Ticketfly – Change is a Comin’

Perhaps the most daunting ritual for a live music fan is the dreadful ticket buying experience from the monopolistic ticketmaster/livenation source.  It gets tiresome being treated like a world class sucker  forking over hard earned dollars to “print tickets at  your own convenience” along with additional order processing fees atop an already overpriced ticket; sometimes it feels like staying home is a better alternative than giving into the “man." Just when you thought this was a no win monopoly, up and comers Ticketfly is working on the fans’ side to revolutionize the ticket buying process for both live music fans and promoters/venue owners alike.

Founded in 2008, Ticketfly was created by the team who first brought event ticketing to the Web and has become the fastest growing, independent ticketing and social marketing platform today.  Ticket Fly serves as the ticketing source for such esteemed live music venues as the 9:30 Club, The Troubadour, Brooklyn Bowl, Warsaw, Merriweather Post Pavilion and serves an exclusive ticket seller for a number of promoters and events that include  Virgin Mobile Free Fest, Life Is Good, Sixth & I Events and Village Green Presents.  The company has been able to grow steadily in the ticketing industry due to the relationships they’ve established with venue owners. Therefore they have worked continually for the fan to have a positive ticket buying process and they want promoters to have an easy and hassle-free ticket selling process.

In late June Ticketfly announced the acquisition of Gigbot, a provider of web-based ticketing, website and social marketing tools for venues and event promoters. This acquisition further solidifies Ticketfly’s position as the leader in integrated ticketing and social marketing technologies to the live music space. Ticketfly plans to merge the best of Gigbot’s technology into its offering, allowing the company to continue to lead the way in the provision of ticketing and social marketing technologies to the concert industry. Gigbot’s flagship product, Gigbot Pro, uses the social web to transform the way promoters reach fans and sell tickets.

“Gigbot’s impressive roster of clients will be in good company with Ticketfly’s client base,” said Andrew Dreskin, Co-CEO and Founder of Ticketfly. “By combining our respective platforms, we will better serve current clients and continue to lead the next wave of innovation in web-based ticketing and social marketing.”  Glide Magazine recently had a chance to talk with Dreskin about Ticketfly and all things tickets.

Ticketfly recently acquired Gigbot. What does this acquisition mean specifically for ticket buyers and how do you hope to change the current ticketing platform you already work upon?

Gigbot and Ticketfly share a similar ethos and vision: to bring integrated marketing and ticking tools to venues and promoters and heighten the live music experience for fans. Our goal at Ticketfly has always been to create a richer experience for ticket buyers. Historically the ticketing transaction has been rather sterile. In an effort to fix that, Ticketfly offers streaming audio and video and integrated links to artists’ Facebook and Twitter pages.  The Gigbot system has all kinds of cool consumer facing tools, such as artist alerts and the ability to see friends who are attending a show. We will likely integrate this stuff into Ticketfly.

We also see this as an opportunity to bring on some fresh ideas and new talent to the Ticketfly team.  Gigbot has a lot of cool functionality for clients such as integrated email newsletters and an artist wiki. Sean Porter, the creator of Gigbot and one of the top engineering minds in ticketing, has come on as our VP of Product and brought with him 30+ venues to the Ticketfly network.

What does it mean for venues and promoters?

In a promoter’s world, using social media usually means logging into Facebook, Twitter and the venue website to manually update information, prior to sending it out in an email newsletter to the network.  The Ticketfly platform gives promoters and venues one point of input for all of these processes, which saves them time and money. 

How do you hope to integrate social networking with the ticket buying experience and why do you feel the two go hand in hand?

In our view social media could be the most important thing to ever happen to ticketing and we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible.  The live music experience is inherently social: it’s event that you attend with friends, you discuss and share the music in advance and you post pictures of the show afterward.  Social media reaches fans directly where they share with friends, helping promoters and venues engage with a larger group of qualified leads and sell more tickets.

Ticketfly  recently received an infusion of $3 million in Series A funding – what other developments can we hope to expect?

 We will continue to build features to support promoters and better connect them to their target audience.  Social media lets us better track the ripple effect of influence, so we’re also considering systems that reward local influencers and tastemakers for getting the word out to their friends.

Ticketfly has grown tremendously in the past two years to a larger roster of clients  – other than being a technologically advanced alternative to Ticketmaster/Live Nation  – what do you most credit your growth and success to?

