phil hutcheon dice

Ticketing company Dice has raised its latest funding: a $65m round led by music-focused fund Music, whose CEO Matt Pincus will be joining Dice’s board of directors as part of the deal.

The round also includes investment from Structural Capital and Ahdritz Holding LLC – the latter being the investment fund of Kobalt founder Willard Ahdritz – as well as Exor Ventures and Mirabaud Lifestyle Fund.

Alongside the funding, Dice also announced its imminent launch in Austin, Texas – its latest US expansion – and the appointment of veteran tech executive Ali Byrd as its chief financial officer, based in New York.

The funding round comes nearly two years after Dice raised $122m in its Series C funding, acquiring electronic-music brand Boiler Room shortly afterwards.

This year, Dice became a founder member of Fix The Tix, a lobbying coalition focusing on ticketing regulation in the US that also counts Universal Music Group, See Tickets, the RIAA and the Recording Academy among its members.

That led to CEO Phil Hutcheon sharing a stage with US president Joe Biden at a White House event on ticketing in June.

However, Dice has not been immune to some of the headwinds blowing in the tech and music industries, as it laid off some staff earlier this month as part of a restructuring of parts of its business.

Growth… and a lockdown bounceback

Raising $65m is more positive news for Dice, which says it has been used in 2023 by more than 55,000 artists and more than 10,000 venues, festivals and promoters in the 30 cities where it has launched its app-based service.

“I look for businesses that have great leadership, that have strong growth in their category, and that have the ability to lead the space that they’re in,” Pincus told Music Ally in an interview ahead of today’s funding announcement.

“It’s a transformational business. They have a growth trajectory that defies gravity, and they have brought in some great senior leadership that shows they are ready to go to the next chapter of their development, while remaining true to who they are, and the very strong culture of their business.”

Dice has yet to release its financial results for 2022, but its accounts for 2021 – published through Companies House in the UK – revealed that its revenues grew from $1.2m in 2020 to $12.5m in 2021.

That’s startling 941.7% growth, although only startling until you remember that 2020 saw the live music industry still battered by the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic. 2021 was thus a bounceback year: Live Nation’s annual revenues jumped by 236.8% that year for example.

In 2021, Dice generated $8.1m from ticket sales commissions and $4.3m from brand partnerships (the other $113.1k came from ‘postal fulfillment’) with 51.2% of its revenues coming from the UK, 9.3% from the rest of Europe, and 39.5% from the rest of the world.

However, its operating losses grew from $18.4m in 2020 to $30.5m in 2021. Hutcheon told Music Ally that the growth since 2021 has put the company closer to being in the black.

“We are definitely getting close to being profitable,” he said this week. “From a financial perspective, probably around March or April last year [2022] was when the effects of the pandemic started petering out. We’re at least double again [in terms of revenues] this year. Coming out of those lockdowns, the growth has been incredible.”

US expansion and taking on a Goliath

Dice’s launch and subsequent expansion in the US has been a key factor too.

“Going into the US and being so successful there has been extraordinary. When we went into New York, a lot of people were saying it wasn’t going to work there. ‘People are used to the fees, and people are fine with scalping…’ But I’m a fan, and I’m not happy with those things! Matt’s a fan and he’s not happy with them either!” he said.

“We just did it, and while it was extremely hard at the beginning, the repeat usage of fans in the US on Dice is incredible. With that momentum, particularly in North America, this funding helps to keep that going.”

The Biden summit was part of a wider debate about how concert ticketing works in the US, which has often been uncomfortable for the biggest company in the space: Live Nation and its Ticketmaster subsidiary.

Hutcheon suggested that Dice is now “pretty well established as the alternative” in the US. That’s no mean feat, although for context, it’s still very much the David to Live Nation’s Goliath: the latter company’s global ticketing revenues were $1.13bn in 2021 compared to Dice’s $8.1m.

Not just tickets: a youth-culture window

Still, investors see potential, with Pincus outlining why he’s made Dice the latest of five deals for his Music fund in the last year, covering a little over $100m of total investment.

“All of them are non-competitive [with one another] and all of them are music businesses. One of the things I look for are places in the market that I think are going to take a real turn in terms of changing the way they work over the next stretch for the music business,” he said.

“We’re at a pivot point in a lot of ways in music, and one of them that relates to Dice is the topic of engagement. The traditional ways that music finds people are evolving very quickly as demographics change, and the pandemic just accelerated that process.”

“Radio, traditional media, even the algos [algorithms] at DSPs are now showing signs of not having the same level of reactivity that they had in their heyday,” he continued.

“The whole music business is trying to figure out how you get to people in more textured, involved and complex ways going forward. Dice has that. The users who use its platform are the people who drive the culture.”

Pincus cited Boiler Room as an example. “It is doing events all around the world, at which tens of thousands of people are showing up, mostly to see local DJs. And you can see right away the reactivity of the crowd as they play, track-by-track,” he said.

“Dice make ticket-buying fun, and a positive part of the experience, but beyond that they are giving you a look at youth culture worldwide, and music is the gateway. The business has the ability to transcend its already-robust ticketing business, to engage with consumers that really care, and really drive the culture.”

New markets and live optimism

Global expansion is high on Dice’s agenda, with Hutcheon citing the company’s investment in India, as well as holding Boiler Room events in west and South Africa, and a recent event in Mexico that attracted 20,000 people.

“It’s a big world, and those new markets are key,” he said. While Dice is open to more acquisitions in the future, Hutcheon said that “it’s not really front of mind”, adding that Dice’s culture thus far has been focused more on building its own technology rather than seeking to buy it via acquisition.

He was also optimistic about the health of the live music industry, despite ongoing debates about some of the challenges facing artists below the level of stadium-sellout superstars with the increased costs of touring.

“You see the articles about artists who are struggling on tour, but Dice is a platform, so we see everything: 10,000 events a month. And what we’re seeing is a very healthy ecosystem, where tickets are still priced well, and people are going out. It’s not all about those biggest acts: you can still see brilliant artists for a tenner.”

Pincus agreed, saying that while the biggest stars can still be considered outliers – “Taylor Swift is almost a general-interest entertainment property now. She’s like Marvel Entertainment!” – down at the level of club shows there is still much to be optimistic about.

“The people-to-people personal music business is kinda doing better than ever. I think there may be some layers to the onion there that operate quite differently,” he said.

“Dice is a connector: it’s playing a particularly unique role in matching artists to audience, in a way that is hard to find – in a structural way – in other parts of the business.”

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