Canuck Exec Powerhouse: Ticketmaster COO Patti-Anne Tarlton Takes Center Stage At CMW

Patti-Anne Tarlton
David Leyes / Air Canada Centre, Toronto
– Patti-Anne Tarlton
Patti-Anne Tarlton has taken just about every seat there is around the Canadian concert industry table – she’s been a promoter, venue manager, headed live entertainment operations for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and currently is chief operating officer for Ticketmaster Canada. She’ll take another seat May 10, during Canadian Music Week, as she’s inducted into the Canadian Music & Broadcasting Hall of Fame at a gala at Toronto’s Rebel Club.
Tarlton has advocated for the live music industry before Canadian provincial and federal government committees and told Pollstar in a now 10-year-old profile about not only surviving a riot when Axl Rose ended a Guns N’ Roses concert early at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, but while at MLSE, stood by as House of Blues Entertainment booked them into Air Canada Centre.
She says her uncle and mentor, heritage promoter Donald Tarlton, is “as Canadian as they come,” but so is she. And having succeeded in nearly every segment of that country’s live music business, it’s fitting that she is the first female executive to be inducted into the Music & Broadcasting Hall of Fame, joining artists Margo Timmins, Jann Arden, and Alanis Morissette.

Pollstar Awards 2010
– Pollstar Awards 2010
Patti Anne Tarlton (L) talks shop with Alex Hodges, Nederlander Concerts; Steve Kirsner, San Jose SAP Center; David Touhey, Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.; and Jim Goddard, San Jose SAP Center at the 2010 Pollstar Awards in Los Angeles.
“To be part of that very wonderful group of women, not to mention being on the business side and never set foot on the front of the stage, what’s really wonderful about our Canadian industry is how we do look at our talent and partners,” Tarlton tells Pollstar. “It’s nice to see those that support the music onstage be recognized, and I’m proud to be in and looking forward to the event. But at the same time, it’s really about what Canada represents, too, which is fun for me.”
That isn’t a gratuitous statement. In the course of a 45-minute interview, she mentioned “Canada” or “Canadian” 23 times. Being a fierce booster of her country as well as her industry has helped Tarlton elevate her game in a global environment.
“I moved over to Ticketmaster, after the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merge, and saw some great things happening and momentum in the States,” she explains. “I could be learning things via my conferences or my colleagues in connections to things going on south of the border, and I would push Jared [Smith, Ticketmaster president] about his plan for Canada.”
The industry was changing when Tarlton joined Ticketmaster after 13 years with MLSE.
“I would say on the Canadian side the team had gotten a bit quiet and I saw a bunch of energy happening south of the border, coming from Jared for sure,” she said, adding that Smith’s leadership was what attracted her to the company when the opportunity arose to work nationally.
“I’m Canadian as they come, and I’ve worked coast to coast, in the concert business and from the sports and venue business. I think that helps me navigate the changes as they are today and that makes for a good partner, when you know what your clients and partners need, and you’ve gained trust and history over time.” 
Tarlton laughs easily and sprinkles her comments with sports metaphors, reflecting that time in the sports and venues world. She’s seen others move across the table from the client side to Ticketmaster and vice versa in the last five years, too.
“In a partnership, when you have good people and maximize their skills, provide goals and opportunities for them, which side of the fence they worked on is maybe less material than making sure they are happy where they are and together we are working to move the ball forward.
“It’s been fun to re-energize the Canadian team as a national team; we rally around the flag. We centered around the venues and the fans in Canada, and we have the benefit of this global product development team, a global footprint, that lets us as a Canadian organization punch above our weight class.”
Tarlton acknowledges that her expertise in vastly different areas of the live industry helps beyond the boardroom, as she is often called upon to advocate for the entire industry in not only provincial issues but on the national stage as well. But her wheelhouse is tickets, and it’s now a global focus.
“In the last few years our provincial government has been very interested in ticketing legislation and the consumer protection around legislation,” she explains. “That has really rallied many of us as stakeholders.
 “When you think about legislation that is supposed to be supporting consumer protection in and around ticketing you can also put legislation in that can have the opposite effect of consumer protection, or it’s unenforceable so it delivers no value. It has been a journey, certainly, because it’s a long, slow process.”
The journey now includes litigation by Canada’s Competition Bureau over Ticketmaster’s fee structure, which the federal regulator refers to as “drip pricing.” 

Patti-Anne Tarlton
– Patti-Anne Tarlton
Tarlton is guarded in her discussion of the pending litigation but believes it’s part of the learning process for the industry and regulators during a time of change.
“What the bureau is looking for is the live event industry, in the e-commerce setting, to move to an all-in pricing structure like you would see in airline travel and car rentals, and which the industry at large will likely move toward because it’s progress,” Tarlton says.
In the meantime, provinces including Quebec and Ontario are writing their own legislation and Ticketmaster is adapting the technology to match. In terms of getting federal regulators and ticketers on the same page, Tarlton says it’s “just a matter of time.”
You can’t talk about regulations without talking politics, and you can’t talk politics and women without noting the rise of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements, at least in the States. Tarlton says, however, they have permeated through ubiquitous American media north of the border, and she sees some effect.
“I would say that I never walk into a boardroom and see gender,” Tarlton said. “Sure, the industry itself was pretty male-dominated coming up through the rock ‘n’ roll business. But, as time passes, you get tapped on the shoulder and asked, ‘Can you be on this board, can you be on this committee, or can you participate in this?’ Maybe there’s more initiative in the last year as a result of the stories that come out of the States to call attention to that.
“There might be some of that theme which isn’t totally comfortable for me; I wouldn’t have second-guessed that in the past. I would have said, ‘You’re here because you have that background and you’re delivering something to the table.’ But as I have 14- and 16-year-old girls now, there’s a bit of, ‘Absolutely they should see a world where equality is an expectation.’ It certainly was for me and my next generation should feel the same.”
Tarlton was asked, in a 2008 Pollstar profile, where she saw herself in 10 years. “I’ll bet I didn’t say ticketing!” she laughed. And, for the record, no she didn’t. (“Ten years from now, I hope to still play a part of milestone events, memorable fan experience and record-setting performances.”)
The prognostication is still apt. She has developed a Hall of Fame-worthy career by running the table, as she might say.
“Maybe it’s a bit of Canada; I say we have such a small population that over this massive geography we tend to be collaborators. So we got used to sharing knowledge across the country or saying, ‘Hey, I can’t be there but I’ve got a guy or a connection or you have to meet this person’ as part of a continuing network. You think about the early days of touring – the CPI, Perryscope, DKD days – they honed those skills, touring, getting in a truck, going across the country, maybe differently than promoters would in the States.
“In those three different elements – promoter, venue and ticket company – I don’t know what the fourth leg of that table would be but so far I’m still sitting on that stool. (laughs) I’m spending a lot of time in government affairs so I may have to move myself into politics one day!”