In the Season of Ticketfly, Is It Ticketmaster’s Time to Die?

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taking on the more daunting task of disrupting the big, established, profitable, and jealously defended business of professional concert ticketing.

And Ticketmaster itself hasn’t been standing still. The Los Angeles-based company has 3,000 employees, sells $8 billion in tickets ever year, and still has a lock on most of the nation’s largest concert venues. Moreover, it’s developing a social media strategy of its own. In 2011, for example, the company released a Facebook app that shows concert ticket buyers a venue map indicating where their Facebook friends are sitting.

But Dreskin says Ticketmaster’s technical innovations aren’t doing much to reassure defectors, who are leaving in part because of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. Ticketfly says it has signed agreements with 98 former clients of Ticketmaster and its subsidiary TicketWeb, including Merriweather Post Pavilion outside Washington, D.C.; the Preakness Stakes horse race and InfieldFest music festival; the Independent and Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco; the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto; Troubadour, the Echo, and Echoplex in Los Angeles; the Trocadero in Philadelphia; the Vogue in Indianapolis; and the Aladdin Theater in Portland, OR. [Data added 3/7/13; see Addendum.]

The merger “put quite a bit of wind in our sails,” Dreskin says. “In merging with Live Nation, Ticketmaster has become competitive with its own clients and prospective clients. You can imagine how that has created a desire among venues and promoters who use Ticketmaster to seek a neutral player.”

With its more capable platform and its focus on clubs and festivals—in contrast to Ticketmaster’s emphasis on giant theaters and stadiums—Ticketfly isn’t having trouble winning deals away from Ticketmaster, Dreskin says.

“Fifteen years ago, there was more credibility to the argument that promoters needed to have their tickets on Ticketmaster, because that is where people would go to find things,” Dreskin says. “But now that you have Google, and your friends telling you what they are doing on Facebook and Twitter, that notion is quite outdated. The way people find out about music events has changed.” And Ticketfly plans to keep the turn going.

Addendum, 3/7/13: After we published this story, several sources contacted Xconomy challenging the factual accuracy of certain statements from Ticketfly. We investigated further, and have updated the story accordingly.

The questions related to three points.

1. The assertion that fees at Ticketfly are, on average, 30 percent lower than fees at Ticketmaster.

Ticketfly was unable to provide us with systematic data to back up this claim. We’ve decided to let the company’s assertion stand on its own, but have explained this in a note in the story. Both Ticketfly and Ticketmaster told us that it is difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison between Ticketmaster’s fees and Ticketfly’s fees, because those fees are set in part by venues and in part by artists.

2. The assertion that Ticketfly is growing in part by winning clients away from Ticketmaster. 

A Ticketmaster spokeswoman told Xconomy that the company has not lost a “meaningful” amount of business to Ticketfly, and she cited one example of a venue, the Knitting Factory chain of concert houses, that switched back to Ticketmaster after trying Ticketfly. In response, Ticketfly told us that 98 of its clients, or just under one-eighth, are former Ticketmaster or TicketWeb clients. The company provided a list of examples, which we have added to the story.

3. The assertion that Ticketfly is growing rapidly.

We added data from Ticketfly showing that gross ticket revenues increased 61 percent between 2011 and 2012.

In addition, the Ticketmaster spokeswoman told us that Ticketmaster’s social media strategy predates the 2011 Facebook app mentioned in the story, and that Ticketmaster executives have, like Dreskin, long argued that events are inherently social. We went back to Ticketfly to ask for more details about how the company’s social media features boost ticket sales, and have added this information to the story as indicated.

Addendum, 3/20/13: The original version of this story described Andrew Dreskin as the co-founder of TicketWeb, which was later acquired by Ticketmaster Online CitySearch. TicketWeb founder Rick Tyler wrote to Xconomy to assert that he alone started TicketWeb, in 1995, and that he brought on Dreskin as a partner in 1996. We have updated the story as reflected in the author’s note in the seventh paragraph. Ticketfly has responded to Tyler’s assertion as follows: “Rick and Andrew had a really successful run at TicketWeb together. We’re not going to debate the semantics of the company’s founding and hold Rick in the highest regard.”

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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13 responses to “In the Season of Ticketfly, Is It Ticketmaster’s Time to Die?”

  1. joey says:

    you have got to be kidding me. their average client sold 7k tix a year in 2011. this dropped to 5k tix a year in 2012. ticketmaster won’t even touch a client selling tickets in such low numbers.
    anyone smell a company desparately trying to beat a drum… angling for an exit?

  2. Bill S. says:

    Positioning themselves for an exit is right. Ticketfly has nothing that differentiates themselves from the competition. They do, however, have the most active and effective publicist of the bunch, so congrats to whoever is doing that work…

  3. TommyBoy says:

    A company that pumps out colorful infographics and client newsletters announcing ‘new’ features that aren’t actually new isn’t going to get a great valuation for an exit…

  4. Jered says:

    Ticketing platforms are a dime a dozen, and and the key to winning isn’t social gamification buzzword-of-the-day crap. If I’m a small artist playing a small venue, I can use this, or Eventbrite, or Brown Paper Tickets, or another.

    If I am an even moderately successful artist, I must use Ticketmaster. The vast majority of large venues have ticketing exclusivity with Ticketmaster. Most of them are owned by LiveNation. If you’re on a tour, you may not even have the option of booking a non-TM venue — TM will drop all your other dates. There aren’t enough independent venues to compete.

    How is Ticketfly going to break this monopoly? Nobody else has, and I don’t see anything here that says they have a plan.

    • Wade Roush says:

      Jered – You’d have to ask Ticketfly, but my guess is they’d say their plan is to whittle away at Ticketmaster’s monopoly one venue at a time. Obviously they’re out of luck when it comes to the venues owned by Live Nation.

  5. Shaun N says:

    Ticketfly is evil. This must be a joke. I have been turned away from a show after driving 9 hours and waiting in line in the cold for 3 hours (AT THE FRONT). After an $80 CD/t-shirt combo (for 2) we were told that stuff would be mailed and that we would have to pay $25 extra a piece for the actual tickets..which were $10 online initially. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal, and this has happened to others. I’m not stuck to one or another company but at least all the tickets I’ve ever purchased with ticketmaster actually got me into the show.

    • Sean Harris says:

      Hey Shaun can I ask you where you drove from, and what concert/event you were attending? I am starting an online ticket co, and I plan to be a mid-range co that will offer some very different technology and service combination. I’m a regular dude like you, and I want to service guys like us effectively, so feed back from you on your experience would be invaluable.

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  9. TicketLie says:

    Andrew Dreskin and Ticketfly claim to be innovators, but are backed by VC money and keep going deeper and deeper in debt. They are slowly poaching their way to the middle. Pissing away money buying off slimy promoters…until the well runs dry. The only thing they spend more money on than fictitious PR is hemming his little people clothes.

  10. Rick says:

    Too funny. So he is NOT the self-proclaimed Godfather of ticketing. Lol. His old boss is.