“What would happen if we created our own queer ticketing platform?”

This was a question posed by event organiser and entrepreneur Daniel Nardicio to his now business partners Taylor Shubert and Sam Benedict.

In the middle of a global pandemic, in which Nardicio was just one of the many event organisers to have suffered greatly at the hands of well-known ticketing companies, the trio formed ticketing platform Red Eye Tickets in New York.

Benedict told TheTicketingBusiness.com: “We had several sold-out events scheduled at the onset of the pandemic which in turn meant a lot of refunds, or so we thought. We were shocked at how difficult it was, or in some cases impossible, to get the ticket platforms we were using like Ticketmaster and Brown Paper Tickets to refund our patrons.”

He added: “When you consider the size of some of these companies, and their worth, we found it unconscionable that producers and patrons were left holding the bag. In addition, we looked back at the amount of money we generated in fees for these companies over the years and said to ourselves ‘we can do this, we can do this better, and we can serve our community in the process’.

And so, Red Eye Tickets was born.

Nardicio said: “First off, while we are gay-owned and operated, we do not only host and sell gay events, but moreover, cool events featuring great talents, some famous – some not yet famous – and promote our mainstay, parties.

Our ethos is to keep going out affordable, to help performers and promoters get their events out there, and I think in this day and age, to give good customer service. Try calling a larger ticketing company right now, you’ll be on hold longer than [US airline] Delta – especially if you need a refund. We aim to be better.”

Nardicio also said it was “professionally embarrassing” for these larger companies to avoid processing refunds for sold-out shows featuring performers such as American drag queen BenDeLaCreme, known for being a contestant on the television series, RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The company went into beta testing during the summer of last year on Fire Island, which runs parallel to the south shore of Long Island, New York. The site had been built by Shubert, who had previously worked with Nardicio and is now a partner and creator of Red Eye Tickets. The ticketing platform will complement the soon-to-open coffee bar and nightclub, Red Eye NY. 

Giving back

As part of running an LGBTQIA+ ticketing platform, the founders knew it was important to give back to charities that would support their community.

Nardicio said: “We’ve been very lucky in our careers in nightlife that people have come to our events and supported us. We decided to use our platform to give back, in a very tangible way, to our LGBTQIA+ brethren who are struggling, homeless youth, people in our community who need a leg up, as it were.

The charities chosen do exactly that. Ali Forney and Callen-Lorde in particular are doing the Lord’s work, in my opinion.”

The Ali Forney Center is a service that provides support to homeless LGBTQ+ young people and is inspired by Ali He’shun Forney, an African-American gay and transgender youth that was a counsellor and advocate for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people in New York. He was killed in Harlem at the age of 22.

Callen-Lorde is a charitable organisation that focuses on LGBTQ+ health and has health centres and pharmacies that cater to the community’s needs.

Benedict added: “Gays Against Guns is an organisation very near and dear to me. I’m so proud of the money I’ve been able to raise for them in the past and just ecstatic that the work continues with this endeavour.

While this is our first foray with Rainbow Railroad [a Canadian charity that helps lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people escape violence and persecution in their home nations] we’ve long been excited to support their mission in providing refugee services for queer individuals around the globe.”

Benedict has already raised over $15,000 (£10,915/€13,086) for Gays Against Guns, and a further ¢25 from each ticket purchase will go towards these organisations. 

Catering for the community

Despite being a young company, Red Eye Tickets has already expanded to include programming around the US.

Benedict said: “Our home base is in New York City where we all live, but our business isn’t exclusive to the Big Apple – we’ve already serviced events in New Orleans, Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Fire Island, to name a few.

Our aim is to highlight LGBTQ+ people and events because they often don’t get catered to by ticketing platforms, event listing services or even the press. That’s where we fit in.”

Shubert explained that the company has expanded through “clearly stating what we do, and what we stand for”. This then attracts performers and producers around the globe that support Red Eye Ticket’s vision.

He added: “We’re excited to continue that growth and to help other people in the nightlight community grow by shining a spotlight on what makes them unique and fun, and helping our audiences attend their events. We’re on this journey together.”

Nardicio concluded: “Some of the greatest artists, performers and shows are created and facilitated by gay people. And while those events are often heralded critically, we found in our experience that if the event was gay-centric, or ‘too gay’, it didn’t get the same attention.

But we don’t mind, because 2022 – it’s the year of the gay!

Image: Michael Discenza on Unsplash