Q’s with Seated CEO David McKay: Giving Artists Control Over Their Ticketing Data

Seated won this year’s Midemlab start-up competition in the marketing and data analytics category, June 6. The company, which is still in private beta, promises artists to take control of their ticketing data. Pollstar spoke with the company’s co-founder and CEO David McKay.
McKay used to work in digital marketing at Atlantic Records, before joining the founding team of Applauze, an app that provides all kinds of ticketing tools for artists. Live Nation acquired Applauze in 2016. As Ticketmaster’s EVP and head of music David Marcus said at this year’s Pollstar Live!, the question was no longer who owned the ticket, but how to unlock the data behind it. In his vision, ticketing companies will increasingly allow artists to exploit ther data via a dedicated platform. 
It’s a vision McKay shares.

David McKay
– David McKay
Co-founder and CEO of Seated

Could you explain your company philosophy? Why did you co-found Seated?

The ticketing industry today is built for venues. We saw a huge opportunity to build ticketing software for artists. Artists are the best marketers in the world, but they still don’t have any control over the way their tickets are sold. Our true belief is that, when we empower artists to take control of their ticketing, then everyone in the industry benefits: more tickets are going to be sold, more fans are going to attend shows.
What exactly does that mean?
The artists are the ones that are driving significant traffic to the venue’s ticketing site. But at that point they lose control of their customer, because the existing ticketing companies have agreements with promoters or venues. All the buyer data lies with the ticketing company, promoter or venue.
We give artists tools to capture more buyer data from their ticketing experience. Before tickets go on sale, we allow fans to set a reminder. We also allow artists to control the pre-sale and capture the buyer data during that period. Once tickets are available to buy during the general onsale, we drive the traffic to Ticketmaster, AXS, Eventbrite, etc. 
So you’re not a ticket seller, you’re inserting yourself between the artist and the primary companies.
Exactly. Here’s a good example. Traditionally, artists will launch a tour on  a Monday, and say, ‘come back in five days, when tickets go on sale to the general public’. They’re spending all their marketing efforts, advertising dollars, newsletters, their Facebook, their Twitter, and all this messaging, and all of this traffic is going to the ticketing websites, where there’s no action that can be taken.
So instead of driving fans to this dead link, we insert ourselves, and before tickets go on sale, artists drive their fans to Seated, where fans can set a reminder to get tickets, they can request to buy tickets in advance. It’s all about inserting ourselves in front of the ticketing companies, so the artists can understand more about who their buyers are.
How does it help the industry, if the artists control their data?
If artists control that buyer information, they are going to be more effective at reaching those fans and talking to those fans than any of the ticketing companies, than any of the marketing people at any of the promotion companies. Artists and their teams know what their fans want, and they know how to communicate with them. They just don’t have the tools to know who those fans are when it comes to ticket sales today.
The direct-to-fan relationship has grown significantly over the past decade through other channels of e-commerce, but [not] in ticket sales, the thing that generates the most revenue for the artist. We definitely see that shifting, and we’re positioning ourselves to be the tool that artists trust around their ticket sales.

– Seated
Fans can set reminders for upcoming shows – and the artist will know about it.

How does the technical implementation of this work?

We provide our tools to artists in form of an automated, self-serve dashboard. Artists can log in, set all of their dates, input all of their ticketing links, and we make sure fans get driven to the right place.
So no direct integration with any ticketing companies at the moment?
No, but we’re in conversations with all of them.
Can you give an example of the tools you provide?
We give artists links they can use on their socials, and tools they can install on their website, and those [tools] are controlled by Seated. Seated essentially knows the status of an event. If it’s not on sale yet, we drive to reminders or pre-sales. If it is on sale, we drive to wherever tickets are available, and if it’s off sale, we drive back to Seated, where fans can set alerts for when more tickets go on sale.
What data do you help artists capture?
We basically focus on a few key metrics: how many emails can you collect, how many phone numbers can you collect, how much credit card information can you get stored by your fans in the system, and how much revenue can you generate?
All tools that we’re offering help them know this profile of their fans. We directly integrate into existing marketing tools, [such as] Mail Chimp or Constant Contact. In the future we see the ability to allow artists to interact with their fans directly within SEATED.
Are artists already using your tools?
Yes, we’re in private beta right now, working with a few dozen artists. You can see our tools live right now on leonbridges.com, lindseystirling.com, robertplant.com. We also are working with Death Cab For Cutie, Harry Styles, Christina Aguilera. There are a bunch of artists, who are using our free data capture tools to power the touring on their website.
What’s your business model?
Today, we make money from a transaction fee, every single time we sell a ticket, and that’s when an artist will choose to sell an allocation of their tickets through a pre-sale with Seated. We pay the promoter the full price  of the ticket and then Seated adds a small transaction fee on top to the fan. We [also] do a 100 percent of ticketing for one-off events.
But we know we can unlock a ton of other revenue streams when the time is right. We are building premium tools, subscription tools, we believe artists will find valuable. And at that point our business will be a mixture of subscription revenue and ticket sales transaction revenue.
Christina Aguilera
– Christina Aguilera
Ticket sales for the singer’s Liberation tour are powered by Seated

Do you want to get into the secondary ticketing market as well?
I think the lines are going to continue to blur between what is primary and what is secondary. Personally, I think the secondary industry gets a bad rap, because it’s associated with brokers and scalpers and people trying to take advantage of the ticket buyer. But there is a real use case for the secondary market. When someone buys a ticket and they can no longer attend and they are merely attempting to liquidate that ticket so that someone else can attend the event. I like to distinguish the two, I think there’s a place for the secondary market, and I think there’s also an opportunity for artists to capture more of the revenue that is flowing to the brokers and scalpers.
From a business perspective, I’m not sure if the music industry is as ready to embrace that as the sports industry already has. But I believe that they will in the future. It’s more about educating the industry about the uses of the secondary market, and how it can be a valuable tool.
We don’t have anything to announce today about tools that we’re building for the secondary market, but it’s absolutely going to be a core part of our ticketing experience, and that’s no something they should leave up [to the scalpers].
All of the ticketing companies are starting to embrace it themselves. Ticketmaster and AXS are listing secondary tickets right alongside primary tickets. As the primary ticketing companies start to blur those lines for the industry, I think artists will start to accept that and want to take more control.
What’s next for Seated?
Right now we’re focusing on our fund raise. MIDEM was a great opportunity for us to get in front of a lot of influential people, and gave us some industry validation that is necessary in our fund raising process. My short-term focus is raising this next round of funding and continuing to hire. We’re rapidly growing our team in New York.