‘You Don’t Have To Discount Those Tickets’: Talking Ticketing With DICE CRO Russ Tannen

Slowthai at The Underworld
– Slowthai at The Underworld
Ticketing courtesy of DICE

Secondary ticketing has been one of the most-discussed topics in live entertainment in the past years, specifically the for-profit resale of tickets at inflated prices. Different solutions have been presented, including blockchain technology, personalized tickets and websites that restrict the resale price to the ticket’s face value. 
DICE, which launched in London in 2014, offers fans, who cannot make a gig, the option to return their tickets onto a waiting list, where other fans that were unsuccessful in the on sale can buy them for the original price.
DICE recently launched in the U.S. and Paris, and just hired its first person in Australia. Other markets are to follow in 2019. Reason enough to catch up with the company’s chief revenue officer Russ Tannen at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in London and talk about upcoming plans.
The UK and U.S. are very different when it comes to ticketing. In the UK, half of available tickets usually go to the owner of the venue’s box office, while the promoter decides the allocation of the other half of tickets to various ticket agents. In the U.S. venues tend to work with one ticketing parter exclusively.  
When DICE launched five years ago it had no venue box office deals in place, meaning the company could only ever lay its hands on a maximum of half of the tickets available for a show. “The other half would still go through whoever owned the venue’s box office, and then tickets would appear on the secondary sites. We knew they weren’t coming from us, but it was impossible for the promoter to get hold of the whole room. That’s when we started signing venue box offices.”
Today, DICE has box office deals in place with 22 London venues, from tiny ones like the 120-capacity Waiting Room all the way up to the 3,100-capacity Troxy. If artists playing those buildings are adamant about keeping every ticket off the secondary market, they can.
Another London venue that has sold its box office rights to DICE is the 890-capacity Islington Assembly Hall. When the venue’s business manager Lucinda Brown was speaking at a UK parliamentary hearing on secondary ticketing last September, she was questioned about her experience with the company.
“In the short time we’ve been with them, we’ve noticed a dramatic difference in even our business. Before, when a show was sold out, we would be at 75 percent capacity, which [for] small venues is one of the most distressing ways: you’re losing your bar sales, which is the thing that keeps you afloat.
“With our change to digital ticketing, we’ve noticed that we are at 90 percent capacity on a sold out show,” Brown said.
According to Tannen, that’s because fans that couldn’t make a gig returned their ticket to the waiting list, thereby making someone else’s day. As a result, bar sales increased and artists played to a fuller room.
Russ Tannen
– Russ Tannen
Chief revenue officer at DICE

For a long time it seemed that live music fans in the U.S. had less issues with secondary ticketing than gig goers in Europe, at least it wasn’t talked about as much in the press.
But with the FTC’s latest examination of the secondary market, Tannen said, “there’s been a sea change in terms of how fans feel about the secondary market in the U.S., just in the last six months.
“The FTC have done an open poll, where any consumer could submit feedback on what they thought about the state of ticketing, and all of the feedback is online. There’s [three] things that come up over and over again: tickets being sold for hugely inflated prices, tickets not being real, and fees hidden at the end of checkout.” Tannen believes that one has to read the fan’s personal feedback to grasp the magnitude of the problem. 
DICE has been handling ticketing for some high-profile clients in the U.S., including Kanye West‘s Project Wyoming events last summer, Travis Scott‘s Super Bowl pre-Party, or Sam Smith‘s comeback show at the Troubadour in 2017. 
The list of U.S. venues DICE has deals in place with includes Fais Do-Do, Sound, Gold-Diggers and the Lyric Theatre in Los Angeles as well as Alphaville, Chelsea Music Hall, Kinfolk and Public Records in New York.
Tannen said DICE was currently in talks with venues in Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Austin and Portland: “We’ve doubled our size in the U.S. in the last six months, there’s almost 100 people working at DICE at the moment, [and] we’ve signed almost 20 venues this year, globally.”
Italy, Spain and Germany are next. “We’re launching in 35 cities this year. A bulk of those are in the U.S., but we’re also launching in many more mainland Europe territories. Next up is Italy, we’re going to be live in Milan and Rome in the next few months.
“And then we’re launching in Barcelona and Madrid. We’re also going to be looking at Germany this year, and we’ve just opened our office in Australia. We’ve got our first employee in Sydney, he’s going to start building the team,” Tannen explained.
DICE’s recommendation system uses the concert history, social stats and listening habits of people using its app to recommend gigs. The recommendations change depending on where in the world one opens the app. 
The proponents of secondary ticketing point out the fact that fans are also able to find tickets on resale sites that are being sold for less than face value, depending on the overall demand for an event.
But, said Tannen, just as there was no reason for inflating a ticket’s price, there was none for deflating it either: “Often shows are going on sale six to nine months ahead of the event happening. So, you’ve bought these tickets, you’ve been looking forward to it, it comes to the day of the event, life happens, you can’t go. 
“You think, ‘no, I’m not going to get to go, and I’m going to lose all this money.’
“But you return the tickets on the waiting list. The other person has been waiting for a ticket for six to nine months, and on the day of the show they find out they’re going. It’s amazing. You don’t have to discount those tickets. It’s a really incredible experience on both sides”
The app recommends gigs depending on listening habits, concert history and location

DICE just launched a new feature called Nite Dice. “It’s a map view of DICE, which goes live on weekends. So, on Friday and Saturday night, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., you can see where you are in the city, see what’s open and buy tickets.
“You don’t have the thing of, ‘where should we go now,’ because you can see what’s going on, but you also don’t have to worry about traveling through half the city, only to find out the event is sold out.” 
According to Tannen, people are buying group tickets at four or five o’clock in the morning. “It’s something that we’re really going to be shouting about a lot more as we roll it out.”
Mobile-only ticketing is picking up pace,  Ticketmaster last week announced to go all-digital in all of Live Nation’s Academy Music Group owned venues in the UK. The company’s fan-to-fan Ticket Exchange went live at the end of last year, enabling face value resale or the digital transfer of tickets among friends. 
DEAG in Germany has been banking on mobile-only ticketing since launching Myticket in 2014. CTS Eventim just posted record results for the financial year 2018, and (mobile) ticketing played a big part in that.
Promoters and venue operators like the fact that digital tickets offer them a lot more insights into their customers.  It also offers potential security benefits in case tickets are transferred from one person to another, as the new ticket holder will have to be registered digitally.