Ticketfly founders Andrew Dreskin & Dan Teree were interviewed and featured in an article in the New York Times about the newest crop of ticketing companies. Pretty fly! See the full article below or read it on nytimes.com.
New Web Services Turn Ticket Buying Into a Social Occasion
By BEN SISARIO
Nothing in the concert industry has evolved more significantly than how people buy tickets, from the days of walk-up box offices to Ticketmaster’s network of call centers to the almost entirely Internet-based technology of today, in which seats by the thousands can disappear in an instant.
But Andrew Dreskin, a concert promoter and music entrepreneur, thinks the technological evolution is stuck in the ways of Web 1.0, and needs to move to the next phase.
“Ticketing doesn’t seem to have really changed all that much in the past decade,” Mr. Dreskin said. “The software today seems to do mostly what it did in 1997, ’98, ’99,” he added, pointing to the plain, text-heavy design of most ticketing sites and consumers’ limited control over basic aspects like seating choice.
In response, he has helped found Ticketfly, one of several tech-heavy young companies working to bring ticketing into the social-networking age. With Ticketmaster’s proposed merger with the concert giant Live Nation tensing stomachs throughout the music business, Ticketfly (Ticketfly.com) has set itself up as a boutique alternative for clubs and smaller theaters, and in the last year it has signed deals with clubs across the country, including the Knitting Factory’s growing chain, the Double Door in Chicago, Bimbo’s 365 in San Francisco and Brooklyn Bowl.
This week it picked up a big client: the 9:30 Club in Washington, which won top club this year in the nationwide Billboard Touring Awards. Seth Hurwitz, the club’s owner, said that Ticketfly’s advantages are its size and flexibility.
“They’re not Home Depot — they’re the hardware store that specializes in tools,” Mr. Hurwitz said. “Smaller companies are nimbler. They can concentrate on our unique demands and issues as opposed to hiding behind quote-unquote company policy, like the big companies do.”
Those special demands, as Mr. Dreskin sees it, involve streamlined operations and an array of Web marketing tools for promoters. In addition to doing Brooklyn Bowl’s ticketing, Ticketfly built its Web site, brooklynbowl.com, and the company’s software will allow clubs to spread information about their offerings to Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, where fans can chat about shows, make plans to meet up and buy tickets with a quick click.
“The needs of a club promoter are different than the needs of a professional sports team,” Mr. Dreskin said in an interview this week at his Lower Manhattan office, a small leased room within the headquarters of Spin magazine, with framed concert posters still waiting to be hung. “Teams are focused on season tickets, big theater groups are focused on subscriptions, that kind of stuff. We are really focused on viral social-marketing technology that will allow music venues and promoters to sell tickets.”
Since ticket selling has migrated online, the barriers for entry into this business have been vastly reduced. No longer must a company employ hundreds of telephone operators or maintain large numbers of retail outlets; the only requirement, promoters and ticketers say, is a better computerized mousetrap. Dan Teree, who founded Ticketfly with Mr. Dreskin, said their company uses the same high-powered software as major hedge funds, and it allows them to “sell massive numbers of tickets in a short amount of time.”
Mr. Dreskin, 40, is no stranger to the strategies of Internet ticketing. In 1995 he was one of the founders of TicketWeb, a pioneering service that sold its first online ticket a full year before Ticketmaster did; in 2000 it was bought by Ticketmaster for $35 million, and Mr. Dreskin, who speaks with the steady, deliberate enunciation of a high school guidance counselor, eventually went on to promote the American edition of the Virgin Mobile festival, in Maryland.
He and Mr. Teree, another TicketWeb vet, started Ticketfly last year and began selling tickets in June. The company has 14 employees in three cities and contracts with 15 clubs and promoters, which will account for an expected 700,000 tickets a year, they said.
In recent years ticket startups have proliferated, many with a focus on social networking. Tom Higley, a dot-com entrepreneur in Boulder, Colo., now runs Iggli (iggli.com), whose namesake product is a Web widget that allows fans to invite friends to events and manage details like how many tickets to buy and who among the invited will pay.
“Events are social by their nature,” Mr. Higley said. “People will actively click a link and buy a ticket when prompted by a friend or acquaintance, versus the same info sent from a venue or a team or an artist. That higher conversion rate is very interesting to people in the ticketed-event industry.”
Front Gate Tickets, based in Austin, Tex., is partly owned by one of the promoters behind C3 Presents, which puts on the Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza festivals, as well as hundreds of club shows. Front Gate sells two million tickets a year, and this month it will start selling by cellphone, according to Jack McCarty, its general manager.
These companies are far eclipsed by Ticketmaster, which last year sold 141 million tickets worth $8.9 billion. But many in the concert industry say that if the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger — which is now clearing government antitrust hurdles — becomes a reality, some promoters and theaters will want to look elsewhere for a ticketing service. That is because Live Nation is the largest concert promoter in the world, and some impresarios worry about giving it access to confidential sales information.
As Peter Shapiro of Brooklyn Bowl put it, “Why would I sign up for Ticketmaster ticketing, with Live Nation as my competitor?”
For fans, though, the biggest question about any kind of ticketing is simply the fees they have to pay, which have skyrocketed in recent years. Ticketing used to be another line item expense for the promoter, part of the cost of doing a show, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, a concert industry trade magazine. Now theaters and ticketers split the audiences’ fees.
“Today it is a profit center,” Mr. Bongiovanni said. “That’s why those fees are so high.”
Ticketfly has supplemental charges, like every ticketer, and lives off that money. “We’re like a marketing company that happens to make the bulk of our revenue through service fees,” Mr. Teree said.
Mr. Dreskin said that his company gave clubs the ability to keep the fees relatively low for fans. “Our goal is to offer reasonable fees and to offer clients and consumers more,” he said.
When fans complained on the 9:30 Club Web site, 930.com, about continued fees when it started phasing in Ticketfly, Mr. Hurwitz answered that the charges were no higher than they were before.
“This was NOT done to lower service charges,” he wrote of the switch. “It was done to start working with a company that has a lot of cool ideas.”