phil hutcheon dice

Ticketing firm Dice has raised $122m in its Series C funding round, announced this morning. Venture capital giant SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 led the round, with Future Shape – the investment company of former Apple exec (unofficial title: ‘father of the iPod’) Tony Fadell.

Dice plans to use the funding to continue expanding geographically; grow its team; continue developing its livestreaming capabilities, and launching a development program to work with more artists directly, following its success helping Bicep grow from 300-capacity events in London to more than 30,000.

Music Ally has been following Dice’s growth since it emerged from stealth mode in 2014, but the size of the new funding round surprised even us. We spoke to CEO Phil Hutcheon about the company’s plans, and how he sees the ticketing and livestreams market in 2021.

“We always wanted to be a global company and have an impact everywhere: to get to that point of rewiring things globally for live entertainment,” he said. “It has taken years of graft to get the right systems in place: infrastructure, data, the team, relationships. And we’re now scaling, because we’re ready for it.”

“It’s like when you go past a building site for a skyscraper, and there doesn’t seem to be much going on, and six months later you’re wondering ‘what are those idiots doing?!’ But then you go past two months later, and half of the building has been built. It’s a bit similar for us! We’ve been building this infrastructure and going deep into the product, and now we’re at the point where we can launch in new markets pretty effectively, and scale.”

Dice has seen a similar slow-burn effect for its recommendation engine, showing people concerts and livestreams they might like, based mainly on their previous purchases and activity on Dice. That algorithm now accounts for more than 40% of tickets sold on the app.

“It took us three and a half years [after launching it] before that recommendation engine was giving really good results. You can scan your Apple Music or Spotify library, but most of the results are from our own data,” said Hutcheon. “We could have taken shortcuts at the beginning, going into Facebook Open Graph and everything else. But we wanted to invest in our own data.”

In-person concerts may be returning, but Dice remains committed to livestreams alongside its traditional business, having run more than 4,600 during the pandemic so far.

“We’ve learned that each livestream needs to be almost five to ten times more impactful than a regular thing. It needs a compelling story now, otherwise no one cares,” said Hutcheon. “A band livestreaming? That’s mildly interesting. A band livestreaming at a certain venue at a certain time with a certain story around it, like an anniversary? That’s interesting.”

Dice has installed livestreaming equipment in venues in several countries so that it can work with them on a regular flow of these events.

“We’re also seeing that big artists want to play more intimate rooms. They can play the arenas on their tour, but they still like to play to 2,000-3,000-capacity rooms. So you’ll see more of them doing that for livestreams, and they can actually make as much profit from playing the smaller show as they would from the arena show, with the livestreaming revenue. But only as long as they make the story compelling, and it’s scarce and everything else.”

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