Tag Archives: Q&A

Marshall Ruminates on Ticket Prices and Arena Amenities

30 Aug

Barrie Marshall, Rachel Thomas and Terry Pouchain backstage in the Paul McCartney camp at the Consol Energy Center (VT Photo).

REPORTING FROM PITTBURGH — Venues Today sat down with Barrie Marshall, Marshall Arts, at the last booking of Paul McCartney’s 15-truck, eight-bus Up & Coming Tour Aug. 18 and 19 at the grand opening of the Consol Energy Center. Marshall, who sold 49 percent of his company to AEG, is a veteran of the industry and a free thinker, working with all promoters and several artists, chief among them being McCartney.

This is the last of Paul McCartney’s dates for this tour. How has it gone?

He played two Hollywood Bowls, Miami, Puerto Rico…25 shows since the beginning of the year, drawing 600,000 attendance. We work with all promoters. A promoter has to take great pride in what he or she does and live in the community. I think the independent promoter, who lives in the community, will come back. It will come with fresh music, different loyalties. Artists are very loyal to those who are with them when they are not successful.

The climate for touring is not good. Have you had to make any adjustments this year?

It’s not good, no. I think we all had a wakeup call. We’ve got to remember we’re in this business because we’re lucky enough to serve brilliant and talented artists and people are kind enough to pay quite a lot of money to see them. Music is memories, in my opinion. We have to remind ourselves we’re in an economic recession and most people have had a realignment of employment and revenues. Agents, artists, managers and promoters have to look at the ticket price and what’s affordable and readjust their thinking about the income that can be made. It’s an interesting problem because all artists try to achieve a better show than they played last time. They therefore usually look to high definition video and production levels to make it better for the audience, which is admirable. However, when you strip away the lights and the LED screens and all that, it’s all about the artist’s music. I think people go to see concerts to physically enjoy being in the same room with the artist. That’s what concerts are about, a pure relationship between the person and their artist.

How can we improve that relationship on tour?

One is to be clear what we charge for tickets and what the add-on charges are. Irving Azoff has put the Eagles out in an all-inclusive ticket like the old days. That’s not a bad idea. I did that in the old days and I’m certainly looking at it now. The issue is not necessarily the price of the ticket…it’s making it clear how much you’ve got to pay as a face value. This one is $250 down to $59.50, but that’s without the service fees. The facility fee here is five percent. I think it will be all inclusive in the future where I can make it work by sitting down with the people in charge and deciding what that number and what that fee are and then incorporating it into the ticket, hopefully using an economy of scale.

Has Paul cut back in any way on this tour?

Not really, yet. He’s very conscious of the downturn, but it hasn’t honestly affected his business. We’re proud to say he does give a great show, two and a half hours long every night and four decades of music. He is an event. He doesn’t play repetitively in the same markets. His main instruction is “Barrie, I want to go to new markets and new buildings I haven’t played before.” And here we are in Pittsburgh.

What are the pros of playing in a new building?

It’s exciting because people who go to concerts or sports events are being given a much better experience for the money. It’s great to open new buildings or be in early because in the last 15 years, new buildings have been designed not just for sports, but for music and sports, for entertainment in general, which has been a terrific change. Arenas are a challenge because they are trying to compete with theaters. In a theater, it’s an occasion. All arenas have lots of physical similarities, which is why production costs money – you are creating a theater inside the arena. One of Paul’s big things is, “I want the people in the nosebleed seats up in the back of the building to see me like I’m right next door to them.” Hence he has very large screens, larger than most, on his new show.

Are arenas themselves different and is your philosophy in touring different in different parts of the world?

Absolutely. When record companies were making a lot of money, they spent a decent proportion of it experimenting on new bands and made it back on the ones that made it. Now, music is sold on the Internet. The consumer makes up his own album. So when you promote a record or new body of work you have to take each country separately and work each country according to their culture, the way their music is portrayed on radio and television. The record companies used to put out albums internationally. Today, most records come out on different dates, often because the artist can make appearances live or with the media. It’s like movies, which require the major film stars to turn up for certain premieres. And France, for example, has a policy of only playing a certain amount of foreign music on their radio stations to protect their own culture. I think it’s maybe 60/40 in favor of their own artists. It’s allowed the local artists to prevail. When you go to China and some other countries, they don’t necessarily know the Beatles. It was a long time ago.

