The spectre of the resale market loomed large over an entertaining ticketing panel on the second day of this year’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC).
Hosted by TJ Chambers Consultancy’s Tim Chambers, formerly of Live Nation and its Ticketmaster business, Ticketing: The survival plan featured guest speakers Rainer Appel of European ticketing giant CTS Eventim, Andrew Parsons of Ticketmaster UK, Geraldine Wilson of newcomer Amazon Tickets and CAA’s Paul Wilson, booking agent for acts such as Ben Howard and Jack Garratt.
Paul Wilson discussed the process of fixing the ticket price for a show. “Usually it’s a question of talking with management and the artist, if they’re concerned, and working out what we think is the right price for the level of show that they’re at,” he explained. “Then we involve the promoter in that conversation to see how well that’s going to work.
“A lot of it depends on the stage the artist is in their career and what you want to achieve with the level of shows: with a ‘baby’ artist, it’s obviously to keep the price down to get as many new people involved as possible. As you’re moving up the scale then at some point you want to sell lots of tickets to build your fanbase. That’s an issue where you want to try and keep in control of the ticket price so it doesn’t go too expensive, because you also want to have some control over the type of audience that you want to play to. As you go up the chain to superstar artists, you want to look to see how to maximise their income.”
He continued: “At CAA, we deal with artists from baby artists, through to superstar artists, through to heritage artists. With heritage artists, this is their career, this is how they make their money, so it’s how to maximise money for them – and it’s a slightly different process. They can do higher ticket prices, they can do higher ticket prices in the front row, because they’ve got an established fanbase that’s not going to grow, but you know that it’s going to be there. It’s just working through all of those different things and then trying to put the deals together with the promoters and the various ticket companies to do that.”
The agent said acts usually received a fixed fee based with a percentage, weighted around 80-20 in favour of the artist, in most cases. Appel clarified: “The price point is set with that in that in mind. So when the agent and the artist and the promoter determine the price of the ticket, they have the end price in mind, of course taking into account the mechanics of the market and whatever mark-ups you will see.”
Amazon’s Geraldine Wilson discussed the firm’s relatively recent entry into the ticketing sector. “Our goal is all about getting tickets to fans at fair prices,” she said, insisting the company had no plans to enter the resale market. She added: “The reason we got in was because it was a fit with our customers, because we’re doing a lot of stuff in music – we’re selling recorded music, we stream music, we sell merchandise, our customers love music and this was a very obvious place for us to go.”
Ticketmaster UK MD Parsons brought up the success of the company’s recent anti-touting initiatives for Iron Maiden’s upcoming UK tour. The heavy metal band introduced a paperless ticketing policy for the dates to their May tour, and worked to ensure that all other available tickets would carry the name of the purchaser and require credit card and ID proof upon entry, drastically reducing resale opportunities.
“Through Live Nation’s involvement in the tour, we were able to have conversations with Rod [Smallwood, Iron Maiden manager] and the team very early on around what their main objectives to it - which was table thumping level of, We will stop resale.
“We were able to work with them on just that. We’ve managed to put a paperless platform in all the UK arenas for it to be able to lock down the really important areas of the house that inevitably end up being those that will make it to resale – standing and best blocks. Resale was very limited – restricted, really, to Viagogo.”
Discussing Viagogo’s much-criticised decision to resell tickets at inflated prices for Ed Sheeran’s Teenage Cancer Trust charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Parsons said there was no chance of Ticketmaster following suit. “There are judgement calls which are made,” he explained. “We do have resale businesses [Ticketmaster owns Get Me In! and Seatwave], but they are small part of an overall live entertainment business that we’re in and a very small part of a ticketing business that we’re in.
“We do think that we can be very, very different to how, for instance, Viagogo want to act in that space. We don’t have to win at all costs in resale every day – Viagogo do, that is the business that they’re in, that’s their prerogative.”
Parsons also called on the music industry to embrace dynamic pricing. “We have a product called platinum to try and capture the difference in value between price set and what can be achieved in market,” he said. “I think that really is the direction we should look to be able to try and go wherever possible. Dynamically pricing, flex pricing, happens in many other markets all the time, it happens in West End theatre every day of the week.
“Too often we do flex up and we don’t think how best we could actually take advantage of that additional value to try and be able to bring down the price at the back of the house. On many occasions the very back row in an arena is arguably being overpriced a lot of the time… whereas at the front, we’re underpricing it.”
More than 1,100 live music professionals have attended ILMC 29. The conference comes to an end on Friday (March 10), when sessions will include the Breakfast Meeting with former U2 manager Paul McGuinness, who will be interviewed by ex-Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell.