Next stop, Vegas!
Can you believe that the World Ticket Conference is just a few weeks away? Those of us here at Ticket Evolution are excited to reconnect with people we speak with on a regular basis, but don’t have the chance to connect with in person often. As the conference winds down, don’t forget that we will be hosting the Closing Cocktail Party on Saturday at the Monte Cristo from 4:00 – 6:00 pm, so make sure you come to have a drink with us!
For Ticket Evolution’s inaugural broker newsletter, NATB’s Tom Patania and Terry Stevenson took a moment to share their thoughts on our industry and what’s brewing at NATB in the final weeks leading up to the 2018 conference.
How long have you been in the secondary ticketing industry?
40 years; we just celebrated our 40th year this past March (2018).
What did you do before?
Prior to starting a ticketing company, I owned a few businesses at the time; including a successful landscaping company that I sold off to focus on the ticketing industry.
How did you end up here?
I was 14 at the time and my Uncle Tommy Dunne (who is currently working for my brother Lance at Prominent Ticket Service) told me to fill out an envelope and send it to the Post Office across the street from the Garden in NYC. He included a self-addressed stamped envelope inside and asked me to let him know if I get any tickets mailed back. About 3 weeks later, I received the self-addressed stamped envelope back along with (4) Bruce Springsteen tickets for MSG (Madison Square Garden); I think this was for his 1976 tour. My Uncle asked what color they were, I said blue; for those who have been around a while you know the blue tickets were for the old 400-level at MSG (Madison Square Garden). My Uncle came over to pick up the tickets and handed me a $100 bill! Mind you, I was 14 working as a caddy, hitch-hiking around 3 hours, round-trip, to get to the golf course so that I can carry 2 bags for 18 holes for another 4 hours to get paid $80! I asked him what the money was for and he said, “You got the tickets.” I told my Uncle “yeah but you gave me the money order and already paid for them.” He said, “No, this is for you; for doing this favor for me.” This seemed so much easier than caddying; so, with that first taste of success, my ticketing journey began. Thank You Uncle Tommy Dunne.
What was your journey?
Like most other brokers, we started our business in the basement of my house, in 1978. Then in 1980 we opened our 1st retail storefront on Main Street. Around 5 years later we opened our 1st mall store; 4 additional mall stores soon followed. We were super busy and always had huge lines; the business was doing really well. Then along came the Internet and things started to change on the retail front. I remember during this time people started talking about websites and domain names; luckily, I was able to secure SelectATicket.com, which was key since we had to adapt with the times. I feel one of our biggest accomplishments, brought on by the Internet, is the capability to adapt and move on. We are very fortunate to have so many great relationships and partnerships that we’ve established through the years. Adapting to change is important; today we continue to grow our partnerships and our retail presence. Mobile is the future; our mobile app has been in development for about 6 months now and we hope to launch it within the next 60 days. We have done some testing and the feedback has been great. We are really excited about giving our clients and consumers an easy informative way to purchase tickets.
What do you think the future of tickets looks like? (Mobile, Facial Recognition, blockchain)
It’s all the above. I just came back from a ticketing conference where a lot of people were talking Facial Recognition; that and blockchain are the buzzwords right now. The business will change again with the advent of this new technology. We are already seeing it from TicketMaster with Presence. Blockchain has already started several start-ups with more to come. Content Holders will have more control over their product, pricing, distribution and how it’s sold. I always tell my fellow brokers to look for opportunities every time there’s a change in technology; changes in tech tend to disrupt the status quo. Look what the Internet did! It introduced marketplaces like StubHub and now we have consolidation. Our industry is constantly changing and evolving. I think blockchain and open ticketing, that SeatGeek started, will be the wave of the future.
I think it’s a little too early for Facial Recognition; plus, there are privacy concerns that certain organizations will be objecting. Dierks Bentley has already spoken against it. Some of these companies are public so they take on the risk of fans backlashing, which can move stock prices, so they need to proceed with caution. In my opinion, when does it go too far? Right now, I feel the most value in Facial Recognition is for security around artist such as VIP Meet & Greets, where the artists are involved.
What is the main driver of your business?
Being in the business for 40 years, you have to find ways to continually adapt and change with the times. You have to be open to whatever opportunities are available despite the challenges that are out there. It also helps to have a great team who jump through hoops to help make it happen. Fortunately, we have built a great team over the years and we figure things out together.
