A Technology Balancing Act in Event Ticketing
Softjourn

A Technology Balancing Act

Ticketing

November 21, 2018 by Softjourn

Fred Maglione
Fred Maglione
Fred Maglione, founder of the Maglione Group, is an accomplished executive with over 40 years' experience working with businesses that sell products and services to the live sports and entertainment industry (stadiums, arenas, theatres, professional and collegiate sports teams, theme parks and concert promoters). He is also a skilled strategist and advisor.

Who thinks about ticketing? You want to attend an event, you buy a ticket. End of story. Right?

But, it’s not the end of the story for us at Softjourn. We think about ticketing—a lot. Over the years, we’ve delivered ticketing solutions—both optimizing existing platforms for greater functionality or building custom platforms from the ground up—to help our customers fill the house, keep out fraudulent tickets and smooth their operations. Our ticketing work has taken us to every area of innovation you can imagine—from biometric access control to CRM functionality to the intersection of blockchain and ticketing. 

And, there’s someone else who thinks a lot about ticketing, too—Fred Maglione, founder of the Maglione Group and former executive chairman of TopTix. As part of our Softjourn Expert Talk Series, in which we connect with global tech and business leaders, we asked Fred to share his thoughts on wide-ranging issues at the intersection of tech and ticketing. 
We’re happy to share the benefit of his insights with you. 

Softjourn: In your extensive consulting practice, what trends are you seeing in ticketing?

Fred Maglione: It’s all about technology, which, admittedly, has come later to ticketing than other industries. But, as I see it, technology—along with content owners’ willingness to accept technology—is driving the three most significant trends in technology: digital ticketing, openness and pricing.

For starters, technology is making tickets, as we know them today, go away. The reality is, content owners don’t care much about who bought the ticket; they care about who’s in the seat. The digital ticket enables them to know that. And, it’s not just the digital ticket, it’s the information they’re able to gather from the customer’s whole digital experience, like digital entry and digital acknowledgement of the consumer attending the event.

Openness refers to arrangements between content owners and ticketing companies to offer more sales channels, with the goal of selling as many tickets as possible. Today, for example, you can buy from Ticketmaster through Groupon, Facebook or Broadway.com.

Regarding pricing, content owners are recognizing their product—a concert or sporting event, for example—has a different value based on variables, like seat location, time of day, day of the week or time of year. While perhaps not truly dynamic pricing, the trend is for pricing that changes easily and electronically based on demand and consumer sentiment. Content owners are embracing variable pricing—higher or lower—in ways they haven’t in the past because today’s technology enables this approach.

SJ: So, how do ticket companies enable more sellers of their tickets? What’s the mechanism—APIs?

FM: Absolutely, APIs are now a requirement. Content owners are talking to their customers and potential customers through all forms of social media and apps. So, if they’re talking to them through these channels, why shouldn’t they also be selling to them through these channels? It makes complete sense for everyone to embrace APIs as the enabling technology.

SJ: Doesn’t the many-sellers model reduce margins?

FM: Most ticketing companies have a transaction-based model. If they’re smart and monetizing their product properly, it’s to their advantage—as well as their clients’ advantage—to sell as many tickets as possible through as many channels as possible. The pie gets bigger. Maybe everybody gets a smaller piece of the pie per transaction, but there are a lot more transactions—and that’s good for everyone.

SJ: How is this new approach to pricing working for content owners?

FM: First, let me clarify, changes to pricing models are happening slowing. Content owners have been slow to embrace pricing their product properly and it’s a challenge, because there are so many ways to do it.
Think about baseball, for example. You’re setting pricing during the winter for games to be played in August and September. A team is coming to your ballpark on a Saturday night late in the season. The team was hot last year, so you assume it’s going to be hot in the upcoming season—and you price tickets accordingly. As you get closer to game time, you realize two starting players are injured and the team has a losing record. The stadium won’t sell out at the ticket prices you set in the winter.

Content owners need technology that can react to these kinds of variables, which may be specific to particular types of events.

SJ: And, consumers—how will they accept dynamic and variable pricing?

FM: Slowly, really slowly. I look around airplanes and see passengers get upset if they learn they paid more than the person sitting next to them. And, how long has variable-priced seating been around in transportation?

