Goldstar, the half-price online ticket seller, has just reached a milestone in its nine-year history: this year, the company sold its 5 millionth ticket, and coinciding with this achievement, it is rolling out a new feature meant to help fans more easily attend events with their friends.
The “Sit with Friends” tool, operating quietly on the membership-based site for a few months but just officially launched, seeks to address the logistical problems that event goers face when they want to find seats together with friends. Traditionally, this has required all the friends to be present with credit cards in hand at the time of purchase, or else one person has had to take on the risky role of “group purchaser,” hoping that those who said they were attending actually follow through and reimburse the buyer.
The new feature pops up when a Goldstar user makes a ticket purchase, offering to generate a personalized link which can then be shared with the ticket buyer’s friends via email and other social media. Using this link to purchase their own tickets allows these friends to be seated automatically with the original buyer, bypassing all other sections.
In recent months, several ticketing companies have launched similar social media-based features that allow users to find their friends and coordinate ticket purchases, including Ticketmaster with its new Facebook tagging option.
“Everyone wants to go [to events] with more people,” Goldstar CEO Jim McCarthy told TicketNews. “It’s more fun with more people, but then you have to buy tickets and hope it’s the right number, or you just buy tickets for yourself and run the risk of not being seated with your friends.”
With the new, patent-pending system, “You can buy your own tickets and then share a link…and when [your friends] buy, it doesn’t matter when, as long as there are tickets available our system basically consolidates those purchases so that they are seated together. It’s low maintenance.”
McCarthy notes that the “Sit with Friends” feature has been a popular one on the site, with a minimum of a thousand users to date. “People use it fairly frequently,” he said. “In some cases you’d see a group grow from two to four to eight to 16, because people have published it. That’s neat to see.”
This new feature is just one of a number of happenings for the company, which boasts two million total users and over 4,000 relationships with venues throughout the U.S. Growth in new geographic areas has advanced rapidly, going from serving 10 major U.S. markets just a year ago to now serving over 20, including New York, Las Vegas, Boston, Washington DC and Portland, OR. Service in the Philadelphia area starts this month, with plans to move into the Miami, Denver and Phoenix markets in the next nine to 12 months.
And that’s not all. “We’re looking at more ways we can provide richer data to our venue partners,” McCarthy said. “[And] we’re going to be rolling out a new program that, in essence, will scale our discounts for venues. If it’s appropriate to do a discount that’s not 50 percent, then we’ll do it, [providing] that wider range of price points for venues.” McCarthy estimates roll out of this new feature to occur in the fall.
Operating among many in the burgeoning ticket discount business (for example, Groupon Live and ScoreBig) all trying to grab a piece of the distressed inventory pie, McCarthy insists that Goldstar does not define itself as primarily a discount ticketer.
“Our focus isn’t necessarily to market at discount, its marketing live entertainment as a whole,” he said. “What we have always focused on is building interest and excitement for live entertainment itself. Virtual consumption is the enemy of live entertainment. We have a base of 2 million people who say, ‘We’d like to go out to live entertainment more,’ and our job is to help them overcome all the barriers of that, change the person from wanting or thinking of going to actually going. We are not just splitting the pie. We are growing the pie for live entertainment.”