We have deep relationships in the music business: besides knowing technology and social marketing from all possible angles, we were the guys who first brought event ticketing to the web.  But in this business, where has-beens are a dime a dozen, looking forward and being creative with the tools you have is what defines you.  We credit our success to our vision for what social media means for the live music experience.

Your client base has grown from regional clubs like the 9:30 Club to large pavilions like Merriweather Post Pavilion.   What challenges are meant by providing the ticketing for a large venue or event – say Jack Johnson or Phish at Merriweather?  

Over the years Ticketmaster has had a couple competitive advantages:  the ability to handle demand associated with large on sales and a network of retail outlets where people could buy tickets with cash. Both of these were important for larger facilities such as Merriweather. But technology has advanced such that smaller companies like ours can now handle big on sales and cash is no longer an issue since anyone with a bank account can now use their debit card as a credit card. Larger venues have many of the same needs as smaller venues – they want to sell as many tickets as possible and agree that social media, for one, is a good way to tackle that issue.

Last year Live Nation crashed during a few on-sales… how have you managed to not have your ticketing systems overwhelmed by certain demand?

 A ticketing system brings a unique set of technical challenges — if you think about it, you’re essentially creating a denial of service attack on yourself each and every week: "Hey everybody, come to the site at exactly 10am on Saturday." We’re fortunate to have a staff of very talented engineers that have battle scars with ticketing systems over the years. What they’ve built at Ticketfly is a system that takes this hard-earned experience and combines it with best practices of today. We think it’s truly the best engineered system in the space today.

 Did you try and grow from a certain base or types of venues that play to a particular market?

Ticketfly is a company of music fans so it naturally worked out that our first venues were music related, but in the past year of our growth, we haven’t restricted ourselves to one specific type of event.  Various types of venues, promoters and organizations can benefit from the ticketing and social marketing services we offer and we want to make them available to all types of clients.

What are your thoughts on working specifically with promoters like Superfly or stepping it up for events like Lollapalooza or Coachella? 

We are currently working with Superfly on the Life is Good Festival and it’s been a lot fun. Those guys are friends and it’s a sort of homecoming in that they were one of our first clients at our last company.  In addition to Life is Good, we sell tickets for a few other great festivals such as the Virgin Mobile Festival and Rock The Bells. We continue to build out our festival product and will look to attack that market for next summer.

Being a smaller company than Ticketmaster – how do you manage fees up to 40 percent less than Ticketmaster and no print-at-home charges?   Does Ticketmaster truly need to put those charges on the final consumer to be profitable?

Utilizing the latest technologies allows us to enjoy lower operating expenses and we can pass those savings along to ticket buyers. Also Ticketfly is self service for event promoters, which they love as it allows them to manage all their ticketing and marketing operations on their desktops, so it simply costs us less to operate than legacy providers.

How have venues and promoters been open to social marketing tools to help their events?  Is it something that you have had to train or encourage them on or have they been taking the lead in innovating social marketing into their plans

At this point, it’s pretty much understood that if you want to market anything, you need to implement social media technology.  The challenge for our clients is that, in order to be effective, social media is highly time consuming.  Part of Ticketfly’s value proposition is that we automate this process so there is one data input for what was a very time consuming, manual process.

Although its mostly under artist control, what are your thoughts on VIP packages that hold back certain sections or rows for fans willing to pay extraordinary amounts?

Dynamic ticketing follows the rules of supply and demand, so often these packages make lower ticket pricing possible in other sections of the venue.  If you have people willing to pay high prices to sit front and center and then take their photo with Kiss, then it follows that other seats will be priced at a more affordable price-point.

What are your thoughts on numerous pre-sales for a particular big event, for example Roger Waters will have up to four different presales before the actual public on-sale. Is it merely a way to foster demand for the promoters in terms of deciding upon rollouts?

Well that is true that there are numerous pre-sales, but the Internet has made it so that your dog would be able to search for and find a pre-sale password, so they really doesn’t exclude anyone anymore. Pre-sales do offer partners like radio stations and their listeners and fan club members an early jump on tickets.

Are their certain other procedures or practices in the industry that drive you nuts and that you hope to revolutionize?

Where should we start? Why do companies charge ticket buyers to print their tickets at home using their own printers on their own paper? Why do ticket buyers have to get up early on Saturday mornings and sit at our computers for hours clicking their mice to try to get tickets during an on sale. The list goes on. Stay tuned…change is a comin’.


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