by Ian Taylor, Special to TicketNews
I read the news today, oh boy.
It’s only fitting that these lyrics, the very heart of modern music, should ring in my ears as I read news of Amazon Tickets closure.
Having worked very closely with them on behalf of my past and present clients, the news is both a shock but also unsurprising.
It’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever know fully the decisions and reasons for Amazon to cut this part of the business, so I can judge this only by what I know and what I can speculate on.
What I know is that Amazon’s internal view of business, and their mighty will, saw the UK Tickets operation as the start of something global. They grew very quickly but always struggled with their operational magnitude being sometimes at odds with how fluid live event ticketing can be. All this stems from their number one priority; the customer, and it’s a noble quest to ensure the customer is happy and that every action they take is risk-averse in terms of the customer experience being upset.
But for a promoter or marketing agency, the lure of Amazon is in the ability to target customers who buys retail product, who are also likely a ripe prospect for any live incarnation of that. They know the customers who like Star Wars, like Disney, like Lego – so targeting those for live events and exhibition tickets is a no-brainer, surely. And I’ve seen it work, very successfully, in the family entertainment genre.
However, Amazon had loftier goals to be able to tie in the live music experience with the sale of music, or product, by that artist. They also saw the industry trends for customers desiring a richer live experience and partnered with the highest profile London venues to create private lounges, exclusive spaces for Amazon customers. And here, I believe, is where they started to falter.
Amazon Tickets were suddenly offering a huge range of product, every West End show (this is where they started), exclusive access to inventory and presales (often exclusive) meant that they had a large number of masters to please, venues needing lounges full, promoters with expectations of what Amazon could deliver and ironically this is where the customer lost out; and the customer didn’t even know it.
I’d heard multiple times that integration of Tickets into the main Amazon retail site ‘was coming’, but it never came. They had considered, and I guess dismissed, developing their own live event ticketing solution which (even for Amazon) is actually a really difficult undertaking at that scale. And as they grew, my perception was that the retail side of their business were more and more protective over Tickets offering data (and marketing) to those invested customers of known artists and brands.
In effect, they were marketing to their own pool of data and customers, which would have grown steadily by virtue of the deals they were doing attracting new customers after the act, not after becoming a Tickets customer, and not after getting that ticket to that artists they wanted – buying again. And the prices were no less challenging than other areas of the market, so what was it that they offered that nobody else did?
Prime was attempted, giving presales just to Prime members, in an attempt I would assume to boost Prime signup for the Amazon business as a whole. But the volumes I saw were very small and would have likely disappointed promoters trusting Amazon with a presale, and that quickly went away.
Ultimately, the live music business in the UK isn’t going to be revolutionised overnight. Amazon tried to evolve it and to an extent, they did do some smart things, but they still had to ‘fit’ within an existing sector and I guess this didn’t sit well with them, especially when their reported plans for US expansion (otherwise known as the ‘big bucks’) failed to go as planned.
That said, they do leave a hole in the landscape – Amazon is a trusted brand for many customers, and despite some odd self-imposed hurdles, my understanding was that the customer experience via the platform was improving day by day. But as many folk trust them, as many probably don’t – and indeed many promoters would not work with them for a long time (some still wouldn’t).
We at bigdog Live wish the team (past and present) well – they are smart, clever and resourceful people who will no doubt continue to thrive, either as Amazonians or (and we’d be lucky to have them) in the live entertainment space – as I’m sure we as an industry could learn much from their experiences.
Who else then can step in, with the muscle and global brand, to take live music ticketing and marketing into the future? It’s ironic that the lyrics quote above came from an album with a small Apple logo on the sleeve, as it’s probably a different Apple that will be eying this opportunity with interest.