How do you stay competitive?
We realize the importance of technology, so we are excited to launch our newly rebuilt mobile app; with state-of-the-art features and functionality that will improve the customers buying experience. We try to position our company to be ahead of the wave instead of behind it or on top of it. I try to stay on top of the industry trends by reading articles on the latest news; who’s doing what and what advances were made in technology. A lot of my peers are used to seeing my posts on social media, particularly on the NATB’s Facebook page. It’s important to know what’s happening in our industry so that you can position your company accordingly. Also, we continue to focus on our relationships and partnerships; our clients continue to recommend our services because they trust us, we’ve always been reliable and dependable. That goes a long way in this industry.
What are your thoughts on TicketMaster’s Verified Fan?
It’s bad for consumers. As an industry, we should be making it easier for fans to buy tickets. When you start putting up roadblocks and restrictions, fans realize they have other choices with what they want to do with their time. Many fans are turned off because they don’t mind paying fair secondary market prices. There was competition which keeps things in check for consumers. When you choke the supply line and reduce competition, prices go up. So, in the end consumers are now forced to pay higher prices. Bruce Springsteen on Broadway is a great example. If you look at Bruce Springsteen prices when Verified Fan was used and not used there’s a 10X the price difference.
How do you see the future relationship between primary and secondary?
I think you’re seeing it now. There are more deals being cut today than ever before. The big difference is that 10+ years ago everything sold out; that was the objective. Today, in most cases, the objective is to maximize revenue; using a good mixed strategy achieves that goal. Part of this strategy is the brokers; no one knows the marketplace better than the local broker. I think teams and Content Holders are beginning to realize that brokers can be an asset to their strategy.
How do you see dynamic pricing impacting the industry now and in the future?
Dynamic pricing is here and is being handled the wrong way. The industry, as a whole, has had problems since the Internet took over. Consumers now see thousands of tickets for sale; there’s transparency. The problem we are dealing with is why should a consumer buy now when the primary market priced the product at its peak price from the get-go? Anytime I speak at conferences that are on the primary side I tell them this, “You are all not in the entertainment business, you are in the commodities business.” We as an industry need to change consumer behavior because of the Internet. We need to reward consumers for buying early and penalize them for purchasing late; just like the airlines do. So, think of it this way, you have a product you are bringing to the market; like the stock market, you want to release your IPO and see it grow. The IPO, in this case, is face value; what happens next in the financial world is you have institutional buyers who buy the stock and move the price (that’s the brokers). You leave a little room and they buy it. You now raise your price and the dynamic pricing model is off and running with the goal being that the last seat is sold at show time for the highest price in the price category. Once you do this, consumers will buy early just like they did in the good old days. You need to create FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and Value; these 2 combined is a winning combination that the industry needs to change consumer behavior.
Is there any recent ticketing news that you would like to comment on?
Technology. I find it interesting that a company’s core business is ticketing, yet they call themselves technology companies because it provides a higher valuation. Money is pouring into tech companies, so it makes sense. Next year we will be SelectATicket, Technology Company…LOL.
What do you think are biggest challenges facing our industry today?
With Mobile Ticketing; it’s too difficult for the consumer to get their tickets. We must improve this experience to the point that when you buy a ticket it’s on your phone and can be transferred without having to go through any mouse traps. Today, if you’re a fan that goes to a lot of shows, you need an app for everything. Everyone wants to control the data, so you need an app on your phone for everything you want to do. The 1st industry player to come out with a universal transfer system will win. I’m dating myself here, but some of you will remember when remote control TV’s first came out. You had like 6 remotes in the house one for every TV; then some smart company developed the universal remote. That is what we need here.
What would you like to see done differently with our industry?
For teams and Content Holders to try working with their local NATB broker; I think they will be pleasantly surprised, to work together as one ticket ecosystem. If there’s a problem, let’s talk about it and work together on how we can make it better for the fan, rather than taking tickets away or creating policies that make things more difficult for fans instead improving their experience. I can see in the very near future that teams will be outsourcing some portion of sales and marketing to their local NATB brokers.
Now we’d like to get the inside scoop on all things NATB.
First, we have to admit that we love a good history lesson. Tell us about how NATB was created and how it has evolved in recent years?
