Ticketmaster… and Alternatives

At Multipass we care about the state of ticketing. I mean, it’s what we do, but we also buy tickets to events that are on other platforms. Recently, one of the big players has been in the news.

Ticketmaster has been the most familiar name in ticketing for a long time now. They service the biggest venues in North America and don’t have a lot of competition in that space. Big venues have dedicated ticketing scanning hardware (more than just a barcode scanner) and that’s an investment. They are locked into contracts that span years. Changing these sorts of things is not inexpensive, nor without effort and commitment.

Thirteen years ago (2009) Ticketmaster took another step and merged with LiveNation, one of the largest event promoters in the country. Having a lock on both the shows and the tickets gave them a one-stop monopoly. This has given them a way to charge exorbitant service fees and there’s nothing the consumer can do about it. If you want to see a specific show then you have to pony up both the ticket price and the fees.

Recently they made news when their infrastructure failed to keep up with the demand for Taylor Swift’s new tour. People were experiencing multiple charges with no tickets to show, losing tickets that were supposedly being held in their cart, or simply being unable to use the site at all. A month before that, Ticketmaster made waves with an experimental pricing feature that was inspired by surge pricing on Uber, where the price varies based on supply and demand. Blink 182 tickets when on sale and shoppers were staring down rates of over $600. Either of these would have been bad publicity, but both happening in rapid succession certainly has people talking, with a buzz building about breaking up their monopoly.

The only competitor in the big venue space is AXS. If a big venue is not on Ticketmaster, it’s likely on AXS. They also run and promote events, sometimes also owning the host venues. They control shows and fees, like Ticketmaster, and in both cases the fees are steep. For AXS and Ticketmaster shows, service fees seem to start at 25% and have been as high as 50%, and this is on top of the ticket price.

Ticket prices themselves vary. Some seem palatable, more so with AXS, but tickets to most Ticketmaster shows are themselves massively priced, and that’s only speaking to tickets sold directly from Ticketmaster to buyers. Once we get into the scalper market, prices double, triple, or more. There are various avenues for purchasing aftermarket tickets, but Ticketmaster does have one of its own and, you guessed it, big fees. It’s a vague and nebulous topic, but there are accounts of how Ticketmaster may be giving priority ticket access to buyers who intend to purchase the bulk of available tickets. Ticketmaster will make their fee on the original sale, then another fee on the resale.

The ticket-buying process isn’t bad, but it’s not great. You have to make a free account on Ticketmaster in order to do anything. If all you want is one ticket to one show, make an account. Generally, the flow is okay. You choose your seat, if applicable, then you buy your tickets. These days you also have to wade through a handful of additional offers, most of which you’ll never care about or use.

The current leader in the next tier of events is EventBrite. For mid-sized and small events they are the current most popular offering. They’re doing a lot of things right and haven’t alienated nearly as many people as Ticketmaster , but sometimes their fees are still high and there are many types of legal events that they opt not to ticket as part of their policy. There are other smaller platforms that have some level of traction at events I see here in Denver. There truly are a lot of events and there are a lot of ticketing opportunities.

There is also a home in the ticketing space for us here at Multipass. We listened to event producers and tried to address the pain points we heard. We have a streamlined checkout process, with accounts being completely optional. Our fees are extremely competitive, charging 80-90% less than Ticketmaster while also having our stated figure account for credit card charges.

Our tagline is “Experience Humanity”. This refers to the events that people are creating, and sharing their own passions with you, but also applies to the ticketing process itself. We want to help you get to know more about event producers via blog posts and short videos, and we want the ticketing process to feel personal. If you call us we want you to talk with a human. If you have questions, we can help you set up your events. Multipass donates 5% of all service fees collected (gross, not just from our profit) to worthy causes, starting with the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation which focuses on mental health research and treatment.

Could we have handled the Taylor Swift ticket drop? Since the biggest in the world couldn’t handle it, it would be foolish to say that we’d have done better. That said, there are other ways to handle events with huge drops (waiting rooms, lottery, ticket drop staggered by city), and advising on that strategy would have been part of our offering. We would have also scaled up our infrastructure, just like all quality sites do at times of pre-anticipated need. That said, we’re not going for those venues, nor are we servicing a world tour for one of the planet’s most popular musicians.

Quality experiences and personal service, join us as we try to put humanity back into event ticketing.