May 23, 2019
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Mobile ticketing company TodayTix raises $73M in new funding

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TodayTix, a mobile ticketing company that makes it easy and relatively affordable to go to Broadway shows and other live performances, is announcing a new $73 million round of funding led by private equity firm Great Hill Partners.

The company was founded in 2013, and it served initially as the mobile equivalent of New York’s TKTS booths for discounted, last-minute theater tickets. TodayTix says it’s now sold more than 4 million tickets, representing 8 percent of annual Broadway ticket sales and 4 percent for London’s West End.

Beyond that, co-founder and CEO Brian Fenty said that a little over 10 percent of the tickets sold now fall outside “theater and performing arts, narrowly defined,” covering things like comedy shows and experiential theater.

“I think to the consumer, we will be a holistic ecosystem to engage in the city’s art and experiences,” Fenty predicted. “However culture is defined … we want to be their partner in discovering those things.”

To do that, TodayTix will add more cities to its current list of 15 markets. Fenty said this expansion is driven by existing partnerships (like launching in Australia through its partnership with “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) and by seeing where people are already downloading the TodayTix app. His ultimate goal is to be “geographically agnostic.”

Fenty also said the company will continue investing in the TodayTix Presents program, through which the company puts on its puts on its own shows (albeit at a much smaller scale than a Broadway production).

And of course he wants to improve the app itself, introducing more personalization and curation — Fenty pointed to Netflix and Amazon as models. After all, he said TodayTix is currently offering tickets to 297 shows in New York alone, so it needs to ways to “effectively guide people through that.”

“We’re actually a media company, with our own content and perspective — not on the quality of the shows, but to have a point of view on how users should and could engage with this content,” he said.

He added that those improvements will include more basic things, like the process of purchasing a ticket: “The hardest part is to complete the purchase in 30 seconds or less, as compared to the average ticketing platform, which is somewhere between 3 and 7 minutes … How we continue to squish that conversion?”

Fenty is also hoping to work more closely with show producers, providing them with data about which shows are selling, as well as helping them use data to find the most effective ways to promote themselves.

TodayTix says it’s raised a total of $90 million since it announced its Series B back in February 2016. Fenty told me the new round includes a direct investment in the company, as well as secondary purchases of TodayTix shares from previous investors.

“TodayTix is rapidly changing the way millennials and other consumers connect with live cultural experiences,” said Great Hill Managing Partner Michael Kumin in a statement. “We look forward to working with Brian, [co-founder] Merritt [Baer] and their talented management team to expand the Company’s product and service offerings and accelerate its push into new geographies.”

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Gametime lets you buy tickets for games and concerts that have already started

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Ticketing app Gametime is taking its last-minute approach about as far as it can go, with the launch of a new feature called LastCall. This allows users to purchase tickets through Gametime until 90 minutes after an event has started.

Why would you want to do that? Well, prices usually drop precipitously after the event starts — for example, Gametime said that 48 hours before a game, the median price for a Major League Baseball is (coincidentally?) $48, but it’s dropped to $13 by 90 minutes after the first pitch.

Founder and CEO Brad Griffith acknowledged that most fans probably aren’t interested in just showing up for the fourth quarter or ninth inning of a game, or for the last song in a concert. On the other hand, if you could get a big discount and still catch most of the event, then it might be worth it.

Meanwhile, if you’re a team or a venue with empty seats, or if you’re a ticket-holder who realizes at the last minute that you can’t attend, then it’s good to have one last shot at selling those tickets.

In fact, it sounds like this is one of those “announcements” that’s partly acknowledging what’s already happening, both in the Gametime app and elsewhere. Griffith said the company is “doubling down” on this last-last-minute category of tickets, adding that it’s “constantly working through” what it’s actually including under the LastCall umbrella.

“The key element is the research that we’ve done, how it relates to the growth of this phenomenon” he said.

That research includes a survey of 287 event attendees, some who use Gametime and some who don’t. Apparently 27 percent said they’ve already purchased tickets after an event’s start time, and 62 percent of those late buyers were either Generation Z or millennials.

And while Gametime started out with a focus on sports, LastCall will include tickets from a variety of live events. In fact, Griffith said concerts are now the app’s fastest-growing category, and he suggested that this approach could help with the declining number of total concert tickets sold.

“We’re starting to see a bifurcation of windows, where the on-sale is still healthy, is strong, and the middle is maybe cratering in terms of transaction volume,” he said. “And then last-minute is vibrant and growing fast. That is where we aim to do our best work.”

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Eventbrite acquires Spanish ticketing platform Ticketea

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Eventbrite has been shopping again in Europe — announcing today that it’s picked up Spanish ticketing firm, Ticketea. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

The Madrid-based events discovery and ticketing platform lets people find and book tickets for a variety of live experiences — including festivals, concerts and performing arts shows. It focuses on Spanish speaking countries and small and mid-sized event organizers.

Eventbrite said the acquisition will help expand its global footprint in music events, including via the Arenal Sound, Viña Rock, Low Festival, and Dreambeach festivals.

