Baltimore hosted North America’s ticketing industry last week for INTIX 2018. TheTicketingBusiness’ Ian Nuttall returned to INTIX after a 10 year hiatus to see what’s happening.
Under the strapline “Where history meets the future”, the 39th annual conference and exhibition by INTIX brought together some 700 industry executives in downtown Baltimore. With 40+ workshops and conference sessions, there was certainly no shortage of speakers or contented ideas. In fact, there was probably too much on offer with the programme at times hosting up to six concurrent speakers, leaving the audience spread a little thin in some rooms.
Most enlightening was the ‘Fail Fair’ where those brave souls willing to share their stories of ticketing mishaps and misfires could confess to the industry at large. Most speakers actually pulled short of dishing all the dirt but there were some key take outs – mainly that honesty remains the best policy. In this era of social media amplification (and Fake News), owning up to errors and telling customers when something has gone wrong in advance, is better than being exposed after the event.
Image: Exhibition opens for business
The exhibition featured around 80 vendors with a range of offers – from Ticketmaster and Tessitura through to startups. Notably this year, the exhibition featured many more ticketing insurance companies (including the UK’s Ticketplan which has now entered the US market with a national partner, plus Ticket Guardian and Booking Protect) and online fraud prevention offers from established Ecommerce platforms (such as Kount, Distil and Vesta).
The buzz around the hall focused on who’s buying who and how the current wave of consolidation would end up. In recent months, PatronTech has subsumed Patron manager, Showcliz and Ticketleap. Etix now includes ExtremeTix, TicketBiscuit and Interactive Ticketing. Eventbrite has picked up Ticketscript and TicketFly. How many exhibitors will there be 10 years from now?
Conscious perhaps of the shrinking pool of potential future vendors, INTIX has initiated an Innovation Technology Stage, an Inspiration Stage (sponsored by SecuTix) plus a pavilion area with kiosks as a lower cost entry point for new exhibitors, specialists and SMEs such as Radario, Adage, Digonex, HID Global and Group EZ. But, tellingly, the wider world of eCommerce and digital marketing was not on show at INTIX. The broader E-tailing landscape – including POS, online marketing, retailing solutions, CRM, loyalty, proximity marketing and so on – was absent from the exhibition.
Networking is a key part of any meeting – arguably the most critical. INTIX offered various site tours and social events – all well-attended – but the sit-down lunches were dominated by a Live Auction which banished any chance of conversation with those sat with you. Of course, like any association, INTIX needs to generate funds for its grant assistance (to help cash-strapped ticketing peeps along to the conference) and the sponsored auction was billed as putting the “Fun into FundRaising” but many lunch guests voiced their disapproval at having the networking opportunity curtailed by bids.
Image: Traditional registration for a ticketing technology gathering
One of the most enlightening sessions was the Strategic Townhall for technology providers, partners and entertainment professionals: “As a renewed INTIX organisation enters an era of strategic behaviour, we are hosting our inaugural meeting of tech providers … to discuss emerging trends and foster a collaborative environment for collective thinking. An overview of the INTIX Strategic Long Range Plan will be provided… so that members and partners can collectively address the industry challenges and best practices.”
With the CEOs and Directors of nearly all the leading US platforms in attendance, the 90 minute session highlighted just how fragmented and dysfunctional our ticketing industry is. No two participants provided the same answers, nor the same items to the future ‘wishlist’ for INTIX offers. What began as the review of a strategic plan soon became a plea for a range of activities – from the development of (long overdue) industry standards through to best practice guides on customer service (such as a Bill Of Rights), and even the need for a standardised RFI/RFP for a ticketing system.
I suspect executives from other sectors – say banking, automobile, tech – would be aghast at the lack of industry standards or collective ‘group think’. The automotive sector is moving to electric vehicles. Banking is moving from ‘bricks’ to clicks. But ticketing per se….? Alas, we have little to show in the way of collective output. As one observer challenged the townhall audience: “Please define what you mean by ticketing? When you have done that you can then identify what you need to do.”
Image: One of the many concurrent breakout sessions
SETTING THE AGENDA
INTIX needs the donors and the sponsors to keep putting in but as the major ticketing companies develop their own user meetings (such as the TM Summit or Tessitura’s own user group meeting, with several thousand attendees) where does INTIX reposition its offer – and not just the conference? Is the association for startups and those smaller platforms? Is it for box office managers facing digital transformation? Is its purpose to set industry standards and open the market? Is it all of this and more?
This is the challenge for the new INTIX Board and its President and CEO Maureen Anderson. A lifelong veteran of the ticketing sector – with stints at TM, Paciolan, AudienceView plus arts businesses – she has a big challenge ahead.
One year into the role she knows that there is a lot of work to do to reposition INTIX and re-purpose its various offers. She told the assembled audience that INTIX wants to be the authoritative voice of entertainment ticketing. But ticketing and marketing have merged in so many organisations leaving the question what is an ‘entertainment professional’?
Like most of the ticketing industry participants in attendance, INTIX too is searching for new directions in this digitally transformed consumer landscape.
And, perhaps that is the key role of INTIX: to be the place which gathers the fragments and let’s them decide what’s important going forward.
INTIX’s 40th edition will be hosted at the Gaylord Texan Resort, Dallas/Fort Worth, 29-31 January 2019.