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Ticketing: Is selling out losing out?

Ticketing: Is selling out losing out?

Chair: Tim Chambers, T J Chambers Consultancy (UK)

Guest speakers included:
Michele Bernstein, WME Entertainment (US)
Jules de Lattre, UTA (UK)
Paul Newman, AXS (UK)
Andrew Cooke, Flash Entertainment (AE)
Andrew Parsons, Ticketmaster (UK)

Chair Tim Chambers reminded the packed room that content is king, but the cost of talent is increasing. In the light of 90-10 or even 100% deals, is the promoter being less fiscally oriented to reach sell-out, preferring instead to break even, and instead develop incremental incentives? he asked.

He said that the opacity of the ticketing process, including multiple different presale dates for various sponsors, was confusing customers. This is enabling secondary ticketers to move into the space and take advantage.

But dynamic pricing is an attempt to recapture some of the margins being made by the secondary market and return it to the creator of the event.

He cited Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour as an example – by dynamically ticketing the venues, she saw a massive increase in revenue and tickets sold.

Jules de Lattre, of UTA, warned that while dynamic pricing is good to reduce secondary ticketing, it’s important to cap ticket prices so fans don’t feel they’ve over-paid for an act.

Michele Bernstein of WME Entertainment said a fairly new revenue stream was to put together ticket bundles, including VIP experiences, bundling tickets with records and so on. She said these packages can net between $1–$5m on an arena tour.

“Not all that money comes back to the artist, because there are fixed costs in fulfilment of the experiences. But a $600–700 package can net $200 for the artist. That’s revenue that didn’t exist before,” she said.

Andrew Cooke, of the United Arab Emirates’ Flash Entertainment, said artists want to play in full venues, but ultimately their potential for that show is not linked to who turns up. For sponsors and stakeholders, it’s vital. “They like to see sold-out crowds so I can’t see the importance of selling out going away for us.”


Chambers questioned if there was a danger to the artist’s reputation of doing bundling deals or having higher ticket prices through dynamic ticketing. De Lattre answered that it depends on what the artist wants to achieve and what the added value packages are. Often independent artists don’t feel such initiatives are appropriate for them, he added.

Ticketmaster’s Andrew Parsons said ultimately everyone wants to sell out and make money and his company’s job was to facilitate that, whatever the artists’ aims are.

He said Ticketmaster is finding that promoters are increasingly asking its advice on ticket prices.

The only way artists get to see the data from ticket buyers is if they have their own ticketing platform, said De Lattre. And Bernstein added that they don’t really need it because they have social channels to communicate with their fans.

Ticketmaster’s Parsons said for ticketing companies, data is important because 60–70% of inventory gets sold on the onsale. Having access to past ticket buyers is key to this.

AXS’s Paul Newman said email is still important as a marketing tool as it enables companies to reach the ‘less than superfans’ and fans of similar artists.

And Parsons concluded: “There will always been a need for sold-out signs – we’re a hype business. We just need to be more mindful about what that looks like and take steps to prevent other people from exploiting that.”