This may be controversial, but companies like StubHub are helping build acceptance of variable pricing in event ticketing. You can track consumers visiting stubhub.com and other secondary online sellers to check the current market value—that is, the going rate—before committing to buy a ticket.

Consumers will accept dynamic and variable pricing, but it’s a learning process, just like everything.

SJ: At Softjourn, we’re really into blockchain applications, and we’ve incorporated blockchain into some ticketing work we’ve done. Will blockchain revolutionize ticketing?

FM: Conceptually, blockchain makes sense in ticketing, and I’m happy to see concepts tested and brought to market. But, as I alluded in my responses to several earlier questions, the ticketing industry changes slowly, very slowly. This includes adopting new technologies.

It’s unlikely that mainstream live entertainment will be the first to take advantage of blockchain-based ticketing. Think about some other “revolutionary technologies”—print-at-home tickets and credit card acceptance, for example. Live entertainment wasn’t an early adopter of either.

I hope the work you’re doing at Softjourn helps address a lot of the issues regarding blockchain, like volume and liability issues, and helps blockchain mature as a technology. I’ll be watching closely.

So, yes, we will see blockchain technology used in ticketing, but, no, it won’t be a revolution—it will be a gradual evolution based on successful and proven use cases.

SJ: If not blockchain, is there another technology likely to change ticketing in the near term?

FM: Yes, I think that’s technology involving security.

As the world continues to feel more dangerous, venue operators and event organizers are hard pressed to keep their audiences secure. So, technology, like facial recognition, is important in ticketing.

Security is forcing us to change dramatically, so adoption of technology in this area may be the exception that proves the rule regarding my comment about live entertainment being a slow adopter.

SJ: Let’s focus on Europe, where we now have the General Data Protection Regulation. How will this regulation affect the ticketing industry?

FM: The GDPR is making every industry rethink how it gathers data, secures data and markets to its audiences.
It puts handcuffs on ticketing software vendors because they must build security into their products, which is a big challenge as the requirements continue to evolve.

This is only the beginning though. We’ll see additional requirements. It will be the Facebooks and Googles of the world that will suffer through it first, but—eventually—it will trickle down to all vendors.

SJ: Is GDPR a step too far?

FM: No, I don’t think that. As consumers, we should be protected as we’re giving out our personal information, so I don’t think GDPR is a step too far. It’s just hard for business, and I hope regulators understand the importance of clear, well thought out requirements that won’t change constantly.

SJ: Earlier, you mentioned the ticketing industry’s slowness to accept credit cards as payment. There’s a lot going on in payments now. How is ticketing responding to those changes in consumers’ choices of how to pay?

FM: Ticketing must follow the payments trends.

I know, as a consumer with an Android phone, I want to use my Google Wallet everywhere. I don’t want to pull cards or cash out of my pocket. I just want to tap my phone. And, as a business person, I know payments will continue to be digitized.

The ticketing industry must embrace payments digitization. It must accept all new forms of payment that comes down the pike and, as you suggest, they’re coming fast.

SJ: Does that include virtual currencies?

FM: No, I don’t think so; they’re too volatile now. Who wants to sell a $100 ticket today and risk that the payment received tomorrow will be worth only $20 because of virtual currency value volatility? Some promoters may be willing to take that risk but not the smart ones.

SJ: Can you sum up the technology challenge facing the ticketing industry?

FM: It’s everything we talked about--the evolving ticket, security, blockchain—along with the accelerating pace of technological innovation.

The challenge for the ticketing industry is there are so many existing technologies and so many more on the horizon. It’s a balancing act, because they have to focus on the core technology they’re using today and look down the road at what’s coming and what their clients might demand in the future. And, the fact is, they don’t what the next big thing in technology will be. So, where do they put their money? Where do they place their bets?

The software provider that can find that balance will be the ticketing industry’s best friend.

Softjourn is a global technology services provider that finds custom solutions for our clients’ toughest challenges. We leverage our domain expertise in Fintech, Cards & Payments, and Media & Entertainment (with a special emphasis on ticketing), to apply new technology that brings our clients' growing needs to life. Contact us to discuss how we can make your idea a reality!