As the ticketing sector emerges from the challenges of COVID-19, the industry will continue to explore new developments in technology, distribution and sustainability. 

TheTicketingBusiness.com marks its 500th newsletter today (Friday) and to honour the occasion we invited some of the most influential names in ticketing to celebrate with us by outlining their future expectations for the next five years in our ever-changing sector.

Here are the thoughts of Niels Henrik Sodemann, Emmy Gengler, Toby Stubbington, Ken Paul and Josef Lageder

Niels Henrik Sodemann, chief executive of Queue-it: 

Based on what we’ve observed over the last 18 months, we believe that one of the biggest changes we’ll see in the industry over the next five years is the increase of digital components in the ticketing revenue stream. A great example of that is the combination of ticketing sales with NFTs [non-fungible tokens]. 

The value created for customers would be two-fold: getting to attend the live entertainment experience itself, and an exclusive and personal digital asset.   

Gone are the days of autograph albums and t-shirt tables. With concerts, you could imagine the allure of trying to hold on to that experience once it’s over by either possessing the video of your favourite song, a personal signature from the artist, or a unique artist/tour/city commemorative.

Emmy Gengler, chief executive of Softjourn:

While it still seems like events in some places are one step forward, and two steps back, it is still a good time to think about what the future holds for ticketing. 

To see some of the future we can look at what the pandemic has brought up with regards to events and what functionality ticketing platforms need to offer. The words contactless and frictionless come to mind. The objective with events coming back has been on safety; safety for the event/venue staff, and safety for the attendees. 

That safety can be gained by limiting contact. Therefore, the focus has been on contactless entry, contactless food and beverage ordering and delivery in venues. While we hope that safety will not be the number one concern, in the next five years contactless will continue to become entrenched, to even easier ways of entry, such as biometrics entry, face recognition, and hand swiping. 

I believe the public will become more and more comfortable with their current privacy concerns for using facial recognition. It will become all about convenience.

Convenience rolls into frictionless. Patrons will be looking for all aspects of attending an event to be as frictionless as possible; from finding out about the event, buying a ticket, getting to the event, getting around the event, engagement and more. This has been an event trend for a while, accelerated by the pandemic and will continue to accelerate in the future. 

Activities such as frictionless ordering of F&B or merchandise at the time of ticket purchase or ordering via the ticketing platform’s mobile app (the same app where the digital ticket is stored) or via kiosks at the event and in-seat delivery or delivery or pick-up to a designated location. 

We can also expect hybrid events are here to stay as a premium way for frictionless attendance. As much as people are excited about going out and seeing people, offering multiple ways to attend and participate in a conference for example will aid in participation and ticket sales. Anything that reduces the time needed and the expense of travel and hotels.

No discussion on the future would be complete without looking at technology and how it will impact the ticketing industry. Blockchain has gotten a lot of buzz lately, again, and will continue to do so, as a way to combat bots or as the way to know who the end purchaser is, or to ease transferring tickets and so forth. While technically there are many ways to combat these issues without blockchain, those ticketing services using blockchain will probably get a leg up on the others just from an image standpoint in the near term. 

Right now I do not see it for the long term unless something changes from an ecological and cost standpoint, but we can expect tech, whether this one or the next big thing, to continue to transform the industry.   

Toby Stubbington, managing director of Ticketplan: 

The last two years have taught us how important human interaction and the sharing of experiences and thoughts are, both in person and as lockdowns have shown, via any digital means at our disposable.  

The rich and deep creative energies of the sector have showed how arts and sports have overcome adversity to connect with audiences.  

The next five years will see a further combining of a digital experience either side of an attended event with continued experimenting in the use of the available ways to connect with the audience at events, making them even more immersive.

A significant portion of the audience will be wanting to be reassured that the environments they attend are safe and secure and, given the heightened understanding of risk that now exists, the public will continue to purchase Ticketplan on a wide range of bookings with, generally, higher attachment rates. Equally e-tickets will become the default everywhere combined with some form of COVID protection confirmation, in the near term at least.

Sustainability in all sectors will become more of a default setting – this will include the events industry and whilst the impact of the pandemic has inevitably and necessarily meant that the sector has focused on its survival, sustainability will be part of the planning and design of events.

Ken Paul, Tix Ticketing UK: 

I have been in the ticketing industry since the 1980s and in that period, I have seen significant changes. Computerised ticketing started in the early 1980s with systems such as BOCS and Ticketmaster. Other suppliers started to come to market in the 90s with systems such as PASS, ENTA and Tickets.com.

Online sales started around the early 2000s and to my memory the first one was Tickets.com. It is incredible to think around that time that most venues had call centres handling thousands of calls a day – to now when the venue has very little interaction with the public! Most of our venues sell over 90% of their tickets online with no need for a call centre. Lots of venues now don’t even open their box office until a few hours before the performance. Gone are the days of a new show being announced and a queue forming around the block to get the first tickets!

In London lots of venues have depended on distribution by ticket agents and in reality this has been the same since a musical composer named Robert William Keith partnered up with a music publisher, William Prowse to form a theatre ticketing business originally named Keith, Prowse & Co. They struck deals for allocations with venues, the venue would give Keith Prowse this allocation on a sale or return basis, the agent would charge the venue a commission and the customer would pay the agent a booking fee!   

In return the agent would promote the show for the venue via their own advertising. This has never changed, however, what did change in the mid-1990s was Laurence Miller from Nimax Theatres decided this needed to be more automated and the age of the ticket agent API was born!   

This way the agent didn’t have to actually tell the venue how many tickets they had sold until nearer the performance! From that point all sales were live and had to be reported so the agent couldn’t hold onto the money until nearer event. This has changed the relationship between the venue and the agent beyond recognition in just the last 15 years! It has also cut down on the amount of manual work needed to administer the tickets, handing out allocations, marking back allocations, and so on.

This in effect has given the agents with API all the power, if a new system comes on the market and has the best experience, best marketing tools, etc. Unless an agent is prepared to work with that system, there is virtually no chance of selling the system to the London market.

Over the next five years I believe we will see the following changes in the ticketing scene:

  • There will be more sophisticated marketing tools in the systems, giving venues and promoters more control over their data and less reliance on third parties selling their tickets;
  • Contactless ticketing and payments will be the norm;
  • There will be less reliance on multiple add-ons for data, in my opinion all the data is there in the system and the suppliers have to do more to help their customers understand and utilise this data;
  • APIs will be utilised as the promoters who actually own the show on tours can have access to the data from any system where their event is taking place;
  • Paper tickets will be used purely as souvenir tickets, most people are used to using mobile tickets.

Josef Lageder, business segment manager, events, SKIDATA:

“Digitalisation” is the keyword. 

The industry was moving very slowly in terms of digitalisation before COVID-19, but in 2020 it has caught up to what has not been done in the last five years.

This trend will continue now. Data is the new measure of things, processes will be automated. Cashless payments will become the standard and mobile engagement will gain more and more foothold. Data monetisation – every touchpoint will produce data that can be used to increase per capita spending and reduce costs by identifying weak points.

We will also see interesting innovations in ticketing and access control, ticketless access will become more and more traction using only my biometric data for access.


Image: Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash