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#TBF24: Drip pricing, mega events and the grassroots levy under discussion

Images: Paul Heyes

Images: Paul Heyes

Ethical ticketing, technology and mega events were among the discussion points during a busy conference programme at the 2024 TheTicketingBusiness Forum at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester.

Representatives from sports, entertainment and arts bodies, venues, and major ticketing operators and suppliers were among those who participated in panel sessions, keynotes and presentations.

The conference began with an introduction from TheTicketingBusiness Forum Co-Founder Ian Nuttall, who asked whether the evidence suggests the events sector is now navigating its way towards calmer waters following the challenges of pandemic lockdowns and rising costs. A panel representing a broad range of interests then looked at the hottest topics from resale to regulation and streaming to staying at home. Panellists included Ticketek’s Claire Bartley, NEC Group’s Noel Edwards, Consultant Billy Partridge and Blue Man Group’s Jack Kenn.

Kenn also took attendees through Blue Man Group’s decades at the top of US and international entertainment in a fireside chat with Nuttall. He explained how the organisation keeps the show fresh and up to date, lifting the lid on the global relationships that have helped it reach new audiences.

Some of the world’s greatest sports and entertainment events were represented and discussed in a session dedicated to mega events. Shah-Zeib Ahmed, a veteran of several FIFA World Cups, moderated a panel looking at the future of these sports events, concerts and festivals. FIFA’s Ticketing Product Management Team Lead, Karol Checinski, looked ahead to the challenges of the 2026 World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico, where a ticketing strategy is being developed for three different host nations. Consultant Billy Partridge brought his experience from the 2023 Eurovision in Liverpool, where organisers had just a matter of months to plan for what was effectively a multi-day music festival.

“These are the events we all love. They are so important for our culture and the success of our ticketing strategies can be so important,” Ahmed said.

The future of grassroots music venues

The other end of the events market was considered in another panel session, which was focussed on the UK’s grassroots music venues. Music Venue Trust’s Mark Davyd outlined concerns about the current state of the market – with two venues closing each week, according to a recent report – and gave an update on the implementation of a levy on large arenas and stadiums. MVT is pushing for a voluntary £1 surcharge on tickets, but it could be much more, he warned, if enforced by legislation.

“This needs to be done. There is no time for delay,” Davyd said.

Sound City managing director Rob March, who is also the founder of start-up GigMate, and Planet Fans’ Thomas Rhodes explained how technology can be used to ensure that the continuing demand for live music translates into busier venues and a healthier market.

Staying with live music, Fast Forward’s Chris Carey gave an update on the UK market and had a broadly positive message to deliver. “It’s not getting worse!” was how Carey generously described the data. Among the stand-out figures, collected for the LIVE entertainment trade group, were that audience concerns about financial pressures are easing. However, the 25-34 year old demographic remains a challenging target as they wait longer to buy and remain concerned about cost.

The relationship between travel, tourism and ticketing was under discussion in a session led by NEC Group’s Noel Edwards. Among the panellists was’s Willem-Jan Brabers, whose company wants to offer a more comprehensive service to those visiting a city to attend a show. Lovetovisit’s Georgia Aubrey discussed how attractions and activities – from museums to pumpkin picking – are embracing opportunities presented by event discovery services.

Where is digital ticketing going?

“Blockchain is dead,” was the eye-catching statement from SOLT’s Jamie Snelgrove in a discussion concerning digital ticketing. Tiffin Feltner, director of ticketing at two venues in the US state of Arkansas, spoke of the True Tickets solution used at Walton Arts Center and Walmart AMP which mimics blockchain but is considered more flexible and scalable. SOLT’s Snelgrove also outlined the growth of digital take-up among the theatre group’s members, however even now paper still accounts for up to 40% of tickets at some venues.

In another session, Digonex CEO Greg Loewen shone a spotlight on the impacts of dynamic pricing, while Matt Rothman and Vikram Rajkumar, International Business Development and Account Director respectively at Satisfi Labs, lifted the lid on how artificial intelligence (AI) is driving efficiency and revenues in venue management.

Building on the AI theme, Joe Calnan, Partnership Director – Ticketing at Cover Genius, spoke about how embedded protection can allow ticketing partners to increase core conversions, with customers willing to spend considerably more for peace of mind.

Meanwhile, Matt Thorley and Will George, Head of Sales and Head of E-Commerce respectively at Tate, were joined by Tom Dawson, Director of Digital at the Association for Cultural Enterprises, to reveal how the launch of an omnichannel website has supported significant growth.

Drip pricing opposed

After lunch on the first day, an engaging panel session on all-in pricing showcased universal opposition to drip pricing, but acknowledged challenges and potential inconsistencies in clamping down on the issue.

After 3D Digital Venue Co-Founder and Head of Business Development Francis Casado, demonstrated the potential use of a ChatGPT-style platform for ticketing conversions, a panel of experts dissected the challenges and opportunities of biometrics in ticketing. Fred Fischer, VP of Global Sales at Wicket, stressed the opportunity to use the technology to slash queuing times.

On the second day of the Forum on the East Stage, the importance of digital touchpoints in the customer journey was stressed by all panel participants.

Claire Bartley, General Manager of Ticketek – UK, highlighted the “saturated” social space as a challenge.

Following an insightful and entertaining case study by Freelance Ticketing & Event Consultant Billy Partridge on the Eurovision Song Contest 2023, a ‘town hall’ session on innovation versus tradition in the ticketing space featured Paolo Monguzzi, Juventus FC’s Head of Stadium Revenue & Entertainment, noting that the lifelong fan journey begins with five to seven-year-olds.

Evolving offers in the digital era were explored in the penultimate panel session, with Thomas Willdridge, Global Head of Pricing Strategy at On Location, outlining the changing target audiences for premium packages as the Paris 2024 Olympic Games comes over the horizon.

The final session ended the Forum on a positive note, with panel participants delving into the opportunities of adopting ‘ethical ticketing’.