Has Paul played China?

No, but we’re looking at it; we’re looking at going. It’s up to Paul. He makes all his own decisions. It will be nice to go if the time is right and hopefully he may go.

What are the future plans for Paul?

This is the last show of the summer. There may be more dates. I’m going to stand below his window and see if he’ll come out and play some more. I’m sure there will be. He loves playing. This band is so harmonious, it’s a joy. He’s having a great time. And the other thing, and he’s always wanted this, he’s gaining a younger audience as well, which is great. — Linda Deckard

Contact: Barrie Marshall, +44-20-7586-3831

Jeff Kline, the Future King of Colleges?

12 Jul

Cleveland-based ticketing company Veritix has signed one of its most high profile clients to date, bringing the National Collegiate Athletic Association into the fold with a deal to represent all championship events. The deal solidifies Veritix’s presence at the popular March Madness tournament and sets in motion plans to secure a number of other top rated college events. Venues Today recently caught up with Veritix President Jeff Kline to discuss the agreement.

Does this cover all NCAA championship games?

It’s for select NCAA championships because some will roll into our agreement as their current agreement with their provider expires, like the College World Series. We’ll be doing the Final Four this year in Houston, but some of the regional games will continue to be honored with different providers. The intent is for all NCAA Championships to roll into the agreement, which we’re thrilled about.

Does that include the Bowl Championship Series for NCAA football?

No, those are separate. The Final Four and the Frozen Four are included, and we’re in discussion right now for the College World Series, which has some time left on the existing agreement. We’ll also be doing archery, badminton and soccer plus a number of additional events.

How is Flash Seats going to be implemented in this agreement? Will it be a similar experience to purchasing tickets to a Rockets or Cavs game?

No. The agreement we have in place includes three components. Component number one is that we will be the exclusive ticketing provider for the select event. Part two is that the NCAA will use our platform to take reservations for subsequent championships, and then fulfill the orders. The third part of our agreement calls for the continued use of Flash Seats for student ticketing, like we have done for the last three years.

Will Flash Seats be used for resale?

No. We’ll provide the digital technology for the student sections where transfer and resale is not allowed.

And the tickets will be tied to their student ID cards?

Correct.

Will you be active in trying to stop resale at the Final Four?

That’s really got to come from the NCAA. They have their own policies in place and we have the platform and technology to help them do that if they choose to do so. They have a current agreement in place with Razorgator to provide secondary tickets.

How was this deal reached?

It started two years ago at the Final Four in Detroit when the NCAA came to us, looking for an alternative platform for student ticketing. Not only is it meant to sit atop any primary ticketing system, it’s also portable. You can take a few routers and scanners and be set up. It worked so well that during this year’s Final Four in Indianapolis we repeated what we did the previous year. We went to a venue that had another ticketing company as their primary provider, we set up Flash Seats for student tickets, and emailed the buyers. Tickets were associated with their unique ID and they were able to gain access to the venue. Plus we knew who each student was because they couldn’t transfer their tickets. That gave the NCAA exposure to our company, and when they sent out an RFP last year, we responded and were awarded the business.

It’s a very prestigious client. Is this your first entrance into the college market?

No, we have Boise State on our client list. We also sell tickets for Texas A&M and Oral Roberts University. We are thrilled that we were selected and this opens the doors for us to have more opportunity in the collegiate space.

That part of the market seems to have a lot of opportunity. Paciolan just announced that it has re-signed 10 clients in the past 60 days. What is Veritix’s strategy going forward?

We see it as a definite opportunity for us. We’re in the collegiate space and it’s no secret that we don’t have as many collegiate clients as Paciolan, but there are plenty of challenges and opportunities.

It’s been about six months since the Department of Justice handed down the consent decree, essentially forcing Ticketmaster to spin off Paciolan to Comcast-Spectacor and license its software to AEG. The obvious goal of this agreement was to make the ticketing space more competitive. Has it worked?

