Pre-sale tickets – Venues vs. performers

pre-sale tickets

Harsh criticism by a talent manager on the subject of pre-sale tickets isn't surprising, talent needs to have proper representation, but has Justin Herring gone too far? Is there really as much exploitation of performers as his OpEd suggests? We'll look at what has been said about pre-sale tickets as it relates to your venues bottom line.

Is this really the "truth" about pre-sale tickets?

Recently Justin Herring wrote an OpEd in Hypbot that is very critical of pre-sale tickets with the hostile title of 'A Casual Scam: The Truth About Pre-Sale Tickets'. Herring, an artist manager and booking agent by profession, comes just short of disparaging venues by name, but does go into gory detail of what he considers to be nefarious practices surrounding pre-tickets ( sometimes referred to as "pay-to-play" ).

In the OpEd, he gets most of his disdain for artist exploitation off his chest, then settles into some amicable recommednations for venues, booking agents and the performers themselves, to consider. The recommendations start with sympathy for the venue:

Now, I completely understand that without the venue, the bands don’t have a place to play. The venue obviously has to cover their insurance, their staff, their bar, the sound guy, light guy, the power bill, etc. So they definitely have bills to pay. And they rely on people to walk through the door in order to stay in business. There’s no doubt that running a bar or venue is risky. There’s a lot that could go wrong. But with every service based business you have to rely on a loyal customer base that connect with whatever establishment they [sic] visiting.

Herring has the following suggestions for performers, which may be of interest to venues:

  • If a venue is going to require you to sell 40 tickets, do it, as long as what you receive in return is fair, and the venue is offering promotion for what’s going on in their place of business to help drive as much traffic as possible on top of the tickets bands are selling.
  • Bands can throw in the money to rent a hall yourselves.Team up with a local promoter, set the price for the show, pay off all the expenses once the night is done, and every band split everything equally.
  • Make money for your band entirely off of your merchandise. Which means, you have to focus on having good merch and are able to put on a good live show to bring people in to pay attention and want to buy merchandise.

 Fellow booking agent's retort

The aggressiveness of Herring's post doesn't go unchallenged. In the comments, fellow booking agent Michael J. Epstein, says that the problems described are not inheriantly part of pre-tickets, the issue is of poorly negotiated deals between venues and performers:

This article is a little bit of a straw-man attack on pre-sales. Ticket pre-sales don't need to be done using the parameters you give. I will sometimes ( not for every show ) take shows that require pre-sales. Most of them are "good faith" pre-sales. That is, even if I sold 0 tickets, I would get to play, etc., but I give my word that I will get X tickets sold. On top of that, the pay rate is always negotiated to be something fair - not $40 out of $560. The problem is not with pre-selling, but rather with bad deals.

Venue owners might  the comments made in Herring's post  an outside perspective when formulating their pre-sale ticket strategies.

Our thoughts on pre-sale tickets

Distribution, pricing, availability and the all important timing of when to make pre-sale tickets available is not a trivial task. Rather than attempt to tackle the entire subject within one blog post, we want to start the conversation with a few thoughts...

Allocate blocks of pre-sale tickets for distribution by sales agents or the performers themselves and be as fair and amicable about the percentages as possible. If you have accumulated historical sales data that indicates past events of a similar nature sold well, take that information in confidence to raise your percentage. If the opposite holds true or there isn't enough sales data to decide, you may consider that an opportunity to be more generous with pre-sale tickets, treating them as more of an event awareness marketing tool, rather than an outright form of revenue.

Venues develop that good reputation among ticket buyers without them knowing the performers by name. In general, every performer wants to appear at venues known for quality entertainment - Both the performer and venue owners can enter into fair pre-sale ticket negations using this as a baseline to start from. Amicable pre-sale ticket proceed splits encourage both parties to market and promote that much more,resulting in even greater sales at the box office and online.

Create a well worded pre-sale announcement that causes excitement with the ticket buyers. A properly done, pre-sale announcement, with or without pre-sale ticket availability, can build organic word-of-mouth buzz for your upcoming event.

Can’t we all just get along?

track sales commissionsThe opinions of talent managers or booking agents should be taken into consideration when you make pre-sale tickets part of your event. When it comes to making smart decisions about pre-tickets - Does your current online ticketing software have all the tools you need? Thundertix users most definitely do. We have everything you need to manage and distribute pre-sale tickets, including the ability to track sales by user.

This post is just the start of an ongoing series we will be publishing on the subject of pre-sale tickets. While we always have the venues' best interests in mind, we think the perspectives of others, such as Justin Herring, have value in the context of overall pre-ticket strategies and best practices.