The Future of Live Music

by Zack Zarrillo

Ticketfly CEO Andrew Dreskin speaking with Fast Company:

“Once you’re inside the venue, your phone is also your wallet, and with one swipe, you can open a bar tab or buy merchandise,” he says. “Venues will be able to optimize the concert-going experience via mobile by sending you a push notification directing you to a less crowded bar if the one you’re standing at is crowded. At the end of the night, you’ll walk out of the venue, and your bar tab will automatically be closed and paid, and you’ll receive push notifications to buy tickets to the next show.”

Just like festivals are advancing technology, it makes equal or more sense for promoters and venues to as well. I welcome this, but can already hear both Jesse and Evan screaming at me about the use of phones at shows. Though maybe it’ll be as easy as just raising our wrist in a few years.


Bowerbirds Northern Lights

Billions and Ticketfly Announce Austin Day Party

The Billions Corporation and Ticketfly present Fat, Crooked, Unwound on Thursday, March 18th at The Mohawk in Austin.  The free day party will feature Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, The Black Angels, Bowerbirds, Generationals, Bear in Heaven, The Cave Singers, Oh No Ono, Avi Buffalo, The Dutchess and the Duke, and Cate Le Bon playing live from 12-6 p.m.   We hope to see you there!
We would like to thank Ticketfly for its partnership, and Independence Brewing Company, Louie Mueller Barbecue, and CHIRP Radio for their sponsorship of this event. Artist set times are below.

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12:00 – 12:30pm: Cate Le Bon
12:30 – 1:10 p.m.: Bear In Heaven
1:10 – 1:40 p.m.: The Cave Singers
1:40 – 2:20 p.m.: Bowerbirds
2:20 – 2:50 p.m.: Generationals
2:50 – 3:30 p.m.: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
3:30 – 4:00 p.m.: Oh No Ono
4:00 – 4:40 p.m.: The Dutchess and The Duke
4:40 – 5:10 p.m.: Avi Buffalo
5:10 – 5:50 p.m.: The Black Angels

Also, don’t forget to stop by our SXSW Showcases while in Austin!

Ticketfly & Echo/Echoplex Fan Appreciation NO FEES FRIDAY!

To celebrate our move over to Ticketfly, there will be NO TICKET SERVICE FEES on all new online ticket purchases for Echo/Echoplex/Spaceland events this Friday, August 3 from 12 noon PST to Midnight PST!

Thank you for all of your support and we’re so excited to be working with Ticketfly!

**We’re sorry, but no refunds on previous purchases.


Spaceland Presents Partners with Ticketfly

July 26, 2012

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Spaceland Presents, one of the premier independent club promotion and event companies, and sister company to Los Angeles music venues The Echo and Echoplex, today announced a partnership with Ticketfly. Ticketfly will be powering ticketing, a new website, email and social media marketing for Spaceland and The Echo/ Echoplex, giving fans in LA a lot more ways to share and find out about events!

Spaceland Presents has long been known as an innovative concert production company blending unique cultural institutions with live musical performances for audiences to enjoy. Since 2007, Spaceland has been booking First Fridays at The Natural History Museum and Saturdays off the 405 at The Getty. Spaceland Presents also produces annual events at SXSW, KCRW’s Sounds Eclectic Evening, KCRW Sessions, KCRW’s Radioactive and most recently, KCRW’s Who Shot Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The Echo recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. The Echo and Echoplex venues focus on new and upcoming music, while also being attentive to older artists who have had a significant influence on music. If you’ve ever been to LA and you like live music, chances are you’ve been to a Mitchell Frank production.

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Spaceland and the Echo/Echoplex have a ton of great events coming up. Link up with them online! And now you can now buy tickets on their Facebook Pages. Woo!

Spaceland Presents website
Spaceland Twitter
Spaceland Facebook

The Echo website
The Echo Twitter
The Echo Facebook 

Burning Man Tickets : Who the hell should I blame?

Today is a big day for Burning Man and Ticketfly. Today is the “Directed Group Sale” which allows legacy recurring theme camps to buy a limited # of tickets. I’m one of probably thousands of people sitting in an online “waiting room” right now watching seconds tick away. While I wait, I thought I should be productive and see if I can shine some light on some un-thought-of issues regarding ticketing that most wouldn’t think to consider. I have a pretty unique perspective on this whole process since I have worked intimately with both Burning Man’s past ticket vendor (Inticketing) and the new one (Ticketfly) and have been a enthusiastic Burner since 1999. 