Since the merger, we’ve seen the market opening up a little bit for choices. People are looking for alternatives and the adoption of Flash Seats continues to grow. Almost 70 percent of people coming to the Cleveland Cavaliers playoffs game were all digital. We did a concert in Houston where 66 percent of the people who walked through the door were digital, so obviously the adoption of our technology is growing. – Dave Brooks

Contact: Jeff Kline, (216) 466-8055

A few questions with Liza Cartmell

2 Jun

RECALIBRATION IN THE FUTURE FOR CONCESSIONS BUSINESS: LIZA CARTMELL, GROUP PRESIDENT, ARAMARK SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Liza Cartmell

Venues Today discussed the state of the industry with Aramark’s Liza Cartmell, who is also one of our three 2010 Women of Influence, announced today. Following are some of her observations on changes and trends in food and drink concessions.

If you were going to predict what this business would be like in five years, what would be the major change?

I think you will see a lot more partnerships between concessionaires and owners of facilities and sports teams. It’s not so much about the margins as it is about being able to operate in an environment of shared interests. The expectations of the fans and the flexibility the team needs to adapt to what’s going on in the marketplace mean they need us to be more flexible. If they’ve put us in a box that says you’re vanilla, and the market is looking for chocolate, we can’t meet their needs. We’ve mutually agreed in a growing number of places to migrate to that.

What are the major changes in concessions this season for baseball?

There was a little more of a seismic shift last season because of the economy and there is more of a continuation now. We went very aggressively last year and continue this year into more packaging, value-oriented offerings. We continuously upgrade the core product because we find it’s not so much about people not being willing to spend. They want to make sure they’re getting value. We can get them to continue to spend by introducing more fresh hamburgers, higher quality sandwiches, and select specialty items like the gluten free. These are not big money makers, but they take care of a niche in the market excluded previously.

Is the all-inclusive ticket going to grow in this marketplace?

We continue to roll out the loaded ticket technology. Every team is at a different level as far as utilization of it as a marketing tool. It’s one of those things like nobody used to use credit cards in the facilities and it took about 10 years to really get the momentum of people even thinking of taking out their credit card at the game. Adults who went to sports always brought cash. The longest line in the building for the last 10 years wasn’t the bathroom; it was the ATM.

What about using your cellphone or some other kind of electronic wallet at the concessions stand? How far down the line is that?

The capability exists today, but the willingness and that pioneer group is a very small percentage. If you’re talking 40,000 people and it’s two percent, that’s 800 people; that’s just not a lot. We have that with loaded tickets, where the dollars and percentage are very, very small. We’ve had loaded tickets since we opened the Phillies six years ago. They’re the largest users, the most forward-thinking in introducing it and making it available, but it’s still under five percent dollarwise.

When will you see a return on investment?

ROI can be consumer satisfaction and the team’s capacity to offer a variety of packages for people. One of the big successes in loaded tickets for the Phillies has been in their premium areas; the ability for their premium ticket holders to provide as an amenity a complete experience. That the entrepreneur knows that’s a great value because they’re able to entertain yet they don’t have to go to 81 games is big. Do I get the value because I can eliminate my cash counting and my run to the bank? I’m never going to get the ROI on that. It’s a totally different ROI for different people if they use it in the right way.

Is it true major concessions companies work on two and three percent margins these days?

Pretty much. And it’s not sustainable. People need to make operating decisions that aren’t great and that’s not good for anybody. In the last couple of years, we’ve walked away from a number of deals because we were not willing to be in that environment where the only way we could not lose money was to do the wrong thing. We’ve lost some market share, but that’s okay.

Will there be a correction?

There’s one already underway. The economy is forcing people to think differently about what they need to do to succeed. I don’t think the suite model as it was configured will survive. The basic deal was to charge you a set fee, say $250,000, for the suite. Then you will go to 10 football games or 81 baseball games and I may or may not charge you extra for the concerts and, by the way, I’m going to charge you an arm and a leg to have food in the suites. You are going to be outraged at the prices you are going to have to pay in order to entertain properly in accordance with the suite environment you are trying to set. But you are going to have an administrative assistant to the president who will balk at the price and order popcorn and peanuts, hot dogs and a couple of beers. All of a sudden, the experience is nowhere near what it was designed to be.

How did it get there?

