Damn calendar…didn’t give me room to make May the 4th jokes in real-time!
You’ll have to just forgive me with some memes!
Okay, two is enough…
I am, after all, a serious man!
Anyway, thank you for continuing to share the newsletter with friends and colleagues. It keeps making sure that I keep doing this and helps me continue to learn from folks from around the world.
So, please take a moment to share the newsletter if you’ve found something valuable or helpful in it over the years.
To the Tickets!
1. The Big Story: Man United changes their ticket plans for season ticket holders:
- Listening to your fans always helps you find new opportunities.
- Splitting the season ticket into different competitions helps expand demand.
- This idea can apply in any part of the ticketing business.
I’ve been speaking with y’all about market research a lot lately.
Right here is an example of what happens when you listen to your customers, you find new ways to offer value and you find new solutions to old problems.
For a big story, I actually won’t need long to make my points here.
First off, listening to the customers and their fans, Man United likely headed off a lot of discontent around the pricing and amount of tickets fans would need to purchase to be considered a “member” or a season ticket holder.
That’s great because it allowed them to achieve a few really great outcomes like:
- Opening up new products that likely have demand.
- Offering fans products that they want and that have more flexibility.
- Giving fans that may not have had an opportunity to be a member the chance to get closer to the club through a cup ticket.
These are all positive benefits and they should open the door to developing deeper relationships with all of their ticket buyers.
While we are on the cup tickets, this is a nifty way to get your seats sold and offer people a solution that one might not have existed before.
A Premier League season is 38 games, 19 at home and 19 away. The cups and assorted competitions can create an environment where your team is playing 63 matches like Liverpool will this year. And, I think you can max out at 64.
That’s just too many to expect every season ticket holder to consume in person.
If you are Manchester United, one of the three most popular teams in the world, this does you a solid…because it allows you to adjust your packages to take people that weren’t in the market for 20+ games and gives them an option. Maybe you are in love with the “Magic of the FA Cup” and there is a package for you.
On and on this goes, but the key is that opportunities have been opened because there are more and different ways to fit the needs of the market.
All of this comes out of listening to their fans and acting on the lessons learned from conversations with customers.
This same methodology can and should apply to every organization, in entertainment or outside of it.
It often doesn’t.
But as a refresher course, the first step of any successful marketing effort is to take a step back and figure out what is going on with your customers.
That’s called being Market Oriented.
Then you create a hypothesis that you want to find the answer to.
You figure out the way that this question will be answered.
Then you design a survey to get the information you need.
That’s called Backward Market Research.
In your survey, use qualitative and quantitative research…and, you’ll want to consider one of the most powerful forms, ethnography.
Which is simply just watching to see how folks actually use your product or service.
All of this is in your hands.
Think this only applies to sports?
Go back and listen to my conversation with Ruth Hartt. She shows you how easy it is to apply to the theatre, orchestra, and other performing arts.
The big idea to take away is that you aren’t your customer.
My big question is: knowing that you aren’t the customer, what are you going to do differently?
2. The Road to Recovery: Big Changes are coming to the NCAA:
- Change is never easy, but it is constant and essential to growth.
- Leadership counts.
- Follow the money.
I think you could write or talk all the time about the ills of the NCAA and their mishandling of many issues they’ve dealt with over the last few years like NIL rights, women’s sports, and their revenue generation model.
Shoot, I could write an entire newsletter just analyzing this whole mess.
Instead, let’s consolidate our focus this morning to hit on three issues:
First, folks are dancing in the aisles of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms of Emmert’s downfall and what it means for the NCAA.
Let’s begin with the obvious, in shepherding the NCAA for the last few years, Emmert became a punchline, a villain, and someone that management thinkers like me could point to as an example of how not to manage change.
In that time, the NCAA has grown even more reluctant to adapt or change.
When I think of change, I’m reminded of my trip to Australia in 2019 and my talk on change where I got to deliver the message that “older and whiter wasn’t the best strategy for long-term growth” in ticket sales.