There’s this old adage in the music industry called “FUCK THE PROMOTER”. It’s a typical complaint by fans that essentially blames the promoter for everything that goes wrong in a concert. And because the promoter, acting as the show’s “producer” or in Bushian terms “decider"  does make many of the key decisions that effect the fans enjoyment, he is both a convenient, and accurate source of blame. In my case I have often argued that we might better say "MAKE LOVE TO THE PROMOTER” because I don’t think we get enough credit for the good that we do do. But I digress. In the case of Burning Man however, given their very passionate fans and the seemingly annual trouble they have had with both ticket on-sales, and for many years, at the entry point, the fans have chosen to say “FUCK INTICKETING”. 

When one loves Burning Man so much that one spends 360 days a year planning and $2500+ on all the things you need to be there, blaming Burning Man for ticketing inconvenience might lead one to wonder what they are doing with their time and money in the first place. Hence the blame is easier placed on the “evil ticketing vendor.” In the past few years, Inticketing has been a convenient scapegoat for a variety of ills, perceived and otherwise. Among them:

  1. The show sold out too quickly and I didn’t get tickets. (2011)
  2. The service fees are unfairly high
  3. The system crashed and I got kicked out (or another tech issue)
  4. It took me 4 hours to get in.
  5. The “system” is too complex, I cant understand HOW to get a ticket, print a ticket etc…

Id like to address each of these issues in turn and then assess the overall conclusion.

1: The show sold out too quickly and I didn’t get tickets. (2011). In 2011 Burning Man sold out for the first time, creating a frenzy of people desperate for tickets that year, scalping, and then much of the problems that have come about since then. The ‘perceived demand’ in 2012 sold it out so quickly that many longtime Burners missed out and the next 3 months were full of angst, scalping, anger, and many old-timers skipping out. Most of the mistakes that have been made in the past 3 years have been made because of a 'perceived’ lack of space for all of the demand. But in reality, there is enough space for all of the people who REALLY want to be there. No, there isn’t enough space for the extra 20-50k people who “might” want to go or just buy a ticket “in case they might”. Nor is there space for those who buy an “extra” ticket with the idea that they will sell it later. 

ANALYSIS: This is the PROMOTER’s CHOICE.  The promoter determines when tickets go on sale and more importantly, HOW MANY CAN BE PURCHASED BY EACH CUSTOMER.

SOLUTION: SELL ONE TICKET PER CUSTOMER or ONE PER TRANSACTION. If you need two, just log in twice. Then others behind you in the virtual line will have had their chance too. This also cuts out on the whole scalping market. In this scenario, you KNOW that the 60k people who want THEIR ticket to Burning Man will get one. It also falls in line with he event’s central mission of “Radical Self Reliance”. If you can’t remember a date and time for a ticket sale, can you be trusted to remember to bring enough water? You could also do two of these sales and sell half the tickets in each one (giving people who are in the hospital, on a Lunar mission, or trapped under something, TWO chances to get their ONE ticket.

2: The service fees are unfairly high: I get this one a lot and its a common perception with a good deal of basis in FACT due to the greediness of TicketMaster. Here’s how fees work. The unavoidable part of a fee is the 3.2% credit card transaction fee. On top of that, it’s FAIR to assume that a small surcharge should be added to pay for the salaries and expenses of the companies that handle the transactions, from the IT to customer service etc.  However, from there its discretionary, and typically either the promoter, or ticket vendor’s choice. In the case of Ticketmaster, a gigantic, public company whose only duty is to its shareholders, those fees tend to be quite high. They get away with it because early in the online ticketing days they paid big upfront “advance"  to hundreds of venues and promoters in return for onerous longterm contracts. Most big venues in the US use either "TicketBastard” or AEG Live’s version. Ticketmaster then uses their high fees to pay back their upfront investment (advances) and profit handily for their stockholders. Their merger with LiveNation created a good deal of additional opportunity for abuse and angst among competitors. By the way, I don’t BLAME Ticketmaster at ALL for doing this. Their duty is to their SHAREHOLDERS. If a promoter wants to protect his fans from onerous fees, then he should either NOT SIGN WITH TICKETMASTER, or create a contract where THEY determine the fees. This may mean that they get less of an upfront advance, but their fans will be happier. 

In the mid 2000’s more than a hundred companies launched to try to undercut Ticketmaster and perhaps fix some of the ills they had created. The most famous are EventBrite, Wanttickets and two local companies, Ticketfly and Inticketing. Today a promoter has all of the control. They can choose what ticketing service to use (there are legitimate technical advantages to some over others). And they chose the fee structure when they sign their contract. They can choose to take an advance, or choose not to. They can allow the ticket vendor to enact high fees, or even take those fees themselves. The PROMOTER makes this decision. The PROMOTER makes this choice. The promoter can even chose to “hide” the fees in the ticket price itself so as to not even have them be an issue to customers.


