Talking Tickets 15 May 2020–AFL! Bundesliga! Refunds! And, More!

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Hey There! 

Thanks for being here again this week. If you are enjoying this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues to sign up by visiting this link.

Don’t forget to check out what we are doing in the Slack Channel. The folks in there try to keep it fun and light while offering up ideas and perspectives on what they are thinking about, looking at, and doing.

A bunch of great free resources are going on right now, here are 3 from friends of the podcast and the newsletter that are worth your attention:

Eric Fuller has his virtual conference, Rescue Meet, going on the 19th from 9-11 AM PDT. He’s got a couple of conversations lined up with folks from venues, tickets, and the customer side along with a few other tricks, opportunities to connect with folks in the industry to work on solutions and to focus on moving forward.

We Will Recover is an effort started up by Einar, Martin, and the team at Activity Stream over in Europe. Frederic Aouad is co-hosting a webinar with me on 26 May at 9 AM EDT and 2 PM EDT to hit the North American and European markets. We are going to talk about recreating your revenue streams, rethinking your marketing approach, and building events that are destinations for your customers.

Andrew and Carol Thomas have put the Ticketing Professionals Conference online, or as many of the sessions from this year’s event as they could online. There are some really great ones coming up with Kara Parkinson, Kirk Bentley, and a bunch more.

There are a bunch more as well including weekly meetings with INTIX, Pollstar, and more.

And, don’t forget, me and my buddy, Ken Troupe, are hosting happy hour tonight.

To the tickets!

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1. Reopening events is starting to happen: 

I start the week by sharing Dave Grohl’s essay on why we need live entertainment.

Tonight, we will see the first American attempt, potentially, at a social distancing concert in Arkansas. (Spoiler, as I was finishing this up, the event in Arkansas was postponed.)

The Bundesliga is returning as well. 

These are all positive signs. But from my conversations with folks around the industry, we are still a long way off from being together with crowds again.

The UK released a three-phase plan this week. Cinemas are starting to reopen in New Zealand and the certification process for venues and stadiums to reopen safely is well underway.

In the US, we are still playing on the 50 state 50 strategy idea that likely means we are going to continue to experience a prolonged period of waiting for business to start to get back to normal. Which is going down against a backdrop of optimism around the NBA and NHL finishing their seasons and a lot of uncertainty around MLB even getting theirs off the ground.

Again, I’ve been pretty consistent on this one…

Watch what the countries that are out in front are doing like South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, and China…see what works and see what doesn’t, recognizing that in certain countries and places, the response to the virus has been a little more robust, targeted, and comprehensive. Then, adjust accordingly.

I wish I had a better answer, but I think we have to recognize that the path ahead is going to be a bit bumpy and that there isn’t likely to be a straight line.

But…I mean, BUNDESLIGA!

Who is your side?

I’m taking Bayern Munich because Munich is home of Oktoberfest.

Or, do you prefer to go to see a drive-in show?

2. Marketing, Revenue, and Rethinking What We Do:

Ceci Dadisman wrote about the conversation that seems to be picking up in too many places about things “going back to normal”.

I had a colleague email me the other morning, bemoaning the nature of a lot of conversations that they see taking place as “not productive” or “looking at the wrong things.”

From my point of view, for a lot of places, the way things were wasn’t at a level they needed to be to begin with: sports attendance was down and something most organizations were thinking through globally; the arts, opera, and theatre were seeing challenges to their business model; prices were up and costs were up, making profits tougher to come by.

My vantage is that over the next few years we are likely to see more challenges to profits, greater competition for customers, and less free-spending from investors, the secondary market, speculators and consolidators.

What does all of this mean for all of us?

I think we all need to become comfortable with the idea of innovation being our friend.

Marketing had gone to the crapper before the coronavirus. I could go on and on and I have in private conversations about the deterioration of the marketing role in organizations because folks are afraid to talk about being in marketing because that’s where the money is.

Instead, folks get lost on misguided ideas like “clicks”, “likes”, “reach”, and other terms that aren’t directly attached to money.

Our marketing efforts going forward are going to have to be heavy on revenue generation, getting people into events, and making one time customers repeat customers. For any business, you have to create and keep customers. In far too many instances, that idea is being mouthed, but not followed through on.

I say more about revenue and rethinking below. But marketing and strategy should be on the agenda for every call, meeting, and brainstorming session we are all having.

