Naveen Jain from SparkArt is pictured with Jaime Sarachit from Ticketmob. Their companies have entered into a partnership to begin selling tickets on Redbox kiosks.
REPORTING FROM ORLANDO — Ticketing professionals are seeing an explosion in third-party tools that improve the way box offices distribute tickets, price the house and sell inventory online.
This year’s INTIX Conference saw big announcements coming not just from the major ticketing companies that help bankroll the annual event but also from smaller, outside startups, often with very narrowly focused product announcements. The open API movement and pressure on ticketing companies to integrate these companies’ services has created a growing market that was on full display at this year’s conference.
Sponsoring the chairman’s reception on the opening night of the conference was video vending machine operator Redbox, which announced plans to begin selling tickets at its thousands of retail locations. Paciolan announced three more universities have switched on to its new business intelligence suite from SSB Consulting, and Paciolan continues to sign up more clients for its integration with dynamic pricing Qcue.
But the biggest prize might be a renewed interest in Facebook ticketing and the ability to sell tickets inside the social media site. While Facebook retail hasn't been successful for some clothing and shoe retailers, the events industry is in a unique position to capitalize on social sales, said Kristen Tigard, VP of Internet Strategy at Tessitura Network.
“We believe that the very reason big box social retail failed is the very reason it will succeed in ticketing,” said Tigard, noting that buying tickets to a cultural event is an inherently social activity — “buying a pair of shoes isn’t,” she said.
Tessitura worked with outside firm JCA to build its new TN Social Ticketing suite. Like other social ticketing apps, the real power sits in a third-party developed Facebook tab app that, with one click, provides content-rich listings, in-app purchasing and the ability to invite friends to an event and reserve seats for them.
Ticket sales over social media have been steadily increasing, said Lisa Middleton, director of Marketing & Audience Development for Stratford (Ontario) Festival. Middleton held her first on-sale on the site in 2012 and generated $12,000 with 44 ticket orders — their 2013 on-sale sold 141 orders of tickets, earning $36,000 in revenue.
“And we view these sales as incremental revenue since they took place nine months earlier” than they normally would have been purchased, Middleton said.
Brian Sayre with PlayhouseSquare in Cleveland is pictured with Amy Constantine Kline from MCG Jazz in Pittsburgh and Matt Mastrangelo from GroupAide.
Another growing space for third-party vendors is pricing — outside consultants are helping organizations take a holistic look at how they price tickets. Companies like Qcue and Digonex are helping venues get closer to the real market value of a ticket and many organizations are looking at how they layer the process and bring in management to approve each price increase.
“We do all our pricing manually but we focus on the quality of the matchup, rating games bronze, silver and gold,” said Chris Atack with the Ottawa Senators. Knowing that a home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs would generate a lot of interest from local fans, the team created a manual price increase each week that brought in an additional $275,000 in incremental revenue. The team employed the same practice for a game against Montreal that brought in another $200,000.
“Dynamic pricing has changed not only the way tickets are priced but also who is at the table making the decision,” said Bill Nuhn with Centre In The Square in Kitchener, Ontario. While many organizations now have the ability to set their price target levels and allow automatic increases each time inventory hits a certain threshold, most are opting for human approval for each price increase. And while pricing was once the function of the box office and show producers, everyone from marketing to development is giving input on what the price of a ticket should be and how it coincides with business strategy.
The growth of third-party vendors has also meant a boom in distribution models and after years of the space being dominated by firms like Travelzoo, Scorebig and Goldstar, popular entertainment brand Redbox is getting into ticketing and creating opportunities for marketers to sell tickets at Redbox kiosks.
“We have 42,000 kiosks with over 340 million impressions made each week to 58 million customers,” said Naveen Jain, whose firm SparkArt in Oakland, Calif., is providing the technology to power Redbox ticket sales. “This is an active audience, it’s an engaged audience and it’s one that has shown it has discretionary income for entertainment.”
His firm also recently inked a deal with TicketMob, allowing any clients of the ticket company to list their tickets on Redbox with simple one-click integration.
INTIX ended its conference with its annual awards lunch. Aren Murray from Texas A&M won the Spirit Award, Tammy Enright with Goldstar won this year’s Young Professionals Award, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center won Box Office of the Year and Laura Zehe from SMG took home the Box Office Professional of the Year Award. The Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award went to Jack Lucas with TicketsWest.
Interviewed for this article: Kristen Tigart, (888) 643-5778; Lisa Middleton, (519) 271-0055 ext. 5503; Chris Atack, (613) 599-0216; Bill Nuhn, (519) 578-5660; Naveen Jain, (415) 378-6747