The future of event ticketing, maybe

Some of you may remember my previous post on ticket scalping made in response to Trent Reznor’s post on the NIN forums. Well, I was recently reading Mashable and found this post about a new startup called SaveFans! (abbreviated SF in following text) which is an offer-based ticket platform. Now if you remember my original post, I quote Trent Reznor as saying:

My guess as to what will eventually happen if / when Live Nation and TicketMaster merges is that they’ll move to an auction or market-based pricing scheme…

At the time, I said this would be a bad thing, and as suggested, with the ticket providers unilaterally setting “market-based” prices, it would indeed be disastrous for fans.

The twist with SF is that buyers are allowed to negotiate with sellers. This, by itself, is not a bad idea on the surface. It is still a possibility true scalpers will use the system and not accept perfectly reasonable offers for tickets they hold.

However, it does give the fans a chance to say what they think about truly usurious and monopolistic pricing. SF is not a panacea. Ticket buyers still need some form of protection against egregious scalping as well as not being stuck with unusable and yet non-transferable tickets. Ticket sellers need some form of protection against scalpers profiting at their expense as a result of an attempt to keep shows affordable for fans.

The only way I see to keep everyone happy is to allow event managers/promoters to opt an event out of SF or similar sites or move to a model where ticket transfers are tightly regulated or simply cannot happen without the express approval of the ticketing agency or the event’s management/promoters. Many event managers/promoters nominally prohibit the resale of tickets above face value; it is a long-standing policy of most venues (at least those in Houston) that resale of tickets on the property of the venue and adjoining parking lots is prohibited, sometimes just resale above face value, sometimes any resale. It should be noted that platforms such as SF can be used for good or evil. They aren’t much different from eBay or Craigslist in this regard. It’s still up to the ticket buyers (fans) to promote responsibility and defend their rights.

I see it as unlikely, here in 2010, that more states/cities will pass anti-scalping legislation. In 1999, the New York Office of the Attorney General released a report on scalping. In that report, several suggestions were made on how to reform the ticketing process, and protecting licensed ticket brokers by raising the premium they are allowed to charge above the listed price (at the time of this report, the greater of $5 or 10%; it’s not clear whether or not the extra fees are included in the amount the 10% is calculated on). It is interesting to note that some of the ticket brokers (and I am deviating a bit from my usual “scalper” terminology here, since this is New York we are talking about, where the types and quantity of ticketed events are vastly different) label their markup as a “service fee” which was not addressed by the applicable law. This, however, should be seen for what it is: an attempt to exploit a legal technicality.

I’m not sure what became of the release of this report. I do know that a decade later, scalping is still a major problem.

How not to promote events (long rant)

I’ve mentioned Quinn’s Big City (QBC) a couple of times here (“here” being this blog, if not this blog in its current location), mostly in passing. I try to keep most of my long drawn-out ranting here; the longer pieces on QBC I have referred to as “verbiage pieces” and I try to keep my usual no-holds-barred rant style out of them.

For those of you not familiar with it, the centerpiece of QBC is a feature called the LOVIEE (Listing of Very Interesting/Exciting Events), a “best of Houston” events list with weekly, monthly, and holiday special editions. (Well, usually they are holidays, I’ve had one that was not for a specific holiday; it’s a long story.)

Anyway, so during the week when I’m not doing either paid work, out and about having a good time (at an event I posted to QBC or otherwise), Twittering, checking Facebook, writing a piece for this or Iced Tea and Ramen, or otherwise keeping myself entertained at home, I’m updating one of the upcoming LOVIEEs. It is probably easiest to show the process in a video, at some point I will post a video, probably to YouTube but possibly elsewhere as well, showing what goes into QBC (and possibly even my other blogs as well, but QBC is probably the most interesting one to make a video about).

Anyway, since I haven’t made a video yet, I’ll try to describe it. I have an e-mail box where people can send me stuff they want me to consider (and I have posted a few events this way) but the majority come from the cyberspace equivalent of a wild goose chase involving several local events calendars and myriad venue-, artist-, and organization-specific calendars. Some of these are better than others. I’m not going to name names (yet) but I am going to list just a few examples of the problems I’ve run into:

  1. Omitted details such as the starting time of a music act, or just one time without it being clear if that’s the time the doors open or the actual show time. I run across these a lot. Unless the act is really good or I’m running out of things to post, these are in danger of being skipped outright. Sometimes, such as for the New Year’s Eve LOVIEE, I have made exceptions, figuring it’s obvious most parties will not start until at least 8pm or so and most music acts will probably go on at about 9pm. If I do post anyway, it usually winds up being “no time given” which has the potential to come back and look bad on me when the venue decides to amend the listing later. Really, the time a show or event starts is basic information and there are very few excuses for not including it.

  2. No clear indication either way as to whether or not there’s a cover charge and if so how much it is. I try to avoid saying “no cover” or “free admission” unless it’s specifically stated. If it’s likely there’s no actual admission fee, sometimes I just make no mention of it. If I have the least bit of doubt, again, it’s like the time, “cover charge not stated.” The farther out from downtown the venue is, the less likely I am to attend your event if I’m not even sure the cover charge is within my budget at the moment. Nothing kills a night like being told the $10 budgeted for drinks or food would be needed just to get in the door, without advance notice of same.

