Democratizing Ticketing

Marino Fresch, Eventbrite’s UK and Ireland marketing director, talked with Pollstar about the state of ticketing and how technology can enhance the live experience.  

The tech sector has been leading the way in terms of conducting business in the digital age for many years. Its professionals mostly work with open-source software because they understand that markets are fluid and can be grown for everyone involved by allowing all interested parties to tap into it.

It’s the opposite of the protectionist’s approach, and Eventbrite is applying it to the events industry.

The company considers itself a tech company rather than a ticketing company.

“We have more than 500 employees worldwide, of which 150 are engineers,” Fresch explains.

The marketing director, who worked for Expedia and eBay before joining Eventbrite 3.5 years ago, thinks “ticketing is an industry where there has been very little innovation for a long time. It’s ripe for innovation.”

He pointed toward Airbnb, Amazon and Uber as being responsible for disrupting the hotel, retail and taxi businesses, respectively.

“Ticketing is an area where that disruption is overdue.” Fresch said Eventbrite’s vision since its launch in 2006 has been “to take technology that had only been available to the largest of events and democratize it, make it available to all sizes of events, from five people to 50 to 500 to 50,000.”

The company doesn’t discriminate between free and paid events. It takes a cut off every ticket sold, so it doesn’t earn a thing on free gigs.

For Fresch, “it’s about creating the best-in-class technology and making it available to as wide a range of people as possible. It makes economic sense, because we’re reaching a much wider audience than we could otherwise.” The technology includes a reserved seating option for event organizers. “You can take a block of seats, drag it in, add your stage, move them around, click go and start selling tickets. And it’s incredibly simple to do,” Fresch said.

Other promoters using the same venue can select existing seating plans and tweak them according to their needs. Merchandise can also be sold through Eventbrite.

A recently launched feature called Purchase Anywhere enables people to buy, pay and receive their ticket wherever it is most convenient for them – for example, on Facebook (currently live only in the U.S.).

Eventbrite also does scanning technology. What was once expensive and exclusive can now be done by anyone with the camera of their Android or iOS device.

This will be synchronized with the promoter’s desktop, tablet or mobile phone so they can see in real-time who’s entering their event.

“One key theme for us is integration of features. Being able to have everything in one place and have an overall view of the customer. So you don’t have to use one organization for your scanners, another one for ticketing, and another one for RFID etc,” Fresch said. Thanks to Eventbrite’s open API, all of those features can be integrated from third-party developers, while all the data is collected at one single focal point. Data is generated from the moment someone buys a ticket, to when they enter the event, to what they’re doing at the event and even after as well.

He says that, “historically, promoters have thought about the event itself, and they focused very much on maximizing the experience at the event,” Fresch said. “There’s an increasing realization that the event is also about the memory afterwards and the anticipation beforehand. … There’s so many opportunities for promoters to tap into that all the way through.”

Just how much of a tech enthusiast Marino Fresch really is becomes apparent when he envisions use cases on festival sites.

“With RFID, wristbands and things like low-energy Bluetooth that enables two-way communication, you can really start to understand what people are doing while at an event,” he said. “If a wristband tells you that someone is near the food stalls, and if they have their wristband connected via Bluetooth to their phone, you can automatically push them a voucher for a couple of pound off a kebab,” Fresch said. “Knowing who your audience is and what they’re doing at your festival is very important and very useful for sponsors. It enables promoters to give sponsors a much more valuable proposition.”

One could also inform festivalgoers about shorter queues at another bar. All of this technology exists. Going forward, the company intends to focus on algorithmic event discovery.

Demographic data, as well as a person’s event history, can suggest events customers are likely interested in. According to Fresch, “discovering new music has become much easier and much richer over the last few years. It’s way more diverse. But the discovery of gigs hasn’t kept up with that.

“So you have an audience that is listening to this huge range of artists coming up online, but then the gigs they know about is a much smaller universe. To me, the opportunity is to take this breadth of music interest and connect it much more efficiently with a breadth of gig discovery.”