landscape and force everyone to bend to its will. Wilson played the line that Amazon is friend rather than foe.
“I think the live business is going from strength to strength and I think it’s a great time for new players like us to come into the industry where we can help that business grow and grow – and help more people discover what’s on and buy tickets,” she said. “In this case, we are going to position ourselves as a valuable distribution partner […] We see ourselves very much as a friend of this industry.”
Amazon has clear aspirations to grow in this area. In November, job ads for Amazon Tickets appeared where it self-defined as “Earth’s most customer-centric ticketing company” and outlined its aim to “disrupt the entire live entertainment experience, including what happens before, during and after the show”.
In January, it appointed former Warner Music Group executive Lawrence Peryer as its director of tickets. And just this month it was recruiting a senior program manager for music to “dramatically improve” the US festival experience with “on-site food and product delivery, custom tour merchandise for purchase, artist meet and greets, and convenience amenities such as free Wi-Fi, water, charging stations, and restrooms”.
While not addressing these specific developments directly, Wilson made it clear Amazon has huge ambitions in the live market, and is hoping to shake up the customer experience.
“Customers know they can trust us and that we will go the extra mile if there’s a problem – and we work very hard to make sure they don’t have a problem,” she said.
“That means we take a long-term view. Ticketing is a volume game. It is a very complex business as it was very manual [in the past]. Technology is taking some of those costs out, but it is a volume game […] Our goal is all about getting tickets to fans at a fair price.”