following the success of his direct-to-fan sale of his live at the beacon show, louis CK laid down a particularly effective outline for how one could sell media in the 21st century without middlemen: create, edit, and distribute yourself. with the constant rate of advances in technology, this path will remain a mainstream option for the foreseeable future. it is abundantly clear that it is not only possible, but feasible and desirable as an artist to dispense with middlemen and control all aspects of how you interact with your fans.
with this in mind he approached us to once again assist him with the deployment of the next stage – selling tickets directly on his site. we consulted with him on the options he had to do this, and ended up working with a ticketing partner who provided a white-label service. our role in this was light: we provided integration advice and process changes to the site to bring ticketing into the fold.
the results speak for themselves: the tour sold $6 million of tickets in the first week.
ticketing is something we’re fascinated with, inasmuch as it affects anyone who loves live music (or many other forms of art). louis CK is exceptional in his stature in the entertainment world, but i’d like to expand on our thoughts in this area and the difficulties an independent artist faces getting something like this working for them.
most would agree that ticketing is the natural next frontier when it comes to disintermediation. ticket sales are ruled by a small group of companies who exercise tight control over the market and do so at the expense of fans, fueling – or more correctly, driving – a rapid inflation in ticket prices over the last decade and, with the dominance of online ticketing, the corollaries that fans love to loathe: “convenience”, venue, and delivery fees, frequently increasing a ticket price by some 30-40%. fans are forced to swallow these as part of the overall cost of a live show, despite often tenuous or non-existent reasons for the fees. such price hikes and added fees push younger and poorer fans out of the market, decrease the frequency with which all fans can see shows, and increase the revenue gained by both the ticket broker and the venue. needless to say, the latter item is paid more attention by brokers and those running venues.
it is also needless to say that as a company we find this highly distasteful. it impoverishes culture by excluding people; the effects of this impoverishment are intangible and cannot be given a monetary value – but run deep.
being able to sell tickets direct to one’s fans sounds such a simple thing: find a venue, book it, and sell tickets. in practice, it is much more difficult for two reasons: firstly, venues are often contracted exclusively to a single ticket broker, meaning that they are contractually forbidden to host an act who does not use that broker. secondly, the high ticket fees guarantee an extra cushion of revenue for the venue. even if you find a venue unencumbered by existing contractual restrictions, you must ask them to forego extra revenue by using your own tickets. moreover, you are also asking them to support a disruptive ticket model, for which they risk the displeasure of their ticketing partners. to make such a request right now, therefore, you need to be a standout act who is worth the trouble. louis CK‘s tour is planned for a variety of independent venues across the US who have agreed to host him.
a secondary benefit of selling direct is the ability to dictate the terms on which the tickets are sold. louis CK‘s terms were to provide all tickets at one flat price of $45 with a zero-tolerance policy of scalping. this drives a highly equal distribution of tickets: in theory, it means you’re unable to jump the queue if you simply have more money than another fan, so everyone gets an equal shot at a ticket (and indeed at the front row) regardless of their means. likewise, fans can resell tickets – provided you sell for the same $45 you paid, without any markup, to prevent scalping. these two rules provide for a level of fairness and equal access in the ticket market which is rare and highly welcome.