Live Nation Entertainment Chairman Irving Azoff, known for not backing down from a challenge, recently questioned AEG and Outbox Technology’s ability to differentiate its new ticketing effort from the myriad of competitors already dominated by Live Nation’s Ticketmaster division.
In an interview published this week by Billboard, Azoff said he does not think that AEG/Outbox’s “white label” ticketing solution — a software model where the venue controls its own ticketing and branding — will unseat Ticketmaster’s model of a one-stop shop for tickets to events at a multitude of venues. Ticketing pioneer Fred Rosen, who joined Outbox last year, created Ticketmaster’s model in the 1980s when he was the company’s CEO, but he is now singing the praises of the white label solution.
“My personal opinion is they and us have a very different view of the Web,” Azoff told Billboard, referring to Outbox. “History shows fans want consolidation, you see it across the web every place. The big players are people like Google, Amazon, eBay, Facebook. The great thing about Ticketmaster is that it’s seen as the comprehensive site for ticketing, artist information, venue information. We’re a marketing platform, not just a technology platform, and we’re going to build on it. From what I understand from all of these announcements, Outbox intends to be in the business of providing tools for venues. We think the game is really about who can sell more tickets. I don’t see how they separate themselves from the myriad of competitors that we already have. How are they different from Paciolan or Veritix, Tickets.com, Ticketfly or any of those sites?”
Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) teamed up with Outbox to become a viable competitor to Ticketmaster, a move that had the blessing of the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division following the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger. AEG, one of Ticketmaster’s largest clients, had the option of licensing Ticketmaster’s ticketing software to create its own ticketing operation, or teaming up with another company.
The Justice Department wanted to improve competition in the ticketing industry, and it not only gave AEG the opportunity to inject itself into the space, the government agency also required Ticketmaster to divest its Paciolan ticketing division to Philadelphia’s Comcast-Spectacor, operator of New Era Tickets.
Outbox, TicketFly, TicketBiscuit, TicketForce, Vendini and others use variations of the white label model, which all strongly believe is the future of ticketing because it gives venues control over their ticket inventory, marketing and customer base. A small but growing number of venues are beginning to agree, but none of these competitors comes anywhere close to rivaling Ticketmaster in size, scope or reach.
In fact, Azoff bragged that Ticketmaster’s customer database boasts 180 million names.
“What I don’t understand is, none of them are talking about how to market and sell tickets; they’re just talking about ‘we’re going to give you a site you can you run yourself.’ I think running a bunch of individual sites is inefficient from a marketing perspective,” Azoff told Billboard‘s Ray Waddell. “Should every building have their own brand? Yeah, but it confuses fans. [Fans] just want to go on Ticketmaster and find their ticket. We’re about marketing, we’ve got unparalleled distribution, we’re the third largest e-commerce site in the world. We’re going to be in 1,100 kiosks in Wal-Mart by April. Our mobile app with Apple, they’re helping us redesign and fine-tune before we roll it out big, but they’re thrilled with that. Don’t forget, we have a 180-million name database.”
Yet, that 180-million name database is one thing that could actually work against Ticketmaster, because more and more venues want to handle their own customer relationship management processes.
Rosen, himself, told Billboard that while Ticketmaster is still the 800-pound gorilla in the ticketing industry, the model is dying.
“The fact is when buildings discover that they can do transactions on their own websites, it makes all their websites significantly more valuable. Because when you do transactions within a website, you’re keeping that customer,” he said. “When I say the ‘middle man model is dead,’ it’s not dead for Ticketmaster yet, but it’s dead for anybody to show up and say ‘I’m creating Marvin’s Ticketing Company.’ There’s not going to be another brand created, that’s over.”