Talking Tickets: 27 March 2020–Take Care Of Yourself! Twitch! TV Money! Marketing and More!

Hey There! 

Thanks for being here again this week.

If you’ve been finding value in the newsletter and the things I’ve been sharing, could you do me a favor and share this newsletter with someone that would get value from it?

I’d appreciate it!

Like I mentioned last week if you have some cool thing that you are working on to boost the industry right now…let me know and I will share it. LiveNation is doing a cool concept called ‘Sound of Silence‘ to support the Australian music industry and they have some really great t-shirts! The money raised will go to support artist crews and workers in the Australian live entertainment sector.

Last week, I co-hosted a virtual Happy Hour with Ken Troupe and I think we may have put the wrong link in the email here. But we had a few people, some laughs, and some fun. So we are going to try it again this afternoon at 5PM EST.

Want to connect with folks throughout this crisis and economically troubled time, I’ve put together a Slack channel for folks in the entertainment business to have a place to chat and connect.

To the tickets!

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1. The recovery and return of games is being driven by…TV:

I’ve been telling y’all for years that you have to be careful if you put too many eggs in one basket. And, the coronavirus pandemic has taught us a lot of lessons about planning, risk, and business.

The great thing is that we are starting to see folks start talking about getting back to work, playing games, putting on shows, and all of these things.

But as we move out of the collapse of the economy and the pandemic eventually turns to a point where we can get back to business, we have to start thinking about our business models.

What are they?
Why are we doing what we do?
What do we want our businesses to be?

I put in a piece last week talking about everything being different, but what does that mean?

I’ve run across a lot of articles this week highlighting the impact that TV is having, driving decision making on returning to the field, making arrangements, and other decisions.

The TV money is awesome. It has provided tremendous opportunities.

But as we move into a new normal, we also have to ask if the TV money has also led to stagnant business models, lack of innovation, and a loss of control of the decision-making process.

As a noted contrarian, these ideas aren’t mutually exclusive.

Look, when Premier League teams are potentially going bankrupt without TV money, that’s the definition of too heavily weighted in one direction to me.

What will happen to the tickets? Fans in stadiums?

Also, will we see a trend of cord-cutting and subscription cancellations that leads to customers leaving and never returning? And, what about the ‘make goods’ that the networks and leagues will have to provide?

Several folks I spoke with over the last week or two have mentioned that the attendance numbers haven’t ever really recovered since 2008. Then you see stories like this one claiming that a Champions League match could have been ground zero for Europe’s coronavirus outbreak and it gives you pause.

Are these people wrong? Am I wrong? Because I’ve been highlighting this for years, empty seats is more than just a price issue or a new normal…it is an existential crisis.

I’m still working through my own process of what comes next for me, but I can tell you three things to think about:

1. What is the value you want to deliver?
2. Who is your buyer?
3. How are you going to reach them?

2. The pandemic and economic meltdown bring out the best and the worst:

Last week I shared the story of Amy Kline and how she organized singing in her neighborhood. This week I saw Joe’s post about how creativity is more important than ever.

That’s the great thing about art, it brings out the best in us in troubled times.

Goldstar has put together a nice program to help arts organizations weather the storm.

While Mark Cuban has been out at the front about making sure that sports teams take care of their hourly workers during the coronavirus shutdown.

On the other hand, in Boston, I’ve seen a lot of stories about how the Bruins and Delaware North have been placing folks on leave for “temporary business stabilization measures.” And, to use the kid’s term, Josh Harris and David Blitzer were “dragged” over their decision to cut most of their staff’s pay by 20% and then quickly turned around on that decision.

At the NHL offices in NYC, we are seeing salaries cut 25% to try and avoid layoffs.

3. We are still holding for any sign of light for events to begin again in many parts of the world:

Football clubs in Europe are still working on finishing their season by June 30th so that the regular club year can begin on July 1st.

Whether or not that is reasonable is still unknown, the British FA is being very aggressive in their pursuit of finding a way to save the season and make certain that clubs at all levels survive after the pandemic and the economic collapse that is going along with it.

MLB is likely to be hurt the most in the short term just because they are missing their Opening Day launching pad and combining that with a high likelihood that the NHL and NBA may end up playing their playoffs in competition with the launch of baseball during the summer months, god willing.

For me, the question isn’t just when will events come back, but what kinds of events will people come back for?

I’m thinking that this is likely to look a little like the airline industry after 9/11 and there is an interesting study that says that things won’t be distributed the same way when events come back.

What do y’all think?

From where I sit, we are going to have to think through how teams, leagues, and companies manage risk and planning going forward. I think that was always the case, but this crisis is highlighting how close to the edge many organizations are.

If you are totally jonesing for sports, I can point you to Belarus and Twitch!

4. In the States, I think we are going to see a huge change in the way that tickets are sold going forward: 

I mean, at this point, I don’t think we should be too surprised by the number of layoffs and troubles that the world of live events is facing. This pandemic hit at the heart of everything many of us do all day, every day.

But I think what is going to be interesting to see coming out on the other side is what comes next in tickets.

For a long time, I’ve partnered with Booking Protect as they’ve worked to deliver the best refund protection in the world of tickets and events.

Their commitment to maintaining a high level of service throughout the pandemic highlights something that really should have already been a primary consideration for folks, how do we give the ticket buyer more flexibility in their purchase terms and how do we meet customers in a way that reflects the reality of their jobs, their schedules, their health, and lives that don’t always conform to the events we’ve planned for months in advance.

In Australia in November, Maureen Andersen gave the closing keynote at the Ticketing Professionals Conference of Australia and she talked about elevating the level of service in the industry and an example that stuck in my mind was the idea of “all sales are final” or “no refunds, no exchanges.”

