phil hutcheon dice

Ticketing and livestreams firm Dice expanded to Germany this month, having raised $122m of funding last September to fuel its future growth.

Music Ally talked to CEO Phil Hutcheon as the Germany news was announced, to pick his brains on Dice’s business and the wider live sector.

How has the behaviour of concertgoers changed from before the Covid-19 pandemic?

“There’s been two transition periods: coming out of the pandemic, and from now until the end of the year.

We’ve seen different countries come back to live at different stages. Our biggest market is the US – and New York came back to live, not with a gradual build up, but from zero to one. We saw a step-change last summer in the UK, and in Germany and France its been a bit stop-and-start. That’s where we are at now.

The second thing I’ve seen is that there are so many concerts this year – we’re selling crazy amounts of tickets, but there’s going to be a lot of supply for the next four or five months, and then it will get back to where it was pre-pandemic.

So we feel pretty positive, because the pandemic has not been great for live shows – but people are going crazy wanting to go out now.”

What if there’s a recession coming though?

“Historically, people do go out more during a recession – they don’t buy cars or go on holidays, but they go to clubs and concerts. More people are going out, and I don’t think that’s going to change.

Pre-pandemic there was a lot of talk about living digitally in the metaverse – and now we’ve experienced it and it’s not awesome. People like being around other people. And the rates of loneliness have sky-rocketed during the pandemic. People are being very emotional at shows, just being out there again.

As time goes on, you’d think that people will revert back to old patterns but I don’t think they will. They’ll not take for granted the luxury of going to see a live performance. Some people’s greatest memories will be experiencing a great concert.”

If demand rises, does that mean ticket prices will also rise?

“I think there will be more participation – more people going to live shows – but if more people are going to more shows, that doesn’t mean there will be an increase in ticket prices.

I’m a little bit happy that video streaming subs are plateauing, as it shows that people will be living a bit more in IRL experiences. We’re selling a ton of tickets right now… it may go down a little but it will [end up being] higher than it was pre pandemic.”

What about the idea of ‘hybrid’ live performances? Tours with physical shows, but also the option to watch them as livestreams. Might this become part of standard tour planning?

“During the pandemic we did six and a half thousand ticketed livestreams. There’s a fundamental shift that happened during the pandemic.

With livestreaming, we said to artists it’s important that for a livestream to be a success, it needs to be ten times better than a traditional live show. It can’t simply be your normal show, live-streamed.

So, maybe taking a seminal album and making a special performance, or creating something unique, like Nick Cave alone with a piano in Alexandra Palace. The Smile hybrid performance earlier this year – that we worked with Driift on – was a brilliant way to tell the story of that new band and new music.

We had to convince artists at the start of the pandemic to charge for tickets! What happened during the pandemic that didn’t exist before, is that fans were, at scale, becoming patrons of the artist and wanted artists to have money [for their livestreams].

Fans want to know the money from the ticket is going to the artist – it became even more clear during the pandemic. Anything that may have previously been a bit taboo about an artist saying they needed to make money vanished.

I didn’t like the donation idea that some companies have done, but I do like the idea of buying tickets to seeing something awesome that artists have done.”

You’ve just launched in Germany. What do you look for when expanding to a new territory?

“I love Germany. We were patient with Germany, and that’s because we wanted to do it right: it’s a big market with big income and we thought it could be tricky.

But the response from partners and fans here to having an independent choice has been incredible. And we’ve gone from thinking it might be tricky to thinking “this is brilliant”.

It’s funny: if you’re in the music industry you don’t buy as many tickets as fans do, so we sit down and show partners the app and it blows their minds – they see how, in a city, that 40% of sales within the Dice app are sold via algorithms. The personalisation part of Dice is super important.”

What about secondary ticketing and the effect that reselling has on fans?

“The amount of time that artists think about how much they want to charge the fan – and then losing control of that and not knowing who the buyers are [because of secondary ticketing] – that’s upsetting.

The ‘demand and supply’ argument for secondary ticketing is bullshit! An event happens once in a lifetime and the rules are different.

If the pain [of secondary ticketing] is removed, people will go out more. When you see things hyper-inflated on the secondary market, fans don’t know who’s behind it: trust is important. What we’re rebuilding is trust with fans.”

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