Talking Tickets 26 June 2020-Mets! Forward! MLS! And, More!

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.

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Don’t forget to visit with me and Ken Troupe as we enter our fourth month of hosting pandemic happy hours with folks from around the world. Ken has been drinking some decidedly less stellar beer than he did at the beginning of the pandemic. I’m still drinking great whiskey though. 

Make sure to give my buddies at Booking Protect a follow on Instagram. We are going to do some video and visual things over the next few weeks that should be fun. 

Remember, if you need someone to chat because you are having a hard time…I’m here. You can reach me on my cell at (917) 705-6301. Or, you can just call because you like to say hello. 

Don’t miss out on the Talking Tickets Slack Channel. A few hundred people in 12 time zones! How cool that we get to hang out and talk tickets with folks from around the world!?

To the tickets! 

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1. What does the path forward really look like?

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately.

This isn’t unusual, but I’m looking for a path forward and most of them are still very fuzzy to me. 

In the States, despite the industry’s best thinking and efforts, we are still really no closer to having a clear idea of when events with fans are going to come together and happen or what they will look like when they get here

I think I mentioned last week when I was talking about the Stockdale Paradox, we don’t really know if we are at the beginning, the middle, or the end. What we do know is that this will end and that it is will be difficult until we are at the end. 

Other countries are further along, but not all.

My friend, Cassandra, who is in Perth right now, sent me a note about being excited that there will be fans in the stands within the month.

Last week I shared a picture of a stadium in New Zealand.

So there is a path, but whether or not we work together as a team to achieve success is another story.

Right now, how everyone is handling things looks a little different.

Here are two examples: 

In DC, Washington Performing Arts is going with a fully online season

In the UK, Boris Johnson said theatres can open on 4 July, but…hold on a second, no live performances. 

Every country and organization is currently working through a complex set of decisions.

It is guaranteed that no one is going to be 100% correct all of the time. 

But as I mentioned last week…we keep putting one foot in front of the other because that is the only thing any of us can guarantee right now. 

With the industry’s calls for assistance to help keep entertainment aliveuntil we can have shows again getting not nearly enough attention in the US or the UK, we don’t know what is absolutely coming next for many of us. 

This week, I’ve seen a lot more folks lose their jobs.

We’ve seen the jobs being lost consistently throughout the pandemic. For the most part, we’ve been able to hold onto our optimism. 

The longer this goes, the more difficult the decisions are going to become for everyone. 

The longer it takes to get events started with folks in the stands, the more we are going to see the impact on what happens to our people, what happens to our brands, and what happens to our revenues. 

I’ve been reflecting on my conversation with Simon a lot this week because he really boosted me up. This reminded me that the only way I know to keep my optimism topped off is by moving forward. 

So my hope for you this week is that you can keep your head up by focusing on moving forward. Even if it is just a small step. 

Here are a few ideas from my end of the building: 

If you haven’t thought through your strategy for relaunching your venue and your ticket sales as if you were starting a new business, now is a good time to think through that. Because I think we likely to be dealing with an environment that looks like a brand new opening versus a new season. 

If you haven’t thought through the way that you are going to market and sell in the future in a super competitive market where folks are likely going to be stressed for money, have had their habits changed, and where everyone is trying to make up for lost time…now is a great time to think through that.

Ask yourself how your marketing and sales compare to other businesses outside of the industry. 
What can we learn? Use? Steal? 

Because what got you here won’t get you to the next stop. 

Finally, if you aren’t reconsidering how to use tools and ideas that are successful in other industries to drive sales, audience, and attention…there is no time like now. 

My concern is that in the States and other places that we’re still seeing the virus infect people at a high rate. This makes any reopening plans we have made move from difficult to unlikely to impossible already or it could make them change in the blink of an eye.

As  States reopen, we are seeing mixed messages on the economy so that it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the worst-case scenario for the economy in the States could occur. 

In a worst-case scenario, that’s bad for the economy all over the world. 

To put a final button on this and how seriously I’m taking thinking through strategies, possibilities, and likelihoods: 

Freakin’ Broadway is out until January. That’s unreal! 

This could mean the business models we’ve all gotten so comfortable with or used to just won’t be there or be the same any longer. 

Alas, let me end on a high note and a joke! 

MLB is going to play 60 games

It is questionable what the product might look like as well. 

Also, I mean, I knew I loved hockey because of the fighting and the violence, but who knew it was the deadliest sport for flu deaths?! And, I always like Diamond Dave more than Sammy!

2. FC Cincinnati has a pickle on its hand with sponsorship to its new stadium: 

I love to write about futbol and I had a few folks send me stuff about MLS this week. 

My take is that every two or three years folks write think pieces on how MLS is going to find the magic wand that will make them as big as the Premier League…and you just don’t know it. 

The truth of the matter is that MLS needs to rethink its business model because just trying to be the pipsqueak brother of the NBA, NFL, and NHL isn’t doing the sport any favors in America. 

The popularity of the sport is growing in both measurable numbers, but also in intangible ways. As an example, a guy in DC mentioned to me after seeing my Spurs’ top that he has been watching the Champions League final for many years at a bar in DC, alone. He said that last year was the first time he could remember going to the bar and having groups of fans there to actually watch the match as well.

