Q’s With Eventbrite’s Andy Donner: A Passion For Independence

Andy Donner
– Andy Donner

When talking about the challenges of ticketing in the live music business, it’s easy to simplify the issues as primary versus secondary ticketing or even Ticketmaster versus scalpers. Of course, there are many other companies out there and independent ticketers like Eventbrite offer a unique perspective. 

Eventbrite’s Andy Donner recently took the time to talk to Pollstar about the latest in ticketing and what he sees as the future of the business.

As SVP of Music and Corporate Development, Donner is responsible for driving Eventbrite’s growth in the North American music ticketing market, including strategic partnerships and acquisitions. Donner joined the company in 2017 following the acquisition of Ticketfly from Pandora. He spent three years at Ticketfly, serving as the Vice President of Business and Corporate Development.  

Donner has more than two decades of experience working and investing in software, digital media, and consumer products.   
Pollstar: As an independent ticketing company, what are the biggest challenges you find with ticketing?  
Andy Donner: Eventbrite partners with over 1,000 of the best independent venues and promoters in the nation, and the No. 1 challenge we hear from clients is how they can sell out more of their shows. 

It’s heartbreaking for an independent venue or promoter that’s pouring their heart into bringing acts to the stage to learn that more fans would have come to the show if only they’d known about it. As a ticketing partner, we have a critical role in helping mitigate that issue, and we do that by ensuring that the tickets on Eventbrite are also discoverable on a huge range of other platforms like Facebook, Bandsintown, Spotify, YouTube and Songkick, and that the tickets are as easy to buy as possible for fans.

Another challenge for the independent live music industry is consolidation. Venues and festivals being acquired by larger entities. Our role, as a trusted partner to many of these venues and festivals, is helping them realize their passion to remain independent by providing superior product and service so they can run their business well and sell as many tickets as possible.
How can the industry best use technology to solve ticketing problems?
Fraud and commercial reselling are omnipresent in the live music industry. Truth is, they always have been, since the early beginnings of the notion of selling and buying a ticket in order to access an experience. As people have become more savvy to the often nefarious actions of the scalper on the street corner, technology now sits in the unique position of enabling both the problem and the solution.

Our focus is on the solution side and there are two things I’d like to highlight that have had positive impact for our client partners: The first is the use of sophisticated algorithms that identify bad actors both in the purchase process and post-onsale, and the second is providing access to fair and secure ticket exchange programs.

Regarding algorithms, it’s about using smart technology to identify the behavioral patterns of commercial resellers and fraudsters, and then writing code to help minimize or eliminate those sales. We’ve seen great success with this. On ticket exchanges, the emphasis should be on fairness – for venues, artists and fans – as well as security and accessibility. 

For us, that means integrating with platforms like Tixel, Lyte and Twickets that facilitate reasonable resale pricing controls to ensure valid tickets get into the hands of real fans, and folks that can no longer go to a show can effortlessly get their money back. The focus is on enabling a fair transaction from one fan to another, not about price gouging.
What do you see as the future of ticketing?
As a ticketing platform that started online from Day 1, it will be no surprise that we’re bullish on the smartphone truly becoming the ticket. Not only will it help to squash some of the inherent issues in traditional commercial reselling behavior, it’s easier for the fan, the door and box office staff, and results in shorter lines when you get it right – that’s more time enjoying the acts and more cash spent at the bar. There’s a lot more unrealized potential in using phones in lieu of tickets.

We also need to see more reform around refunds. Live shows are one of the only industries that behave differently with regards to purchaser rights to refunds with maybe air travel being the other example, although, granted, they do offer a 24-hour grace period post-purchase and refund options on pricier tickets. It’s important to note that the solution can’t put all of the responsibility on the venue either, as they already burden so much of the risk in booking and promoting shows.
How can artists be good to their fans via ticketing?
If we ask ourselves how artists can be good to their fans via ticketing, we have to also ask about fairness across the whole live music ecosystem. For example, touring is a huge driver of an artist’s income especially as they’re growing their fanbase. If independent venues can’t find a way to thrive, we could end up in a world where’s there’s no 300-, 500-, 700-cap venues for these artists to play in, or for fans to go to. So yes, there’s the obvious discussion around keeping ticket prices low, but it’s important to also talk about tickets and shows in the $20-$30 price range – usually emerging and up-and-coming artists – and how we can help all players involved in creating the experience to make a fair living, from artist, to manager, to agent, to promoter, to venue staff.