The conversations that got me to that saying were filled with different forms of the same message: change is hard and folks don’t like to do it.
The challenge of change is that change is constant, it is often necessary, and to grow…essential.
Second, all of the above ideas point to a lack of leadership.
I wrote my monthly PMI post on how project managers can have a competitive advantage and one of the three skills I highlighted was leadership.
In terms of leadership, we are struggling to see many good examples of leadership in the world right now and if we are missing definitions of what proper leadership looks like, I’ll excuse that.
With the NCAA, the lack of leadership looked a lot like malice in the way that the NIL lawsuit has been handled, prejudice in the way that student-athletes have been talked about by some coaches when it comes to their newly gained rights, and sexism in the way that women’s sports has been treated.
Leadership is often as simple as rallying folks to achieve something beyond what they thought imaginable.
In other ways, leadership is about helping people build something better.
What leadership is never is tearing folks down for your own benefit or out of your own fear of change.
Finally, strategy always plays a role in these situations.
In the case of the NCAA, it looks like they didn’t really have one under Emmert.
The basic foundations of strategy are:
- Ambition and knowing what success looks like.
- Knowing what market you are in.
- Understanding why you are the one to be picked.
- A recognition of the resources you need for success.
- Action items.
In leaving so many opportunities and so much revenue on the table, Emmert showed that strategy can’t be taken for granted.
He signed below-market TV deals, failed to support a high potential/high impact event like the Women’s Final Four, and spent tons of money defending a system that was already collapsing on itself.
So it goes…I guess.
We will all see what’s next, but I’m reminded of the end of one of the early seasons of The Walking Dead when Rick Grimes’s crew was in the CDC when it was set to self-destruct and wonder if that is what a lot of folks feel like around the NCAA offices right now.
- I’m guessing no market research was done before Broadway threw open the doors on 36 productions.
- Cost-cutting is a bandage, not a cure…most of the time. (Save my inbox because y’all will all look for that one example where cost-cutting changed everything.)
- Again, market research.
Again, this won’t take long because this is territory we’ve traveled in the past.
Broadway is struggling right now with too many shows, too few tourists, and too little demand.
I love NYC and I love Broadway and I’m always looking to move back…so Broadway, call me.
The challenge here begins with being product-focused.
This simply means that you are focused on how great you are and not what the customer wants or needs.
I actually give a decent answer to the challenge of product focus on Giles Edwards’s podcast, “Call to Action” last week. The episode will drop soon, but it is something to look forward to because I tell some of the story about product, but also about how nightclubs led me to tickets.
Anyway, product-focused organizations feel like the only challenge they face is one of education that as soon as they tell people they are there and exist that everything is going to be a-ok.
Combine that with cost-cutting and you have two things going at once that aren’t likely to really move the needle on demand.
Cost-cutting is typically done along with “efficiencies” and “restructuring” to slow a sinking ship. In general, these cuts may make a 2-3% difference in overall profitability or expenses, but they almost never really save a business that is really in trouble.
Product focus on the other side can be a blowout winner, if it works. Think of the sticky note.
The challenge is that those things are few and far between.
In most cases, the product-oriented business fails because it isn’t connected to the customer enough.
What does the customer need?
Where can I fill a value gap that they recognize?
The better course is always to start with the customer and figure out what they want or need in the moment that you can supply.
With Broadway, the challenge to get all the shows back on stage was too great to step back and see if there was really the ability for these things to be successful.
It is pretty alarming when you see that Harry Potter is struggling to sell. That should be catnip for people returning to Broadway.
I get the jobs angle. I get the economy angle. I get the “normal” angle.
I also get the angle that you have to be careful to deal with the reality you are facing so that you can do the wisest thing for your staff, your performers, your investors, and your audience.
With 36 shows on Broadway, tourisism down by a projection of over 10M people, costs soaring, rumors of a recession, more COVID variants, and other headwinds, a step back to see what customers want and need should have been the first thing done…but since it wasn’t, now what?