SOLUTION: Don’t use Ticketmaster. Don’t be greedy. Keep your fees in line with the lowest competitive industry standards (usually 15% or less of gross). Or, as Burning Man is correctly doing this year, sink all fees into the overall cost of the ticket and make the issue disappear.

3: The system crashed and I got kicked out (or another tech issue). This one COULD be the ticketing company’s fault, but ends up being the Promoter’s as well. As we all found out during the first week of ObamaCare, too much demand at any one time can crash an registration system. This is because there simply isn’t enough server bandwidth allocated to the “sale” to handle the demand. How long people are made to wait, the efficiency of online waiting rooms, etc has a direct determination on the effectiveness of the On-Sale. Incidentally, this is one of the things Ticketmaster actually does quite well. Since they have a lockdown on most of the large venues, they have an enormous amount of server space and will direct their clients’ on sales to times when the servers are more available and can handle big traffic. For instance, when a Rolling Stones show goes on sale at the Meadowlands, 100,000+ people try to get the same tickets at once, and Ticketmaster seems to handle these high volume on sales pretty well. They should. For the amount of service fees we pay, they should have a server room the size of Connecticut. But even the smalltimers SHOULD be able to handle this as well. You don’t necessarily need to own the servers. You can “rent” them in times of need. So when Burning Man goes on sale, their ticketing company can pay more to get more bandwidth and handle the added traffic. A common excuse you hear is “We (the promoter or ticketing company) didn’t expect the amount of traffic we got.” REALLY?  No, the truth is, they didn’t want to PAY for extra server capacity on anything over what they HOPED would be the demand. So when the demand came in high, there were crashes. 

ANALYSIS: This TOO is the PROMOTER’s CHOICE (although the Ticket vendor should warn them).

SOLUTION: Spending extra to rent extra servers tends to fall outside the realm of a ticketing service agreement. The promoter has to pay for the extra bandwidth and typically they don’t want to. I have no specific knowledge of the Burning Man situation but think it highly likely that they were warned by their vendor (Inticketing) that such a problem could occur at such and such demand and were presented with possible solutions. If they chose not to rent the extra server space, that was THEIR choice, not the ticketing companies. Also, if Intickenting  didn’t warn them, then they should have been fired after ONE year, not FIVE. STILL the promoter’s choice.

4: It took me 4 hours to get in. I can tell you from PERSONAL experience, this is definitely, absolutely, and completely the promoter’s fault. If a promoter does not allocate sufficient staffing, resources (power, scanners, barricades, cones, traffic control etc) or planning to this issue, then problems will occur. I have been the promoter on big events where the patrons didn’t get in in a rapid, efficient manner and it was ALL MY FAULT.  After my personal hell of Sea of Dreams 2008 (yes, that was my fault),  I ended up answering every single one of our 100+ customer service issues personally, and the bitter experience forced me to vow never to let it happen again. I did a bunch of research, spoke with many promoters and got new methods, plans, and understanding of how to do the job properly. Since then, not only has Sea of Dreams been a flawless entry, but we have applied those same methods to every show and we pride ourselves on getting people in quickly and happily.  The key was “doing the math” and figuring out how many people we needed to accommodate in how much time, and dividing that by our number of staff and the length of time to service each customer. This equation changes from event to event, and is the PROMOTER’s responsibility to research, understand, address, and adjust. Thus, the long wait to get in to Burning Man has NOTHING to do with the ticket company. It has to do with the long and necessary process of checking every vehicle for stowaways. If there are enough staff and enough “lanes” then the process takes less time. If the internet goes down and ticket-scanners don’t work, thats ALSO Burning Man’s fault as power loss etc can be anticipated and they should provide failsafes and backups. 

ANALYSIS: This TOO is the PROMOTER’s CHOICE. The promoter chooses how many “lanes” of entry, how many staff they want to hire, and how much training they will pay for. 

