Live Music

From a club night in Birmingham to a seven-figure acquisition

Main Image: Left to right – Jimmy Hewson, Mo Jones (Chairman), Colin Palmer (CTO), Harry Boisseau (CEO), Phil Hayes (CPO), Liz Cobley (Operations Director), Phil Shaw-Stewart (COO)

Main Image: Left to right – Jimmy Hewson, Mo Jones (Chairman), Colin Palmer (CTO), Harry Boisseau (CEO), Phil Hayes (CPO), Liz Cobley (Operations Director), Phil Shaw-Stewart (COO)

TicketSellers and accreditation software Eventree were recently acquired by Citizen Ticket, the Edinburgh-headquartered ticketing and bookings system. With roots in a club night in Birmingham in the 1990s, what’s next for the TicketSellers team?

Mo Jones first founded club night Flashback while studying an engineering degree in the UK city of Birmingham in the 1990s, building the base of the business that would eventually become TicketSellers. Starting at the university, the night gradually expanded to a 3,000-capacity iconic Birmingham venue, The Que Club. 

Jones explains to TheTicketingBusiness that the early days of driving around the country to distribute flyers for events, and collect money from different venues led to the creation of an early type of ‘e-ticketing’. 

“Every major town or city would have its own ticket agent, and it might have been a record shop, or it might have been a hairdresser. If you look back on flyers from those days, it’s so hard to imagine – there was no internet, this is how you got your information,” Jones says. 

“You would come out of a big event, and there’d be hundreds of people outside all handing out paper flyers for other events around the country. That was our job, straight after the exhausting process of running an event, we’d jump in the car and drive around the country, and drop off the flyers and posters for the next event. We’d have to collect the cash, and sometimes you’d go somewhere to collect the cash, but then the guy who had the safe key wasn’t there that day. The whole thing was a massive faff, basically.”

When Jones and her team started selling tickets for a lot of events through her ticket agency Old School Days (stylised as Old Skool Daze), this is where she thought “There must be a better way of doing this”.

Mo pictured at one her club nights

Early in the 2000s, the team asked if they could do ‘customer not present transactions’ which meant that customers could phone up and give their credit card details. To do a security check, team members would go to the phone box over the road to do a 192 check to see if the cardholders were who they said they were.

Then, once payment had been taken, details would be typed up into a Word document, which would be faxed over to the venues on the day of the event so that they could cross people off as they arrived.

“It was very rudimentary, but it meant that we could do telephone bookings for our own events and telephone bookings for other people’s events. At that time, we’re talking 2000 or 2001, it just wasn’t a done thing,” says Jones.

TicketSellers as a brand was eventually born in 2006 with the creation of a website.

A few years later, Phil Hayes joined the team on the technology side of things to try and build a website that could withstand high traffic volumes. Building the customer-facing aspects from the ground up, Hayes explains that the aim was to have no queues and to look after the customer at every step of the way.

“I guess you could say the whole ‘no queue’ and looking after the customer stems back to the beginning, where it was based on word of mouth. Making sure to look after customers, because it’s a free bit of advertising,” Hayes tells TheTicketingBusiness.

“Giving someone a good experience means they’ll tell someone else, and it just keeps going and going.”

This idea of making a process as easy and simple as possible was also the basis of Eventree, which was called Crew System when Hayes joined TicketSellers in 2014. It was originally presented as an add-on for clients that were working with TicketSellers on ticketing to manage crew, staff, artists, and more at events. 

After explaining the idea of selling Eventree as a product to Jones and business partner Jimmy Hewson, Hayes and the rest of the team came up with a brand identity. 

The move was a success, and Eventree was picked up by major music and arts festivals, including the UK flagship event Glastonbury. 

During the global pandemic, when events gradually started to return, there were often regulations in place to help combat the spread of the virus. 

This is where the accreditation system came into its own, because festivals and events could easily track staff, and see if they had provided a negative COVID-19 test.

Mo with her children

“It changed people’s mindsets on what it means to organise an event. Suddenly, it wasn’t good enough to have a list of names on paper or on a spreadsheet,” comments Hayes.

The client list for Eventree has continued to grow and now includes Festival Republic, which promotes the likes of Reading and Leeds. 

Despite the difficulty that the COVID-19 pandemic presented for TicketSellers, festivals, major events and ticket agents across the globe, Jones explains that 2022 probably presented the company’s best-ever ticket sales, which helped to plug the gap in 2020 and 2021. The pandemic also saw Jones and Hewson take a step back, with Hayes promoted to chief executive of TicketSellers.

Coming out on the other side of the pandemic has brought with it further opportunities. Citizen Ticket agreed to acquire TicketSellers and Eventree in a seven-figure deal earlier this year. 

As part of the deal, Jones has become Citizen Ticket chairman, while Hayes has taken on the role of chief product officer. 

So what is exciting Jones and Hayes about being part of a new team and working with Citizen Ticket? 

“I think what is exciting for us is that Citizen Ticket is really good at multi-day sessions,” says Jones. 

“More visitor attractions and things like that, which is completely new to us. It’s a lot smaller, more regular stuff, where many of our events used to be once a year. So it’s going to be very interesting to get stuck in and enjoy that, rather than just having a really crazy summer. I’m looking forward to spreading the workload and benefitting from the technologies that they’ve developed that are different to ours.”

Hayes adds: “Being part of a different team with new people to discuss ideas and plans with is something that I am already enjoying and benefitting from.

“Also exploring different areas of the market. I think that’s the beauty of bringing these two companies together. They’re two companies that haven’t both focused on the same parts of the events industry to date, and I feel like this is more interesting.

“We’ve got our businesses, we’re both great at what we do and now it’s about bringing those together to get more out of the combined.”