Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Last ticketing thoughts - for now

During my conversation with Steve at Brown Paper Tickets, a number of issues came up about selling tickets that were not specifically related to any platform, so I wanted to put those comments in a separate "box." I'm including them here in kind of a general "online ticketing roundup" - I think this is where I will end this first round of research into ticketing options, standards, and options.

First, let me say that I've heard some unsolicited good feedback about Vendini, previously discussed here. I still have a bit of an issue with their pop-up window to a 3rd-party website (see below), but as also discussed below, they are one of the few that offers customization / look-and-feel services as part of the package. I know that probably doesn't make sense, so just follow the discussion.

On to some good pointers:
  • Do you really need point-of-sale locations (i.e. non-venue physical source for ticket purchases?)? Most people these days are comfortable picking up a phone to order tickets. So while online ticket purchasing is not quite ubiquitous, that coupled with phone sales will have you covered adequately. The only recommendation Steve made on this point was:
- Youth-oriented events: Youth don't have credit cards. They need a place they can go buy tickets - and preferably in advance....
- Logical tie-ins: Places that do well with point-of-sale locations tend to be the "musical act" (read: rock, pop, hip-hop) tickets being sold at a record store. Let' see, I wanna buy a ticket to the Lhasa concert - and I wanna buy her new CD too.... Doesn't seem as natural with performing arts, unless you're talking about musical theatre maybe?
  • If you have price levels, or even sliding scale, please describe it: When I run the box office at a local theatre, people will ask the difference between the $15 and $20 seats (to which I respond "Your state of grace"- it's pay -what-you-can). It is important for people to know whether it's open seating or "better seats for the higher price" - and they need to know this when purchasing the tickets, not in the "About Our Venue" link off of the main site....
  • If you have a sliding scale, go for broke. Sure, it's a pain to enter a new ticket price for $12, $13, $14, $15, etc. But if it really is sliding scale, slide that scale. $12 - $15 - $20 - $50 - $75. Again, it is paramount here for people to know what it is they are purchasing - good karma, or seats farther away from the riff-raff?
  • Finally, an etiquette comment from Steve that I appreciated: If your event is over $50, include the service fee. It's ridiculous to spend $250 on a ticket (Black Rock City anyone?) and then have to fork over the $2.50 service charge. I'm sure others will disagree on this ("why misrepresent our expenses to the patrons?" vs. "why not make the total ticket price $210 an pocket the extra?"), but I thought it a good comment worth repeating.

The security issue: Some online ecommerce systems - including some ticket systems - will customize their own ticket purchase page to match the "look and feel" of the originating website. I.e.. You want to buy a ticket for a show at The Uptown Performing Arts Center (TUPAC for short)- you click on the "Purchase Tix" button, and you are taken to a new page with not only the logo in the corner, but the same colors, fonts, etc. You "feel" like you're still on the TUPAC website, but if you look at the URL, you've been punted to - a 3rd party website (you and TUPAC being the first two parties).

While this was industry standard for a while, redirecting to a new URL/ website is now security and privacy breach standard. It's also the one main concern I have with Vendini, because when you use them, users are linked to a 3rd party website - you just don't' see it because the new window that pops up does not have a URL bar.

However, what Vendini has done right, which puts it in front of the other contenders for theatres with an identifiable image and legitimate website, is offer a ticketing solution that looks elegant and seamless (yes, as it punts you to the Vendini site) - all for about the same price as other ticketing solutions. And that is a coup - because it maintains the aura of professionalism that theatres in that middle ground of (web, not art) legitimacy want to project.

I think I'm going to be pursuing some discussions of fair use and creative commons licenses in the near future as I move on from this topic for now.


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