It also flagged Ticketea’s “robust ecosystem of third-party integrations” — selling tickets for prominent entertainment events and brands, such as The Billy Elliot Musical, Cirque du Soleil, and Museo Nacional del Prado — as another attraction.

In a statement on the acquisition Julia Hartz, CEO and co-founder of Eventbrite, lauded Ticketea’s approach to solving the event industry’s challenges — saying its “robust discovery platform” was of interest, along with the company’s “strong leadership position” in the southern European market (not just Spain).

“There is incredible synergy between our two companies from a business, platform, and brand perspective,” added Hartz. “We’re thrilled to welcome their talented team, who shares our core mission of bringing people together through live experiences, to the Eventbrite family.”

Javier Andres, co-founder and CEO of Ticketea, is joining Eventbrite as country director for Spain and Portugal.

“We have been building a significant market presence in Spain for nearly a decade. It’s exciting to be recognized by the global leader in event technology as they invest more heavily in our growing market,” he said in a supporting statement.

“We look forward to extending the impact of both our team and technology far beyond country borders, to the more than 180 countries and territories where their powerful platform gives rise to millions of events today.”

According to Crunchbase Ticketea has raised just $5.7M since being founded, all the way back in 2009, so its investors — which include Madrid-based VC firm Seaya Ventures — are likely to be patting themselves on the back about a nice little return on their investment.

Ticketea is not the only European ticket firm that Eventbrite has bagged in recent years. Last year the billion-dollar event-management platform also acquired Ticketscript, a ticketing startup based out of Amsterdam.

In 2017 it also splurged on US-based Nivite, and Ticketfly — picking the latter up from Pandora, and shelling out $200M.

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Co-founder Brian Fenty becomes CEO at TodayTix

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There’s a new CEO at TodayTix, though he’s definitely not new to the company — Chairman Brian Fenty is becoming chief executive, while his co-founder (and the previous CEO) Merritt Baer is becoming the Head of Europe.

TodayTix sells theater tickets in cities across the United States (including New York, Chicago and San Francisco), but its European presence is currently limited to London. Fenty said there’s “a huge opportunity to go to some of the arts capitals of Europe — Paris, Hamburg, Vienna.”

“Who better to lead that charge than my partner in crime?” he added. “This is just the beginning of our European chapter.”

Fenty also characterized the leadership change as an extension of his existing partnership with Baer, who he said has an “aggressive operational tenacity.”

That operational focus was necessary to get TodayTix off the ground, and it’s now needed for the European expansion. Meanwhile, Fenty said that as chairman, he spent more time on strategy and partnerships, and those will continue to be his focus as CEO.

TodayTix has also been evolving as a business. Fenty said that while it was easy to describe the service as a mobile version of New York’s TKTS booths, giving users access to last-minute, discounted theater tickets, it’s actually expanded beyond that. Now it sells tickets up to 30 days in advance, with half of them sold at full price. (Fenty said that whether a ticket is sold at a discount or at full price, TodayTix is selling the most affordable tickets available: “We will never be beat on price.”)

In addition, TodayTix is no longer purely focused on theater. As Fenty put it, “We’re still trying to connect global culture lovers to theater, but our definition of theater has expanded to include comedy, dance, philharmonic music, improv. That’s come from our learnings launching in cities like Chicago, where if you don’t have Second City, or in LA, if you don’t have the Hollywood Bowl, you’re not a culture app.”

Fenty said TodayTix has now has 3.6 million users who have used the app to purchase $150 million in tickets. Looking ahead, he said the team is thinking about what else it can offer users either before or after going to the theater.

TodayTix has made some other executive hires recently, including bringing on Jerrell Jimerson, formerly SVP of Digital at iHeartRadio and PayPal, as its first chief product officer, and Craig Coffman, previously CTO of Reserve, as its first CTO.

Featured Image: TodayTix

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After years of chasing brokers and bots, ‘slow ticketing’ will help both artists and fans

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Since the advent of the modern ticket era, speed has been the name of the game. Whether it was the first person to get in line, or the first ping to hit the server, the winners in the world of ticketing have always been a step ahead.

Over the last 15 years on the internet, that competition has risen to super-human levels, with bots becoming virtually unbeatable. For average fans, that reality makes the process of buying tickets time-consuming, confusing and often expensive. It has also caused periodic and collective uproars that get covered by the media as examples of the ticket industry’s greediness, inefficiency or both.

The current scandal involving radio personality Craig Carton is the latest uproar about the markets brokeness. Regardless of who is to blame — other than Carton — scandals like this one, and two others over the last six months, the ticketing underbelly seems as large as ever. Amidst that girth, even real progress can be interpreted as more of the same.

For fans who have had enough of trying to keep up with the ticket market, there is movement toward a slower and hopefully better future. On the backs of massive growth in demand for live music over the last 10 years, performers are figuring out new and innovative models to satisfy demand by creating more supply. While residencies are the long-standing model for Las Vegas, this unending demand for live music is spreading the model across the entire country.

