Friday, January 28, 2005

Online ticketing solutions - the first parameters

I want to explore what a good ticketing solution would look like. One of your main jobs as a house manager at a small performing arts theatre is balancing the number of seats available with the number of reservations, pre-paid tickets, and potential walk-ins.

Obviously, the aim is to get as many people to buy tickets in advance as possible - this gives you a cash bonus before the show. But your job is to produce art - not to manage a computer system that processes credit cards, right? As with most of our recommendations concerning complex systems for small organizations, my first instinct is to look at outsourcing ticket solutions - at the very least, for credit card purchases.

However, we quickly run into challenges if we have a solution for only one part of the process (advance credit card transactions, as opposed to reservations or tickets purchased at the door). Already we are smack in the middle of several very typical technology issues:
  • Security (of credit card transactions)
  • Data transfer (how does online purchase information get back to the nonprofit?)
  • Data integration (how does the organization consolidate the pre-paid tickets with reservations, which are typically taken directly by the organization?)

There's a lot to examine here - maybe I'm making it too complicated? Let's start simple, with some specific parameters. For now, let's look at a performing arts organization that has:
  • A fixed venue (i.e. a fixed number of seats)
  • A single pricing fee (i.e. $15 for a show, regardless of where you sit)
So here are the questions I'm already preparing for my research: what's available, and at what cost? How and when does the nonprofit get the ticket information? And more importantly, when does it get the money? What are the surcharges? How easy is it to get started?

We can eventually look at organizations that have a sliding scale or multiple ticket prices (students, seniors, etc); as well as "nomad" organizations that may need to change the number of available seats depending on the performance venue.

I know that there are a number of obvious solutions out there, and I've already recommended - or not - a few of them depending on the particulars. But each of those situations has been fairly different from the next, and so it is impossible here to start with a broad recommendation.

I wanted to establish the above specific criteria so when we look at services, we can get closer comparing oranges to... at least some other kind of citrus fruit. I am also not looking at the large complicated venues that have tiered pricing( depending on the seat location and night, etc) because honestly, the it's the small (100 seat or less) performing arts organizations that have not yet cracked the nut of online ticket selling.

I want to find out if that nut is worth cracking.... (Or the orange is worth peeling?)

(found in: ticketing, nptech)


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