‘How Do We Get Fans To Go Out More’: Asking The Right Questions In Ticketing

Olivia Rodrigo Sold Out GUTS World Tour New York – Madison Square Garden
Olivia Rodrigo on stage at Madison Square Garden, April 5, 2024, in New York City. Her “GUTS World Tour” has now arrived in the UK, where it marks one of the biggest onsales of the year. (Photo by Kevin Mazur / Getty Images / Live Nation)

Pollstar asked some of the best and brightest in the world of ticketing about the three most important questions they were facing in relation to their respective businesses. Ticketmaster UK vice president, music and festivals, Sarah Slater, responded, “first up, what does the client want? Each client is different, and we work across a huge scope of genres and events – so a grassroots music venue and an arena will have completely different requirements, as will a comedy club in Vauxhall versus the Balloon Museum. It’s our job to make sure we’re asking the right questions so we can ensure we deliver solutions that work for them and continue to do so. Next, where are the fans, and how do we reach them? Being aware of their buying habits and hitting them up where they are via our partnerships with Tik-Tok or Meta is imperative. And finally, what’s the future looking like? What technology is on the horizon? We’re always looking at how we will innovate next.”

Innovation is a theme, no matter who you speak to in the ticketing business, including another company that has been taking the market by storm since its 2014 launch, DICE. The company’s slogan is “how do we get fans to go out more?” and it’s a motto Andrew Foggin, global head of music, and the team take very seriously. “It’s never been easier to stay at home so we need to make it just as easy to go out through a seamless and transparent ticketing experience, and to discover the most relevant events so fans can enjoy more of the nights out they love,” said Foggin, adding, “as a global business, DICE supports thousands of event organizers and venues. We have to consider how to make their lives easier as their ticketing partner, while asking ourselves how to scale efficiently without compromising the fan experience.”

For Rob Wilmshurst, CEO of the See Tickets group, among other things the exclusive ticketing partner of Glastonbury Festival, the three most important questions to tackle in 2024 are “staying one step or more ahead of the competition, keeping costs under control, and ultimately making an appropriate return for the investment made. That spins off into the management of resources and especially the people across business development, operations, tech and finance. And then we have to maintain relationships with our clients by tighter commercial deals, developing faultless operations and defend what we have built from competitors. Never easy!”

Glastonbury Festival 2023 Day 5
The crowd at Elton John’s 2023 Glastonbury performance. The festival, founded in 1970, has grown into one of the largest outdoor green field festivals in the world, and See Tickets sells all its tickets. (Photo by Anna Barclay/Getty Images)

Among the many markets Wilmshurst oversees are the UK and U.S., which couldn’t be more different in the way they tackle ticketing, the main difference being the practice for
venues to go with one exclusive ticketing partner in the U.S., and an allocation model prevailing in the UK. However, as Wilmshurst explained, “both models are optional, it is not
law that things operate like that. Exclusivity allows a venue or promoter possibly a greater degree of efficiency, but possibly at the expense of market coverage and reach. As we say, it’s swings and roundabouts. It is no secret that U.S. fees are far greater than in the UK or Europe, and it is these fees that are used to buy the exclusive rights, of course. Consumers however accept the fees, otherwise they wouldn’t buy, and maybe the sign-on fees help renovate the venues or attract greater talent. Hard to say. It will be interesting to see what, if any, U.S. legislation or anti-trust action will impact that model. There is no better or best, we can adapt and operate in any capacity.”

The 2024 onsales are well underway. At Ticketmaster, highlights include the onsale for UK tours by Olivia Rodrigo, P!nk, and legendary acts like AC/DC, Stevie Nicks, and Pearl Jam. “The latter utilized our Request platform, to ensure that their fan club – Ten Club – members got first access to tickets,” Slater explained, “Take That’s tour is smashing it, and Usher just kept on adding more and more London O2 dates. And we can’t forget ABBA Voyage, still riding high in its never-ending popularity.”

Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023 Day 4
View of the main stage at Primavera Sound Festival Barcelona during the concert of Rosalia, June 3, 2023. It’s one of many festivals, DICE has partnered with. (Photo by Xavi Torrent/Redferns)

Festival demand showed no signs of slowing down either; on the contrary, according to Slater, it “increases year after year. And we’ve seen more people look for new experiences, like the DLT’s brand new The Recipe Festival or Wilderness’ Feasting & Dining experience. As always, Reading & Leeds are looking very strong and BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend’s demand just keeps on growing. Alternative line-ups at the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival are attracting new audiences, while the Sunrise Arena at Latitude, and numerous other festivals dedicate spaces and stages to showcase hotly anticipated new acts. Plus, we’re seeing more outdoor action with the Summer Sessions brand expanding to eight new locations, with more promoters creating new outdoor live music venues nationwide, boasting fabulous line-ups.”

To make sure it’s not just the well-established events and artists that music fans spend all their ticket budget on, Ticketmaster recently launched Ticketmaster Local, showing fans the gigs, comedy, and live shows taking place on their doorstep. “It’s all about encouraging people to get out and support their local venues and artists to keep the scene thriving,” Slater explained, adding, “We’ve also proudly worked with MVT since 2016, and have launched a bunch of initiatives since then to get more revenue back to the venues who need it the most. This year we ran an MVT charity upsell option across the site and matched all donations, raising a total of nearly £90,000 in just one month.”

The grassroots scene is also close to the heart of the people at DICE, which aims to sell out every show through its waiting list system, on which fans can place their tickets for other fans to purchase at face value. “Grassroots venues are indispensable to the live entertainment scene,” said Foggin, “they are a launch pad for emerging artists, a space where music communities come together, and are key drivers of regional economic growth. It’s also where artists start to hone their craft and really build their IRL fan base,
and where fans create intimate memories that they will remember forever. DICE has always supported the grassroots scene and we work with hundreds of independent venues across the UK. At DICE, we’re constantly investing in and developing technology to enhance the fan experience and get more people into venues. A sold out show is better for the entire live ecosystem.”

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