3. Australian Sports Business Is Back, But What Comes Next?

Australia has a lot of news coming out about the return of sports with the big news of the AFL’s blockbuster return on 11 June. 

While the return of sports is exciting for all of us, especially Melbourne fans like me?!

A lot of the conversation around the return of sport has revolved around will the industry contract and how will the country deal with potentially having to endure its first official recession in almost 30 years.

Hawthorne president Jeff Kennett is asking questions about how to reform the AFL’s business heading out of the pandemic, the NBL could see players leave the league due to the virus, and the A-League is having to go to a hub system to complete its fixtures.

There have been a lot of interesting things going on in Australia and New Zealand both since they’ve handled the virus very well and they are in the Southern Hemisphere.

First, we need to pay attention to how these leagues and organizations monetize. The AFL’s membership program is a pretty great example of monetization of your audience, globally.

Second, we will have to watch what happens as they head into the fall and winter and whether or not there is a snapback of the coronavirus as they head into their flu and cold season.

Third, it will be interesting to see how the Australians capitalize on the absence of sports in the States over the next few weeks since the AFL was broadcasting live to the west coast of the US before the coronavirus shut down Australia as well.

4. Ticketmaster, Refunds, and Finger Pointing:

Representatives Pascarell and Porter wrote a letter in Billboard this week, admonishing Ticketmaster’s behavior during the pandemic.

The letter from Washington was quickly followed up by one from Jared Smith, defending Ticketmaster’s practices.

Jared Smith is absolutely correct when he is explaining his points, but the first rule of crisis PR as credited to Ronald Reagan is “if you are explaining, you are losing.”

That’s where Ticketmaster finds itself along with StubHub and other companies.

I’m not saying it is right or wrong, but the pandemic has exposed the shaky financial underpinnings of a lot of businesses, including live entertainment.

Currently, Live Nation is raising around $800 million by selling off debt.

And, it was good to see that the company is thinking about experimentation heading into the back half of 2020.

From a customer point of view, every one of these examples is a stain on the industry. We’ve had StubHub getting hit heavy, early on. Ticketmaster and Live Nation are taking heat now. We’ve had mismatched refund, exchange, or compensation packages from teams all over the place around the world.

Maybe, most amazingly, I sat in on a call where people were debating ways to avoid paying back fees to customers on tickets they purchased for events that can’t happen, won’t happen, or might never happen.

Again, each of these points creates another dent in the armor of trust between industry and customer and the habit of going to shows, events, and games.

I feel a lot like a broken record here, but none of this stuff happens without customers, fans, and buyers. In an industry where there are so many unsold tickets to begin with, to expect that folks are just going to come rushing back and eat poop to do so is ridiculous.

I recognize it is an uncertain time for everyone, but the longer these refund stories stick around…the more damaging it becomes.

5. Vince McMahon and the XFL…

Well, the XFL isn’t going quietly into the night…I see.

This isn’t the kind of story that I typically find interesting, but as we are dealing with a lot of new ideas due to the pandemic, it pays to think things through differently.

With this story about Oliver Luck and Vince McMahon, there are a few things to pay attention to here.

First, Vince McMahon guaranteed Luck’s contract. I’ve had a couple of folks call me and ask me about taking on new jobs or moving after our lockdowns let up.

Basically, they are looking for advice and I think the wise decision is to make sure you get guarantees.

Second, the basis for not paying the contract is pretty weak.

The precedent that is set here if McMahon wins would be pretty awful for folks, period.

I highlight this story for a few reasons, but I think if you look at what this story highlights about the coming future of what we are dealing with in events and especially sports a couple of ideas come to mind:

1. Strategy matters and it seems like the strategy that the XFL was built on was suspect. The pandemic has highlighted this at a macro level now and I think we are going to see a renewed necessity to adjust the sales process, innovate pricing, and focus on driving attendance.

2. Pick your partners well.

3. Multiple streams of revenue, product-market fit, and testing the basic assumptions of “what everyone knows” or thinks is going to be more important than ever.

Look at the NBA, they are as “innovative” as any league in American sports and 40% of their revenue is tied up in getting fans to come to the arena. This tells you that really two revenue streams drive their entire business: TV and in-game. Something about “all your eggs in one basket” comes to mind.

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What am I up to this week?

Not a lot planned. It is the final week of 4th grade homeschooling…so once we are through that, maybe I can get back to a slightly more normal schedule.

Make sure to check me out on social media and follow along with me at www.davewakeman.com 

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