4. Tech/Tools/Profile: IMLC panel on concert’s hosted by Richard Howle produces some new insights.
- Demand, it depends.
- There are still challenges in the recovery of the concert business.
- The A-list stars will be fine, maybe.
An interesting panel, hosted by friend of the pod and newsletter, Richard Howle. So you know it was high quality to be in the room.
I’ll be quick here as well, but three points to highlight.
First, there is the comment about B and C list touring acts struggling. In certain markets, we are actually seeing A-list acts struggling to sell everything.
In looking at the landscape of entertainment, it seems that a case-by-case situation is most likely going to be the scenario for everyone going forward over the next several years.
Second, there are still headwinds for every business as they work towards recovery.
We have inflation concerns, economic worries, new COVID variants, and more.
All of these will interrupt or disrupt our best-laid plans for recovery.
Finally, the lesson here is don’t assume.
In looking at all of the topics this week, my theme is heavy on research and needing to understand your customer.
I know I say that a lot, but I’m always right about it as well.
5. Blurbs and Such:
Liverpool looks set for a record shirt sponsorship deal: Big dollars could be flowing into Liverpool as the team looks to bring on a new shirt sponsor. I always thought the Spurs deal with AIA was pretty great…but the reported deal with LFC could more than double the Spurs and that’s a lot of transfer cash.
DeFy Tickets enters the market: Whether or not you believe in the utility of the blockchain for tickets, I think we can recognize that the level of competition points to a lot of businesses not being able to make it. There are two ways that a business can differentiate itself in this place: value or costs. Which business will go for value? Which ones will go for cost?
Beer City hats look fresh: This is a fresh hat and a fresh promotion from Minor League Baseball. If I haven’t ordered one by the time you read this, I’ll be getting this one. I just need to see what size my fat head needs.
A really fun profile of Luc Longley and his experience with the Sydney Kings: I’m a big Kings’ fan, obviously. They are based in Sydney and I’m definitely a Sydneysider in my favorite Australian cities. But this is a cool profile of his time with the Kings and why he likes coaching.
UConn raises their tickets a lot: A business losing $47M on a couple hundred million in revenues consistently probably isn’t a very successful business. We’ve seen this in a lot of colleges. Last week was pricing week at Talking Tickets HQ, but I will tell you once again that you are going to struggle setting your prices against what you think you need to make. You start with the customer and work out…or they will be likely to turn away from you. That’s true in colleges in the States, the same as it was when we talked about Everton’s stadium deal.
The other Spurs want to move some games from San Antonio: In an effort to grow their fanbase, the San Antonio Spurs are looking to adjust their deal with the AT&T Center to play some games in Mexico, Austin, and at the Alamodome.
Concerts are back, but the virus is still causing concerns: As I’ve been mentioning throughout this, the virus will do what the virus will do. While folks may be “over” the pandemic, the pandemic will finish with us when it decides it is done. That’s causing delays, cancellations, and concerns for tours around the world.
Tix Ticketing is leading the self-service revolution: I had a chance to check in with Tix at TPC in Birmingham. (BTW, I’m still owed a Lego set…Ken!) But, one of the things that stood out to me was the simplicity of the platform because it has been designed from the bottom up to be more user-friendly.
You can find me everywhere with my special Linktree! It is all my links!
Be a part of the ‘Talking Tickets’ Slack community.
Check out my friends at Booking Protect!
Thanks again to the Ticketing Professionals Team. They’ve put together a great event and just announced the new event for 2023. See y’all in Birmingham!
I did the FREE webinar a few weeks back, but had some technology issues with the live stream on Microsoft Teams. I’m not sure if was Teams or my new desktop computer, either way…I’m going to continue to play with the tech stack and I posted the audio file in the podcast stream. So, pricing ideas to your heart’s desire.
I had a new podcast drop this week with Asher Weiss, CEO of Tixologi. We talked about blockchain tickets, market research, making better decisions using data, and a lot more. Asher’s starting point was value and that’s not always common in tech companies. So check it out!
Let me know who you’d like to hear from by sharing your ideas with me here.