5: The “system” is too complex, I can’t understand HOW to get a ticket, print a ticket etc…

Now first off, I will just say that “PEOPLE DONT READ”. I myself, screw this up. Today, I misread my registration email and called my girlfriend frantically asking her where to log in. She redirected me back to my email where I found the link. BUT, after saying that, it’s up to the PROMOTER to make sure that they create a system that is simple, and streamlined, so that even idiots like ME can use it. When we send out customer communications we use a lot of bullet points, bold face type and make sure it passes the idiot test before it goes out. Furthermore, the more different types of tickets, or levels of access you have, the more complicated something becomes. This is why for instance, Sea of Dreams is the only event we typically have a VIP level for. I just don’t want to deal with it. In Burning Man’s case, this year for instance, they have FOUR DIFFERENT pre-sales. Each is aimed at a different subset of their user-base and each has its own rules. This seems over-thought, and potentially unnecessarily angst-inducing to me. I go back to point #1. Just have ONE BIG SALE. Make it ONE PER CUSTOMER, or at least, ONE PER TRANSACTION.


SOLUTION: KILL THE CONFUSION. HAVE ONE SALE (or at most two) and  SELL ONE TICKET PER CUSTOMER or ONE PER TRANSACTION. If you need two, just log in twice. Then others behind you in the virtual line will have had their chance too. This also cuts out on the whole scalping market. In this scenario, you KNOW that the 60k people who want THEIR ticket to Burning Man will get one. It also falls in line with he event’s central mission of “Radical Self Reliance”.

Final Analysis: SunsetSF was Inticketing’s FIRST customer. We worked with them for almost 10 years and were by and large satisfied with their performance. Were their issues sometimes? Yes. But it was on US to either demand solutions, or find another provider. In 2011 I took personal responsibility for finding a better solution for SunsetSF and checked out a dozen ticketing companies. Ticketfly was by far the best solution for my needs (although there were a few other good ones), and we switched. Burning Man chose this year to do the same. But please don’t think for a minute that any of the perceived ills of Burning Man ticketing in the past, or any future ills (or successes) are the responsibility of either Inticketing or Ticketfly. Rather it is the PROMOTER’s responsibility to manage and solve each of the issues mentioned. 

It is the PROMOTER’s responsibility to choose the vendors, and the details of terms of service for customers. It is the PROMOTER’s responsibility to thoughtfully allocate ticket volume, choose prices, and fee structures and the dates and times of on-sales. It is the PROMOTER’s responsibility to rent additional server capacity (when needed), and pay for additional entry staff (when needed). It is the PROMOTER’s responsibility to create simple and clear instructions and adequately communicate them to their audience. 

So in all, please don’t blame Inticketing for the many aforementioned missteps. Please don’t blame Ticketfly if something goes wrong THIS year. You need to hold Burning Man accountable. 

That the clearly CARE about these issues and TRIES to fix them is evidenced by the fact that they seem to have a new system every year (and this year went so far as to hire a new vendor). But trying something NEW every year doesn’t solve confusion and angst, it CREATES confusion and angst. 

The best solution is to SIMPLIFY the process. One or two single-day sales to everyone. One ticket per transaction. Pay for sufficient server space on those days, and sufficient entry management staff for the big entry days. 

If they don’t do these things, (or find another way to make this work), then feel free to say “Fuck the promoter”. Just remember, when you think of me, I took the time to explain all this, so I’m hoping you will say “make love to that one”.

POSTSCRIPT: While this was all being written, I had major problems purchasing my ticket in the Group Presale. I turns out that Burning Man had sent out some codes that had been used for last week’s presale and mine was one of many that did not work. This led to 45 minutes of frustration for me, until Ticketfly caught wind, validated the new codes and fixed the issue. Again, the Ticketing company will get blamed for something the promoter did wrong. I think I may even have muttered “fuck the promoter” myself a few times. 

Ticketmaster’s New Facebook App Recommends Concerts From Your Listening Activity

I’m impressed! Ticketmaster/Live Nation has had an impressive month. First the acquisition of BigChampagne and now the launch of their facebook app, bringing ticketmaster into the “social age”.  It’ll be interesting to see how Ticketfly responds as their core has been in social ticketing all along. Have you checked it out? If so, what are your thoughts?


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(TechCrunch) Of all the new Open Graph apps launched tonight, Ticketmaster’s new Facebook experience is the most impressive. Sure it can share that you’ve “bought” tickets, but lots of apps have similar publishing functionality. What makes Ticketmaster’s app cool is that it pulls your Facebook profile’s music app activity from services such as Spotify or Rdio, and recommends nearby concerts of artists you actually listen to, not just those you say you Like.

Ticketmaster has come a long way in the two years since Nathan Hubbard became CEO following its merger with LiveNation. It now shows you its service fees up front rather than tacking them on as you checkout. This pissed off artists and venues who thought it would scare away sales, but Ticketmaster did it in the name of transparency.

Keep reading on TechCrunch…

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