I’d say that it must be the Spurs, but they didn’t show up so it must be Liverpool. Congratulations Martin and the other Liverpool fans I know! 

But the assumption that folks are going to just come out to see soccer matches because folks want to watch the Premier League, Champions League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A, okay…I could go on, but it isn’t true.

The point is that there isn’t a direct correlation between folks watching the game on the TV to see folks like Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho, Lionel Messi, or Neymar that is going to translate into folks rushing down to their local MLS venue to pay big money prices to see former stars of international soccer live out their final big-money contracts in the States. 

They might, but you are going to have to become smarter about marketing and selling the value of coming to an MLS game. 

I’m picking on MLS this morning but really the story is on display in buildings all around American sports in baseball, football, hockey, and basketball as well. 

The key to long-term growth and success is going to be a rethinking of the marketing and selling of the live sports experience to emphasize the value of actually coming to the match, game, or event. 

Which brings me back to the story about FC Cincinnati.

Read it and think through things for a few moments…this isn’t an uncommon experience in sports business in the States.

There are lots of examples of folks talking a big game and not delivering results. 

But this article is just the chef’s kiss of “what in the world were people thinking?” and “who was watching the store?” 

It is amazing and it highlights the importance of having the right partners, understanding goals and ambitions and targets, a clearly defined scope of work, and I could go on…

The reality is that this just highlights the ongoing nature of so much of the business of sports in America looking too much like the Wizard of Oz and less like a multi-billion dollar business.

Until sports and the businesses around them start using the technologies, tools, and ideas that drive success in other industries, the world of sports business is going to continue to underperform compared to its potential.

Also, if you hire a partner for a very specific task like naming rights on your stadium and you know there are very specific requirements…shouldn’t someone have the requirements, have access to them, or make that a key to the relationship? Call me crazy. 

3. Let’s look in on fees, refunds, and such for a moment: 

The story above is about a Maryland decision on fees from the secondary market, but as we are talking about what the future of the business is going to look like going forward all of these related issues are going to be a part of getting the industry back up and running. 

Despite all the other challenges that the industry is dealing with right now, we are going to have to rebuild trust with the customers.

In the short term, due to the pandemic and the amount of money that folks have seen held up in tickets that haven’t been refunded, we may see folks wait even longer before they buy their tickets. 

That’s a challenge because it means that prices will be even more under pressure to drop. 

We have also introduced the idea that even when you agree to terms and conditions, they can be changed at a moment’s notice by the person you bought from with the buyer having no recourse in many cases. 

Spoiler alert: that doesn’t engender consumer confidence.

Just so you don’t think it is only an American issue either…

I don’t think you need too much analysis or action focus here because the analysis and actions are pretty obvious:

Customers have been telling us for a while that unless the show or event is “hot” that they are cool staying away.

None of this helps.

So how are you going to fix it in your organization? 

4. The Mets are for sale: 

The sale of the Mets is starting to look like the perfect bookend to the Wilpons’ involvement in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme. 

Why? 

Because it looks like a bidding war is taking place for the Wilpons to end up selling the team for about $1B less than the offer they had from Steve Cohen in January and February. 

This week, we see a report that they need to sell before the end of 2020…if you believe the Wilpons it is to give the new owners time to lead the team, but I saw that $44M debt payment sitting there and said, “Mmmm!” 

Don’t believe me, but the Mets lost so much money in 2019 that they needed to make a cash call to their ownership that was reported to be in the neighborhood of $45M

I bring this story up for two reasons:

First, I love the Mets! If the Mets need someone to fix their revenue streams, marketing, and sales processes I am their man! 

Bye Bye, DC! NYC, I’m coming home! #LGFM

Second, this is going to be something we are going to need to keep an eye on because while the owners of these teams are rich, not all of them are going to be cash-rich. It is also possible some of them may not be invested in places that allow them to completely stabilize their organizations during the pandemic and the however long it takes to reopen things to fans again. 

In Buffalo, we saw ownership make a change because they need to run the Sabres more prudently

Will this be the last scene we see like this? 

I don’t think so. 

5. Let’s finish up with a few fun stories that don’t really fit a narrative breakdown this week:

The Barcelona Opera plays to plants: I just want to know who has the job of watering all of these plants and making sure they get enough light! This did get the Opera some press attention even from some unlikely places

The Oak View Group forms a safe reopening committee: I’ve got a joke about committees, but all kidding aside. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the pandemic is how nasty folks are and how people didn’t wash their hands or cover their mouths when they sneezed! Gross! 

$3.4B will buy you 25% of Serie A: I’m always a little worried about leagues and teams taking private equity money from the wrong places becuase think about what private equity has done to things like retail, grocery, and energy. At the same time, I totally want to own part of a soccer league. —————————————————————————————————————-

What am I up to this week? 

Check out the podcast with great folks like Derek Palmer, Tony Knopp, Amy Maiden, Angela Higgins, Jo Michel, and many more. 

I’m also working on some new podcast guests and will start posting those conversations next week.

So keep an eye out.

Lots of stuff on reinvention, relaunching and reimaging your businesses. 

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