For a long time, people were willing to spend whatever price it took to be able to touch the sports world. It was a corporate item; that’s what it cost. Now people are looking at $300,000 and saying that’s big, I’m going to have to cut six people. And, by the way, at StubHub I can buy that suite for two big meetings and I’ll spend $40,000 and that’s all I care about; I’ll bring all my best customers. There’s this whole recalibration. People are bringing the analytical, disciplined part to the value proposition and not saying it’s sports, I’m going to buy it. — Linda Deckard

Interviewed for this story: Liza Cartmell, (215) 238-3000

Q&A With George Daniel, Commissioner of the National Lacrosse League

13 May

The National Lacrosse League wraps up its season Saturday with its Champion’s Cup Final between the Washington Stealth and the Toronto Rock at the Comcast Arena in Everett, Wash. Like other minor league sports, Lacrosse has struggled the past year with low attendance, but two successful team relocations and a broadcast deal for the U.S. and Canada have commissioner George Daniel optimistic for next season. Venues Today caught up with Daniel to discuss the future of the 16-team league.

What are your expectations for Saturday’s championship?

We’re really the only North American sports league that has a single elimination tournament where the team with the home field advantage gets to host the championship. That’s significant because it creates an atmosphere that you don’t get at other events. The NFL and soccer do single elimination events, but they do it at a neutral site. We have a Game 7 atmosphere every year. Obviously the spectacle is pretty impressive when the home team wins.

Do you activate fan festivals around your championship?

That’s something we give up when we do it this way — we don’t have an off-week before the championship, and we don’t know where the game will be held until the previous weekend. Logistically, it’s a challenge for us at the league level to activate fan fests, but the teams do various promotions.

How was attendance this season?

Announced attendance is slightly down about five percent, but our ticket revenues were actually up. For the sports industry as a whole, it seems like everyone is tracking down. We want to see it going in a different direction, but all things considered, we feel really good.

You’ve had two teams relocate this season — the San Jose Stealth who moved to Everett and the New York Titans who moved to Orlando, Fla. Will there be any additional expansion franchises next season?

We won’t be expanding next year — we’re past our deadline. We expect to have the same number of teams next year. We’re already having discussions with people for future seasons. There are a number of markets we have interest in — markets like Vancouver and New York.

What do you look for when you enter a market?

We look at a lot of factors. We want to be careful in a market that’s not oversaturated.

Is that why the Stealth moved to Everett, because they have no professional sports team?

The greater Seattle market is a good place for lacrosse without the NBA or hockey. It’s a good time of year for us to be playing and we feel very bullish about the greater Seattle area. The arena lease and venue is critical. Some of our best performing franchises are the ones that are integrated with an NHL franchise and arena operations, like the Buffalo Bandits franchise, which is tied to the Buffalo Sabres. Same thing in Denver, where our team is owned by Kroenke sports and the ownership group operates the Pepsi Center, along with the Nuggets and the Avalanche.  If we can have streamlining and economies of scale, that gives us the best change to succeed in the market.

What is the franchise fee to start a new team?

$3 million

How important is it to work in communities with a strong lacrosse tradition?

While lacrosse is a growing sport, the numbers still haven’t reach the point of critical mass and if we had to rely solely on lacrosse fans, we wouldn’t make it. We market our sport as an entertainment product that has to draw fans that know nothing about lacrosse.

The Stealth’s semi-final playoff game was moved to the KeyArena in Seattle to make way for Sesame Street Live. How important will it be in the future to secure holds for potential playoff matchups?

You would always hope to be first on arena dates, but that’s a challenge at our level. We deal with the NBA and NHL playoffs in our other buildings and we understand we’re the second tenant — it’s just part of doing business and we frequently get bumped. I would hope for Everett, now that they see they have a championship caliber team, there would be a hold for them in the future. Of course, the team didn’t move to Everett until June, so we can chalk this one up to being a first-year team.

The NLL has TV deals with Versus in the U.S. and TSN2 in Canada. How are those broadcast agreements working out?

They’re televising our championships and we’re going to revisit things at the end of the season. Versus is a great network with great exposure; TSN is a great partner to have in Canada. Television is an important part of raising the awareness of the league, but we don’t want to put all of our eggs in that basket because the world is changing and there’s more distribution channels out there. We stream every game in our league on our website. Obviously we want more people to know about that, and the best way to do that is to put more games on TV to promote the league. — Dave Brooks

Contact: George Daniel: (212) 764-1390