It’s only a matter of time before mobile kills Ticketmaster – and that’s a good thing

Let me tell you a story whose outcome will have a common refrain in the months and years to come as a result of mobile’s disruptive powers.

For the first time in 3 years, Bruce Springsteen is setting out on the road for a long-awaited tour. Like most artists, tickets were being sold through TicketMaster and, like most popular artists, the experience was a complete disaster. Ticketmaster admitted that scalpers quite literally stole the show and made what was supposed to be a great experience a frustrating lesson in ineffective use of technology – and one that continues to plague Ticketmaster.

This is “set and forget” at its finest

We’ve been buying tickets online for almost 12 years now and, while the technology has improved, the experience has not and, clearly, the scalpers are innovating in their ways to disrupt more so than the company enabling the sale of the tickets.

There is simply too much friction for the consumer trying to use Ticketmaster and this is a considerable vulnerability for the company – one that mobile could completely disrupt at the same time as completely destroy Ticketmaster’s core business, much like mobile has done to Best Buy.

The slow death of the band brand – thanks to Ticketmaster

The experience a consumer has while engaging with a brand – regardless of where they have it – needs to be managed by the brand itself. Ticketmaster’s inability to stave off malicious scalpers may be a black eye for their business but it has massive repercussions on the brand of Springsteen in this instance. This isn’t the first time this has happened, in fact, Springsteen almost sued Ticketmaster a number of years ago in defence of the fans. What is that saying “fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice…”

Why do we accept this? Why do the brands accept this? Do they not realize that the experience we have interacting with their brand – regardless of where – influences our decision making process and our desire to spend money with them?

So the air is ripe with the sweet smell of disruption and mobile is the answer.

Mobile as the end of Ticketmaster

Have you tried buying tickets from Ticketmaster on your phone? If you have you will know that it is the exact same experience as buying tickets online – right down to the captcha. This kind of laziness has got to stop.

The Mobile device is the perfect confluence of personal tastes, location and identification that these old-school and out of date mechanisms aren’t needed. The phone knows us and we (for the most part) are ok with that yet Ticketmaster still insists we set up an account or pump in a credit card number in order to buy via mobile.

Suffering the same fate as scheduled TV

We have grown up being scheduled to be places to watch things and stand in line but this is changing – quickly. Sure, we aren’t giving up on live sporting events like the Super Bowl but do we really need to be on the couch at 8 anymore? Should we really need to be on the phone or at a computer at 10AM* when tickets are released? How convenient is that for their customer – for us?

Many of us are turning to our phones as a first screen out of convenience and we expect more and more services to be available and accessible in this format – including ticket purchases.

Bringing the brand back to the band

This all may seem idealistic or even naive but there was a time when these bands were about fans and the good ones – those bands that have endured – understand this. They also understand that their business is being assaulted on every front: It is more competitive than ever because the process of music making has been democratized. The profits in this business have shifted from selling albums to selling tickets and merchandise. So getting in front of the fan and enabling them is where the focus should be and mobile is the perfect place to start.

Removing the rush

Tickets have become a virtual good so why the build up to a date and time when they go on sale? All that does is open up the likelihood that the true owners of the brand – the fans – are going to be disappointed. Just sell the tickets. Now. Not next Saturday at 10AM. Now.

Worried about security or scalpers buying excess tickets? Let mobile tie the ticket purchases to a phone number. And while we are at it, give us a choice to pay the way we want to pay – be it entering my credit card, using PayPal or billing directly to my carrier bill. Make it work for me and I’ll buy more often – that’s the Amazon way and that seems to be working.

An App for every band

Maybe not for every band but there is a wealth of opportunity in mobile apps for bands as brands. Concert tracking, merchandising, alerts / notifications, ticket purchases and even fan rewards / fan clubs should be available in a mobile form. Don’t put that on the fans, build it and let it grow through the fans. Mobile does this and people will download and install these apps if there is enough commitment to a good, valuable product.

If Ticketmaster continues to create friction for ticket buyers, it will only be a matter of time until mobile becomes the enabler – and then it will be too late for them to recover.

* Disclaimer: I once did stand in line overnight to get Huey Lewis and the News tickets – back when they were cool…

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

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