  3. Venue/artist/organization Web sites that don’t provide a direct link to the calendar, or change it every month and make it part of a frameset. Very annoying, I should be able to bookmark your event calendar and be done with it, and come back in a month, three months, six months, a year and have the same URL work. Framesets are so 1996, and should never have made it into an HTML standard, but I’ll rant about that some other day.

  4. Event calendars so far out of date as to be useless. If we’re in December and I’m looking at a venue’s event calendar that is still showing October, September, or even January or last December, it’s so tempting to fire off an e-mail saying “look guys, you may as well take the damn thing down, it’s not doing anyone any good.”

  5. Venues, artists, or organizations that serve a Flash movie over HTTP as their primary online presence, instead of a Web site. (When I refer to a “Web site,” I mean something in HTML and CSS, preferably with only optional Javascript. I do not use the term “site” and especially not “Web site” for Flash movies.) Serving up only a Flash movie is gambling that my Flash plugin will both be present and will play the Flash movie. More frequently, that Flash plugin will be Gnash, not the Adobe official Flash player, so the latter is not necessarily guaranteed. I’m in a hurry rather often; rather than wait for Iceweasel/Firefox to load, I may well load up your calendar in Lynx. If I see “[EMBED]” and an offer to download something “application/x-swf,” you lose. Thankfully, this is a relatively rare problem.

That covers most of them. I’m sure I could probably come up with a few more. If you have others, either as an event list maintainer/blogger or just someone who goes out a lot, please comment.

The only constant is change

And now, a few brief words about other efforts of mine, which I have not yet brought to the forefront here. I try not to do this often; in fact, I think this is the first time I’ve made a post like this here, ever.

For those of you who do not follow what I do all around cyberspace, I started a local (Houston, TX, area) events blog about two months ago now called Quinn’s Big City (referred to as QBC for brevity). I’m going to explain a bit about QBC, how it relates to what I do on this blog, and what both mean for the future. And yes, as much as I talk about QBC in this post, this post itself belongs here, not on QBC, for the simple reason of preserving the latter’s intended role.

I was hesitant to post about QBC here at least prior to the official wide launch, scheduled carefully after the soft-launch so as to give me time to “get in my groove” and realize the full potential of what I had started. I meant to make this post here at least a week ago, partly to explain why my posting volume here fell off, partly to introduce the few people who haven’t already heard about QBC somewhere.

And I know what you are probably asking already. Yes, QBC is a large part of the reason I don’t post here as often. I’m not going to do what one other local blogger did and flat out shut down this blog. However, you will notice the content and character of my posts here change. Yes, the day finally came that even I got tired of my posting style. I hope I’m not pushing the rest of you away by saying it’s time for change; I do treasure the fact I have the readership I have given that the quantity of my postings has slowed down as much as it has.

Make no mistake about it: QBC was and is a rather big undertaking; big enough to have both its own Twitter account and Facebook page. I have not set up Facebook pages for either this blog/site, or my other blog Iced Tea and Ramen. Part of that, is I’m not sure where either of them fit in long term; I’ll get back to this later.

Some detractors may say “we don’t need QBC, there are other blogs/sites like it in Houston, the last thing we need is another one.” I disagree. There’s room for QBC alongside similar efforts already in place for Houston. Heck, there is room for another five, ten, twenty, even a hundred other blogs/sites like it, just for Houston. This is a huge city, and QBC being subjective on purpose will pretty much by definition not be for everyone. If you took a look at QBC and found out it’s not your speed, by all means, start your own. (Now, I assume if you already have your own, that defines what is your speed more than QBC or any other similar blog/site ever could, and you’d only be looking elsewhere out of curiosity.)

As if that weren’t enough, there’s another piece of news I may as well go ahead and break. I plan to move the blog currently hosted here to another domain, redirecting the previous URLs from here to the new domain. I need to use this domain for something else, probably more of a personal portal/clearinghouse which points to all of my other blogs/online sites. I haven’t decided what, exactly, but it needs to be something more representative and worthy of my future personal brand. I need a personal soapbox, but long term, it won’t be here.

That, by the way, is another reason I haven’t bothered yet with a custom style for this blog. I didn’t like what the new Ahimsa did, so I quietly went back to the WordPress default. I’m assuming nobody minded the change. I know it’s only temporary, otherwise I’d have gone hunting a new theme. The eventual goal is my own custom designs on all of my blogs/sites; QBC is just the first, and for reasons I won’t go into here, it had to be the first.

The posts I have made here will remain intact and online, somewhere. If it’s not here, the URLs here will redirect to where they’ve went. I do that on purpose; I believe cool URLs don’t change. And maybe I’m that weird 0.01% that actually cares about such things. That’s me; I will always just be myself, and I endeavor to be as transparent and honest as possible.

Okay, enough already, I lack the ego to make this post much longer. Questions, concerns, comments? Comment here on this post, or send me something via the feedback form if it’s not intended for publication.