There was a certain smugness amongst my live music friends as they saw the record industry implode under the impact of the digital revolution. The only cloud on the horizon was how to get our hands on the money being generated in the secondary ticket market. This reminded me of the enthusiasm of the record companies a decade ago as they dreamt of getting their customers to buy their record collection again in digital format, just like they had managed with CDs (phew wasn’t that a bonanza, didn’t it make us all look good!). They forgot to notice that delivering CDs had already digitised the recordings and it did not take long for Napster to come along and open the digital flood gates.
They tried to stop it, just like the live boys and girls dreamt of stopping secondary ticketing. The point is that we have to adapt our business models to the reality of the potential of the digital/internet world. We could all become day traders at home, and we could all become ticket touts. The digital revolution gives us all access to a huge and dynamic market place (eBay etc). Expecting people not to exploit the technology of trading online is like expecting them not to swap music files online. Trying to stop trading will be as effective as attempts to stop people ripping, encoding and exchanging digital files.
So let’s get to grips with reality and look around for guidance. Ryanair has the same problem as concert promoters, namely how to maximise income, with uncertain demand and with a limited capacity. The airline
industry’s approach is to use dynamic pricing, creating a situation where the one thing we know when we get on a plane is that our neighbour did not pay the same as we did for our tickets. The day of the ticket having a fixed price is gone.
What we need is a system that we choose which maximises the possibility y of selling out the venue. We need to always remember the fact that an empty seat generates no income. A seat that is filled, but was free to the consumer is still liable to generate income, through beer sales or merch sales, or by the punter enjoying him/herself and deciding to go to another gig in the future.
To let the secondary ticket market fall into the hands of parasites is absurd. We have to find a way of putting the money in our hands rather than that of external agents who add nothing to the pool of money for the venues, agents, promoters and artists. Managers and artists have to realise that it is impossible to guess the right price to fill the venue. They also have to realise that if they don’t have a high enough capacity to satisfy demand there will be a secondary market. If you want to keep the price down then you have to commit to more shows. If you want to sell out you may have to give tickets away. No longer are we in a world of 1000 tickets @ £20 each, but rather in a world of 1000 tickets at between £100 and 10p each according to demand.
My solution is that promoters, venues, agents and the artists should control the ticket agencies and move into the 21st century. This will enable us to find the right prices for our tickets in the new era of austerity. We are all going to have to be a bit more clever and get a used to earning a lot less money in the shrinking market that is likely to be ours in the next decade.