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Pop Concert Tickets: Take a Step Back?

June 20, 2012

When Theatremonkey.com started, it had a slightly greater emphasis on pop music venues than it does now. Possibly it’s because I went more often than I do now. Why don’t I go now? I guess, like most people who get older, I can’t be bothered to watch either a matchstick in the distance or a video screen – I can buy the DVD any time. As for getting tickets near the front, once it was a level playing field: you turned up / rang early, you got them. Now, the front blocks are “premium” priced (which actually I might pay for perhaps 2 artists in the world) and much of what’s good and left is put into the hands of either “secondary” agents or touts thanks to their exploitation of ticket buying technology or sheer weight of numbers.

Yet with falling music sales and increasing numbers willing to download and not pay for music, concerts are the biggest earner for musicians and their record companies alike.

Pop concerts invariably go on sale 6 or more months ahead. The “sold out in minutes” thing (which incidentally is complete rubbish, every time – see the book for the reason) makes headlines but also disappoints and dissuades casual fans – who would buy tickets if they didn’t have to face some sort of melee to do so.

My thinking is that promoters could capture this vast audience (which now includes myself) AND make considerable extra profit just by applying some long forgotten techniques. So, my suggestion for them all is to consider going right back to ‘absolute basics.’ Here’s the plan…

Postal, well, online form applications. You still get the headline – “one million apply for tickets in the first hour,” but you also retain 100% control over the entire process. That means you get 100% of the profits. How?

First, ALL applications would have to be accompanied by uploaded photographs of the would-be ticket users. Each application gets a scan of facial recognition software, every ticket has a large reproduction of the holder’s face printed onto it. Plus, of course, the credit card used can be verified at promoters’’ leisure to weed out multiple applications. So, no secondary market, as the tickets can’t be transferred without promoter permission.

No problem either if they want to sell via agents or reserve tickets for the fan club – forms can be made available via those outlets, but still with the promoter handling the data.

Already, the promoter is making 100% of the money, without much possibility of leakage to touts, plus there is a greater chance of pleasing more fans by applications being processed “first come, first served” and the promoter able to sell all the seats. All seems a lot of trouble still, though, doesn’t it? OK, here’s where the extra traditional technique comes in…

If you have a neat stack of applications, you have the chance to analyse demand at each venue and at each price, before you actually allocate any tickets or commit to any venues. You can drop and add dates… but most important of all, you can manipulate seat prices far more effectively…

“Moving the rope” as it is known, isn’t something I approve of when it means making top price seats “premium” or mediocre seats “top price” in theatres. They are small venues compared with pop concerts, and there are very few prime seats.

Bigger venues, though, have far more of both prime and, frankly lousy, tickets. My theory is that with total control over applications, there’s more chance to introduce a wider range of prices, designate more or fewer seats in each price range, thus maximising income and making sure the entire auditorium is full at every performance. Less wastage, more income. In other words, there’s no need to have 10 empty “premium” rows at the front, when the unrequired ninth and tenth row could be sold for less to fans who’d appreciate them.

Add a facility to pre-order tour goods in advance, and there’s another stream of revenue right there. And it all goes to the promoter and nowhere else.

Well, it’s a thought, anyway.

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