Tom: NATB was formed in 1994 by a group of concerned ticket brokers who wanted to protect consumers and create a positive image of the secondary market. NATB established rules to ensure the public that when dealing with an NATB member, consumers can rely on dependable, trustworthy brokers who will deliver as promised.
Terry: NATB was created by a handful of Brokers, with a vision to establish and conduct business to protect the public and foster a positive perception of the industry. I’ve seen NATB continue to keep this vision alive; they’ve made great advances to help protect the public by offering a 200% Guarantee if you work with an NATB Member. Also, they have great relationships with the Better Business Bureau and Protecting Ticket Rights. NATB is committed to providing a positive ticket buying experience for the public.
What drew you to become a part of the NATB network?
Tom: I wanted to make a difference and help change how our industry was viewed. If you want to have change, you have to step up and do something about it. With NATB, your voice can be heard on a much higher level because there’s power in collective numbers. NATB is very active in lobbying for the rights of our members, consumers, and our industry in general.
What’s new at the conference this year?
Tom: If you attended any of our conferences in the past, you know that the World Ticket Conference changes every year. We always look for interesting topics and guest speakers to participate in our panel discussions. This year, we are bringing in some tech companies who are participating for the first time; their feedback is very valuable in our marketplace and the discussions allow our attendees to ask any questions they might have related to the topics that are being addressed.
Terry: During the course of my 10 years with NATB, it’s been amazing to see our conference grow bigger and better every year. This year we are looking forward to our Opening Keynote speaker, Darren Rovell; along with a new venue, Caesars, more exhibitors and a presentation from Google, just to name a few. The NATB World Ticket Conference committee works diligently to ensure we present the most relevant industry information to our attendees. Our conference is the premier ticketing event where you will get up-to-date information on industry trends, new products, and marketing tips to help you build your business and increase revenue for your company. In addition, you will meet new people and it’s always great connecting with old friends.
What is NATB most interested in right now (industry-wise)?
Tom: This message has not changed since the NATB was formed 24 years ago. Our mission is to give consumers and resellers the ability to buy, trade and sell tickets in an open marketplace. We will continue to educate lawmakers and policymakers on the importance of an open competitive marketplace that provides competition where consumers win.
Where do you want to take NATB?
Tom: NATB will continue to represent our members and ticketing industry in a positive light. We continue to increase our memberships and embrace technology. NATB’s new website will be adding features such as CHAT, which will allow brokers to chat online. We will also be adding a video field where technology players can showcase their products and tools so that our members have access to the latest tech products that can help their business needs. Plus a few other projects that are currently, in the works, just can’t announce yet. The idea is to enhance our member’s experience, networking, and to provide them with knowledge and tools they need to successfully run their businesses. This adds tremendous value to our members.
Can you name one greatest achievement of NATB?
Tom: In July 2008, we invited the primary market to participate in our conference for the first time. Although our attendees had mixed feelings about it at the time, NATB realized that the ticket industry was changing and that we had to get them involved. Looking back, this was a huge milestone for NATB and the stepping stone to secondary and primary market relationships.
Terry: Since NATB’s inception, our association has accomplished so much. One particular achievement that stands out for me is the “32 FOR 32” program. This is a charitable event conceived by the NATB and works directly with the Ronald McDonald House Charities. NATB Members have generously donated over a million dollars in tickets to families in need through the Ronald McDonald Houses nationwide. NATB is a proud, honorary member of the Ray Kroc Heritage Society which recognizes our efforts on its Donor Wall. In addition to donating tickets, our members are proactive in their communities and continue to donate their time and money to lots of great causes. Not only are NATB Members committed to their industry, they are extremely generous.
Alright, we can’t let you go without asking, what is the best event you have attended, or will attend this year?
Tom: There are so many events and conferences that I attended in the last year, but the most memorable was having the opportunity to see Tom Petty again, sadly for the last time. Getting to see him again was very special since I’ve been a fan throughout his career.
Terry: I am a huge fan of the Cirque shows and look forward to catching a new Cirque production in Vegas, of course, after my work is done at the conference.
Thank you, Tom and Terry, for getting us up to speed on what’s going on in the world of NATB.
See you at the Closing Cocktail Party on Saturday from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm at the Monte Cristo!