In the context of Maureen’s speech, these concepts just aren’t good enough for the modern customer of November…I think we can all agree that the reality of our customers has changed a lot in the 4 months since I heard her talk about this in Australia.

More, I think her point was that we have to end this idea that our default should be to figure out how to say, “yes” as much as we possibly can to every one of our guests.

I don’t have to tell any of y’all where I fall down on that idea.

You combine these ideas with the story of the secondary market platforms faltering under the strain of the coronavirus induced shutdowns and, in the States, you see that the model of sales is going to have to change going forward.

And, the state of what to do with all of the tickets that are postponed or canceled currently is another sticking point that is likely to drive this thinking for some folks. This particular part of the challenge confronts folks around the world.

Let me give you a couple of reasons why:

First, for far too long at this point, much of the risk for many teams, productions, and events have been born by the secondary market.

You’ve seen this in the rise of consolidation, ticket arbitrage, the fan broker model and a lot of other moves that consumers and professionals have had to make to attempt to either afford their tickets or to drive value into the ticketing ecosystem.

Effectively, what we’ve seen happen is that in the drive to maximize revenue at every touchpoint we’ve put so much pressure on brokers, consolidators, and fans, that the risk has returned to the teams and content producers because STHs can’t afford their tickets, the secondary market might not see a return on a partnership, and corporate partners may not see the value or need in having so much inventory at such high prices.

Now, you are likely to see a scenario where the secondary market either reconsiders their risk tolerance or the secondary market doesn’t have the financial ability to assume as much risk. Combined with consumers feeling the pinch from the pandemic and the accompanying financial crisis, and the movement for a lot of corporate customers to reevaluate their ticket packages and ticket investments…and what do you have, potentially, a tremendous amount of trouble!

BTW, we could see many brokers and platforms go out of business or change the way they operate their businesses.

What will that mean for ticket sales?

Second, the model of Glengarry Glenn Ross type selling that still dominates most American sports teams is likely going to need to be revisited.

Patrick Ryan sums it up when he mentions losing “half your net worth and having some 25-year-old kid calling up” threatening to take away your tickets at the height of a panic as really bad for your brand. And, Aaron Holland talks about being more agile in the way that you create value for your ticket buyers.

How will you adapt to these realistic factors in your ticket sales process?

Finally, my favorite topic of marketing needs to regain its spot as a strategic priority.

I’m sure I’ve written and said more than anyone on the need for marketing to lead the way in ensuring that we are maximizing our attendance and revenue in sports, theatre, arts, and entertainment.

This is going to be more important than ever. And, spoiler, the old ways of marketing aren’t going to necessarily cut it any longer.

We will need to focus on response, revenue generation, and demand creation over brand building. In a way, I believe that the TV partners and other partners do a really great job of building the brand of teams, venues, events, and performers, but they do a poor job of selling and maximizing revenue because that’s not what they are designed for.

The simplest way to kickstart something like this is to rethink the outcomes you are trying to produce instead of getting stuck in the mindless tail-chasing of doing things because everyone else is doing them.

So…if you need to sell tickets, how are these channels going to help? What does success look like? Where can I find an example of someone achieving this outcome either in tickets or outside of it?

FYI, this piece about marketing being everyone’s job could have been written by me!

5. I hope this pandemic and economic slowdown resolves itself quickly, but I want y’all to be safe: 

I’ve had friends from all around the world send me well wishes and notes of concern because I live in DC. And, I don’t want to get political but I do want to tell you no matter where you are in the world, listen to the professionals, be careful about what you information you intake, and take care of yourself as we work through this.

My lady has taken over my office right now, but I have kept a bust of FDR (I think bust is the right term) next to my desk since I started working out of my office about 5 years ago because FDR was kind of Georgia’s first president. And, I know for many people we are dealing with a lot of uncertainty and a lot of stress. I’m not the president so I can’t go on the TV and calm the world’s nerves, but I can share FDR’s first inaugural address where he said the famous line: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

It is a tough time. As I’ve mentioned everywhere in the last few weeks, we are in this together. If you need me, let me know. You can email, text, call, WhatsApp, or whatever your preferred method of connection is. I’m here for you. And, after having gone through the 2008 financial crisis, I recognize that one of the most important things we can do for anyone is just be a friend, a shoulder, or someone to bounce ideas off of.

Importantly for me, thank you for paying attention…writing this week’s newsletter was really therapeutic and in a way felt like a meditation on business and life. So thanks again for being here! 

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What am I up to this week?

I’m hosting 3 webinars this week on topics that I hope you or your team or colleagues might find useful during the current pandemic but also heading out of it…

On Tuesday, March 31st at 11 AM EDT, I’m going to take some of those concepts and ideas I talked about in section 4 and create a webinar to help you come up with some new ideas to sell more tickets in the future. I’m going to cover value for the premium buyer, messaging, incentives, value, and more. I hope to see you there.

On Wednesday, April 1st at 3 PM EDT, I’m putting together one that is all about value and how you can create value for your clients and prospects in crisis times. We will cover whether you should be selling, how to offer insights, and how you can become a resource to your market.

On Thursday, April 2 at 12 PM EDT, I’ve put together a webinar with Frederic Aouad from Stay22 on leading a sales team during the pandemic. We will discuss how doing the right thing is the most important thing you can do right now, helping your sales team see the light at the end of the tunnel, changing performance metrics, and delivering value.

You can also listen to the previous webinars: The Language of the Sale and What Matters In Tickets Now! as well! Check out The Business of Fun archives and I will get back to posting podcasts this week with an interesting conversation with Queue-It North American CEO, Phil Hansen. 

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