Jamie Cullum performs at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Ore., June 11. (Photo by Kathleen Nyberg/McMenamins)

It’s a pretty great experience to see a show at a hip club venue, but it’s even cooler to ‘Join the Band.’  Portland, Ore.-based McMenamins is counting on that to bring customers over to its recently-launched loyalty program, Join the Band. The rollout at the 1,500-capacity Crystal Ballroom and  250-cap Lola’s Room, on different floors of the same building, was the first for a new partnership between ticketing provider Etix and LoyaltyMatch, which provides services for venues, hotels, restaurants, and other large corporations.

“We’re a little proud to say that we instigated the loyalty program conversation at Etix,” said Mike Walker, Music Marketing manager at McMenamins, whose properties have used the ticketing company since Jan. 1.

Once Walker reached out to Etix about the possibility of a loyalty program, the company’s Mike Reklis, Etix director of Sales, Music Venues, went to work on research to decide if it made sense to develop a program internally or look for a partner.

“Really it came down to the opportunity cost, since we have a finite amount of resources in the development team,” he said. “Is there someone else out there who’s already doing it well, and how can we partner with them and integrate it into our system?”

Etix spent a couple of months looking at different companies, and ultimately decided to partner with LoyalthyMatch in a multiyear agreement to offer services for its clients. LoyaltyMatch proved to be the best fit because of its robust capabilities, with experience in music venues like the 9:30 Club in Washington, hotels and restaurants — all of which are properties that McMenamins currently operates.

From there, a few months of technical meetings followed from April to October, when the system was finally ready to be put into action with a seamless experience for Etix clients.

Brad Ball, president and CEO of LoyaltyMatch, based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, said the partnership works because both companies bring in unique expertise to go to market and leverage each other’s technology.

“Etix brings in the ticketing expertise and their client base, and we bring in deep domain expertise on the loyalty side,” said Ball. “We have a pretty solid one-two punch.”

The success at the McMenamins property has been immediate. The company had a soft-launch Oct. 20 and started pushing promotions out at the end of that week. As of 19 days of Join the Band being up-and-running, the loyalty program already had 774 members, some of whom have already been redeeming prizes.

Prizes range from event tickets and merchandise to new experiences, such as a Meet-and-Greet with artists. One Join the Band user redeemed their points to participate in a Meet-and-Greet with The Bleachers, who played Crystal Ballroom, Nov. 7.

Currently, the facility is focused solely on ticket sales when it comes to Join the Band, with plans to expand the program to reward points for social media interaction and potentially merchandise and food and beverage purchases around the Crystal Ballroom’s properties and McMenamins facilities.

The company will award Join the Band members 2 points per dollar spent on tickets. During the first month, to build awareness, all purchases will receive double points until Dec. 1. There is also a 50-point bonus for signing up through the Etix system.

Tycho performs at Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Ore., July 31. (Photo by Kathleen Nyberg/McMenamins)

The ‘band’ is growing at about 25-50 new members each day, fluctuating depending on onsales, announcements, large shows and ads. Rewards are divided into three categories: Events, Experiences and Merchandise. So far, the experiences have stood out, including things like meet-and-greets with artists and escorted early entrance to any show of the customer’s choice.

“I don’t know if this program in the long haul will add to significantly more ticket sales as much as it will be useful for building the relationship with the community, that will then want to come to more shows,” said Walker. “We hope it will build brand loyalty and that people are going to pay a little more attention to our advertising.”

“It also provides some fun prizes to aim at,” he added. “Maybe people will buy a couple of extra tickets to get the prize they want, or decide to go to a show they weren’t necessarily sure about in order to earn the points.”

Walker said that he’s looking forward to implementing further technical development to be able to start registering points at points-of-sale and potentially doing mobile contests.

“If we wanted to we could do a contest where we send an email to all of our loyalty members saying something like, ‘if you can find the bartender named Jerry and say the word Submarine to him, you’ll get 100 points,’” added Walker. “We want to have fun with it and not make a sort of sterile experience like with airline points.”

Customers opt in at the point of purchase and begin earning points right away. Different types of interaction can be weighted with unique point values, such as more points for referring an individual by sending them a link to the website as opposed to just signing up.

“There is some science in putting together the weighting scheme that we call the engagement algorithm, but at the end of the day it’s a formula,” said Ball. “Certainly it’s worth more if someone’s going to interact with the brand in a way that provides some value.”

Future steps for McMenamins, and other Etix clients, could include the use of LoyaltyMatch’s mobile app, which has an online and offline mode, as well as awarding badges for different levels of interaction. From a point-of-sale perspective, LoyaltyMatch works with the technology that’s already in clubs today, meaning that a venue’s infrastructure investment may be as small as a few tablets or mobile devices to run the app, available on IOS and Android systems.

LoyaltyMatch and Etix have a prearranged agreement regarding how much each new client will cost to roll out based on several factors such as volume and the depth of the program.

Reklis said that many clients can add 25 cents to the convenience fee so the customers actually end up paying for the loyalty program, while others who just want to be billed can pay for it.

“We have a great pricing structure and discounted rate because we’re representing more than one individual client,” said Reklis.

The interest level among current Etix clients has been high, with Reklis already in conversations with about 10 potential customers, and he’s just one of 12 people on the sales team.

“They’ve been different clients of different size levels and types, whether that’s sports teams, rock clubs, seasonal amphitheaters, or even some of our state fairs,” he said. “It’s definitely felt validating to spend that much time putting something together and have people be this interested.”

The next Etix venue to take advantage of the LoyaltyMatch partnership will be Headliners Music Hall in Louisville, Ky.

Interviewed for this story: Brad Ball, (866) 356-7187; Michael Reklis, (919) 653-0504; Mike Walker, (971) 202-7609