TicketSummit Comes Into Its Own, But Talk Still Centers On Live Nation

28 Jul

TicketSummit’s keynote panel included (from left) Jeff Kline of Veritix, Doug Lyons of Tickets.com and Don Vaccaro of TicketNetwork.

REPORTING FROM LAS VEGAS — In its fifth year, Ticket Summit enjoyed a record attendance over its recent three-day run, with more teams, primary ticketing companies and ticket brokers participating than ever before. Attendance was estimated at just over 600 with a trade show that hosted nearly 25 exhibitors.

The success of the July 14-16 conference was in contrast to the difficult market conditions facing the hundreds of ticket brokers in attendance. Tickets continue to sell below face value for many concerts, consumers continue to wait until the last minute in hopes of snatching up discounted offers and acts that were once guaranteed to sell out arenas are now cancelling concerts because of slow ticket sales.

Recent show cancellations for Rhianna, Jonas Brothers and Christina Aguilera are “horrible for the industry. It’s horrible for everyone in this room,” said Don Vaccaro, CEO of TicketNetwork, which owns and hosts the annual show. Speaking of a recent industry trend to dynamically price tickets to meet market conditions Vaccaro said, “As long as the price is going up, it’s a business model that works. If they dynamically price tickets so they go down, consumers wait until the last minute to buy tickets.”

Coinciding with the conference was an investor call by Live Nation Entertainment that helped set the nervous mood at the conference. CEO Michael Rapino and Chairman Irving Azoff warned investors that ticket sales were down 10 percent for the top 100 tours during the first half of the year, and forecasted a 15 percent drop for the second half of the year. The announcement inadvertently prompted a sell off of the Live Nation stock and a two-day, 22-percent drop in price, the largest for both days on the New York Stock Exchange.

“I think it’s going to be a long time before we see anything positive for this market,” said Vaccaro during the conference’s keynote panel, which also included representatives from Veritix and Tickets.com

Since the Justice Department approved the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster, the business development market has opened back up. Paciolan, which was spun off to Comcast-Spectacor, has re-signed over a dozen clients in the past 60 days, while Cleveland-based Veritix has inked deals with the Final Four and Frozen Four.

“For the longest time during the merger talks, the sales pipeline froze because everyone took a wait-and-see attitude. Now that the merger has been announced, everyone is looking at next steps,” said Jeff Kline, president of Veritix.

Kline said his company is trying to leverage its technology and Flash Seats platform against Live Nation’s ability to bring content and concerts to potential client facilities.

“It’s easy on their part to use content as a unique sales proposition,” said Kline, adding that many facilities have expressed a fear that if they sign with anyone besides Live Nation, they’ll lose concerts. While the merged company is not allowed to retaliate against facilities that go with Tickets.com or Veritix, they are allowed to bundle content deals into their agreements.

“It’s a very subtle and important difference,” Kline said.

Doug Lyons, newly promoted VP of Product Marketing & Strategy for Tickets.com, said the other competitive tactic Live Nation attempts to use to corner the marketplace is upfront payments, often worth millions of dollars, in exchange for ticketing contracts.

“They’re still trying to use the old model to use money to influence how deals are made,” he said. “Executives at buildings are no longer just looking at money. They’re looking at technology.”

But not all technology is treated equally. It was Ticketmaster which introduced a paperless ticketing system for a number of concerts over the past 18 months that sought to close out brokers by making concert tickets non-transferable. The practice was outlawed in the state of New York after intense lobbying efforts by companies that included TicketNetwork and eBay.

“I’m not sure (paperless was) that big of an innovation,” Lyons said. “It’s just trying to address some business requirements. I think the innovation will come when we start expanding our technology to work with other technologies.”

Kline offered similar sentiments.

“Clients are looking for an integrated technology solution,” he said. “It’s not enough anymore to just sell tickets. — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Don Vacarro, (860) 870-3400; Jeff Kline, (216) 466-8055; Doug Lyons, (416) 573-0568

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