Last month’s inaugural Slow Food festival took place in Denver and included 305 speakers, 70 exhibitors and thousands of attendees, all ostensibly gathered to focus on the festival’s core mission that “food should be available for everyone, not just the privileged classes; and food should be fair and just for all.”

If you replace the word “food” with “ticketing,” it serves as a good, and unofficial, manifesto for the nascent “slow ticketing” movement.

Over the last six months, both the need and potential solutions have been on full display. In addition to Phish’s 13-show Baker’s Dozen run last month and Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway onsale last week, residencies are everywhere. Along with Phish, Billy Joel’s residency at Madison Square Garden is another successful model. Garth Brooks has also been a major innovator in creating more supply by continuing to announce shows in one city until primary demand no longer supports primary ticket sales.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/fatherspoon

Now in its eighth leg, the Garth Brooks World Tour started in 2014 and has played in almost every major city across the country. The longest of those runs was Minneapolis, in which he sold 201,000 tickets across 11 shows. In total, the ongoing tour has sold more than $300 million and broken ticket sales records in 11 states.

Across these residency models, while the secondary market plays a role, it’s not the same roll that fans have grown accustomed to, where secondary is a proxy for the entire market and where prices are often listed for multiples of original face value. As an example, for Billy Joel’s October show at Madison Square Garden, the cheapest ticket available on TicketIQ is $95, $10 below the cheapest face price.

Bands like Phish and the Dead have long used constant touring as the centerpiece of their business model. For such a model, mail order has been the most reliable way to get tickets in the hands of real fans, and it’s a distribution strategy well-suited for 30-50 date tours with defined start and end dates (Joel excluded).

Unfortunately, as a model for the scalable digital age, the kind manual of verification mail order calls for just doesn’t work. A single mail order can take minutes to process, while a web order using authentication like Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan takes milliseconds. Carton’s and other’s ability to perpetrate large-scale fraud is the result of a product that lives simultaneously in the realm of paper and digital. As most of know firsthand, it is often a frustrating, confusing, uncertain and expensive consumer experience.

Despite the fact that last week’s Bruce Springsteen on Broadway onsale sold less than 80,000 seats, it may be the most compelling piece of evidence of slow ticketing progress, at scale. The onsale was tasked with the daunting challenge of matching 79,000 seats of supply with millions of Springsteen fans, and countless brokers.

With 970 seats available for each show, it’s the definition of intimate for an artist who established himself in the stadium-rock era of the 1980s. As a point of comparison, Springsteen’s last tour played at 47 arena venues in North America and grossed more than $300 million.

The onsale for Springsteen on Broadway was managed using Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan product, which launched earlier this year and has now been used for more than 50 tours and generated more than 2 million registrations. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first tour to use it this year was Dead and Company, an offshoot of the Grateful Dead. While Ticketmaster has not released information on the number of people who registered for the Springsteen Verified Fan onsale, there’s no question there’s enough demand to sell out for years.

Immediately after the initial onsale, another 10 weeks was added to the run. As a comparison, star-driven Broadway shows like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen continue to sell out months in advance, even without their original stars. During the peak of Hamilton-mania, when Lin Manual Miranda in the role of Hamilton, between 100 and 600 tickets were showing up every night on the secondary market.

For the 1,300 person Richard Rodgers theater, that’s anywhere from 10 percent to 45 percent of the seats available. In the two weeks after Lin Manuel left, but the rest of the original cast remained, there were more than 800 tickets available for a handful of shows. For shows this month, with all of the original cast long gone, the average quantity of tickets available on the secondary market is still 398, which is about 25 percent of seats in the venue.

Of the 79 shows that have gone onsale for Springsteen on Broadway, anywhere between 2 percent and 5 percent of tickets at the Walter Kerr have shown up on the secondary market. In talking to many fans, I’ve only heard about successful verification from people who not only bought Bruce Springsteen tickets on multiple occasions in the past, but also used them.

The fact that more fans are using their tickets means that even with tickets starting at $1,500 on the the secondary ticket market — 20 times face price — the size of the overall secondary market is a fraction of what it could have been without something like Verified Fan, or a full-scale mail order operation.

Over the last 20 years, The Boss has been at the center of more ticket controversy than perhaps any other artist. The most public of those was settled in 2011, when Ticketmaster paid $16.5 million to Springsteen fans who, looking to buy tickets for the 2009 “Working On a Dream Tour” were sent directly the secondary market at prices several times face value. 2011 was arguably the peak of the “fast ticket” era, when brokers and bots claimed dominance over real, human fans.

The slow food movement was first coined in 1986 and has since come to apply to a broader worldview that encompasses all walks of life, including everything from cities to money. Wikipedia now lists 19 different slow movement applications. If current trends toward more effectively matching supply to demand continue to develop, ticketing could be the twentieth application, and that would be good news for everyone in the ticket business, fans and artists included.

Featured Image: Vladimir/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE

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