Leadership / 01.03.23
Executive, Advisor and Investor Brian Arnone Has Worn Many Hats in Ticketing
A Greek philosopher once said that change is the only constant in life. Brian Arnone, a seasoned live events executive, advisor and investor, certainly understands that better than most. His LinkedIn profile lists at least 21 different roles he has held in the 25+ years since he started in the business at 19. From his early days in customer service at BASS Tickets in Northern California to his current position as CEO at DipJar, Brian’s career has been marked by a sense of urgency.
“I move really quickly,” he says. “And I don’t mean from job to job. I move fast within a job. I accept that I am going to make mistakes, but I also have the confidence to know that I can fix them … Living through experiences [and competition with other vendors] really ballooned up my confidence … I think some people would tell you I have a big ego, and I do, but I hope it is not in a negative way. I just have a lot of confidence to take big risks.”
Brian and his wife taking in a Metallica concert at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
This confidence, says Brian, is bolstered by his desire to compete. His career allowed for this early on, offering opportunities when companies he worked for were acquired. Brian also credits a series of mentors for guiding him along the way. Among them, he is thankful for Pete Bramson, who oversaw operations, and Dana Carrigan, who oversaw client services, both at BASS Tickets; Andrew Dreskin, who co-founded and led both TicketWeb and Ticketfly; and Marc Jenkins, the CEO at Patron Technology, where Brian served as President, CRO and Senior Advisor.
“When you look at my career, it is not the most glorious career or anything,” he says modestly. “But when you look at it and dissect it, you can see those moments where … there's this tweak or situation that happened where key people took the time to help, give me an opportunity, or shape me.”
And shape him they did. Today, Brian is well known and respected as one of the best and brightest in his field, having excelled in key leadership roles for ticketing companies experiencing phenomenal growth.
“The most important thing for a leader, and I was told this early in my career, thank God, is that ‘leaders don't take the credit for anything that goes positive, but they take the blame for everything that goes wrong.’ And what I mean by that is you are always standing next to and in front of your team. They always need to know that you have their back.”
He says, “It is not [a leader’s] job to tell you that you are doing things wrong, or you are doing things necessarily right all the time. Their responsibility is to help you grow as an individual and collectively within the company. When you look at the companies that I have worked for that have succeeded, they have had really strong leadership from people who took the time to share with and explain what was going on with not just the business, but their interactions at the highest levels.”
Over a quarter century in live events, Brian has scored some remarkable achievements, but he is quick to share the credit with his colleagues.
“There have been some big deals I have won in my career. Again, it is not me but the group, the company, that I am proud of. Those are big moments,” he says. “I have been part of the sales of companies. That has been fun — a few times being pretty deep in the trenches on that … It doesn't happen without the people around you doing everything they can to help grow the business and make it successful, and then getting them to share in some of the rewards of that success, has been pretty rewarding too.”
What does Brian consider his greatest achievement or most memorable career moment to date?
“Going from a call center agent at 19 to being a C-level executive at 39, that is probably what my 25-year-old self would say,” he says. “[But], what I consider to be my greatest achievement is helping the people around me grow and looking at where they are today … I feel selfish saying it because they're the ones who have to do the work and achieve it, but like the people who helped mentor me, I hope I helped them a little bit, too.”
He says, “There are different times and things that are memorable. I was proud and thankful, just appreciative, of the people of ShowClix when we announced to them that we were acquired by Providence Strategic Growth and what it meant to now be part of a bigger business with bigger goals and bigger challenges, too. I was incredibly confident and excited for the road ahead … Getting to share that with ShowClix [as the company’s President and COO] was a special day.”
Like many others in the ticketing business, what Brian loves most is the “magic” of bringing people together to have a good time.
Brian and his wife celebrating Halloween at a Pittsburgh Penguins game.
“Live events are special,” he says. “They are magical. If you are behind the scenes trying to put it on, they are incredibly frustrating at times but also incredibly rewarding. When you get people in the seats, or you get people to your venue, and now things are happening and the system works, scanners work, people are smiling, there is something really rewarding about that. What I love most is the idea of bringing people together over shared interests, whether it is an artist you want to see, a play you want to see, or a sports team you are rooting for or against. I think bringing people together is [what I love most] about our industry.”
When it comes to live events, Brian shares some favorites of his own.
“The 2013 National League Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh when the Pirates beat the Reds was the best live event I have seen for a variety of reasons … For 21 years, we didn't have a winning record. I bought season tickets to the Pirates right around Sept. 1 that year even though I was living in San Francisco because I wanted to make sure I could attend any and all playoff games,” he says. “I was able to get the tickets that I wanted for the postseason. That was amazing. It didn't work out, obviously, to go all the way, but that Wild Card Game was pretty special.”
He continues, “Another one would be 1997, when I saw Radiohead at the Shoreline Amphitheater, for totally different reasons … That was the first time I saw a band do multiple encores, and they did three. It was such an experience because there were so many people from different walks of life at that show. The age range was extreme, but the crowd felt so in unison at that concert, so that was a really special event to be at.”
Brian and his wife, summer 2022.
Brian also considers the annual INTIX conference to be a rather special event. He went to his first in Toronto in 2001. He had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised.
“I got to INTIX, and there was something very different about it. I don't mean to knock any other conferences, but I found that when I walked around INTIX, competitors and really any vendor would take a minute to talk to you and ask what you are about,” he says. “I could ask them something, and there was not necessarily an opportunity for them from a financial standpoint, no reason to talk to me … but I found that people took the time. I met a lot of people that first year. I even got to spend more time with people I used to work with because I was with TicketWeb at the time. I [also] spent a good amount of time with guys I had been in the trenches with at Tickets.com. It was a really unique experience.”
Today, what Brian values most about INTIX is seeing friends, catching up and giving back.
“There is a responsibility that a lot of us have, especially someone like me, who was given [mentorship] early in my career, to give it back. And sure, you are trying to talk to prospects, and you are trying to drum up business and increase revenue. That all has to be part of it. But there is an underlying part to INTIX that is special in your growth as an individual and as part of this industry,” he says.
The fact that INTIX “kicks off the year” is something Brian enjoys. “You see a lot of what people are trying to do for the year and maybe some of the things they are proud of that they accomplished the previous year,” he says. He also especially enjoys when it is held in warmer climates. This is no surprise for someone living in Pittsburgh, where winter can get pretty chilly.
“This is when I miss California, when we start seeing snow, and it gets cold here, but I do love living here. The main thing is I like living where I can easily go to other places,” Brian says. “My [wife] would love to live out in the country. I am more of a city guy. We are in suburbia now, but we are really close to downtown Pittsburgh, so that is probably how it has to be for me.”
Brian enjoying Halloween in 2022.
As for Brian’s favorite place to visit? It is anywhere warm with a beach. “There is a calm and a peace that comes over you when you are at the ocean,” he says wistfully. “I grew up in California, so I am particular to beaches there … I really like Cancun, parts of Florida and the Bahamas, but I love Southern California.”
Brian’s wedding day in St. Thomas, 2022.
In Pittsburgh, Brian’s life centers around his family, which he describes as the greatest love of his life.
“My [wife] has two daughters from a prior relationship, and I have my son from a prior relationship,” he says. “My son is seven, and her youngest daughter is seven. They're about nine months apart. [She also has a] nine-year-old. They are like the three Musketeers. We are outnumbered, but it is a lot of fun.”
Brian says, “Getting to experience things again through their eyes for the first time is special. We took them to Disney World a few years ago and have gone every year since. We took them to Universal Studios last year. It doesn't always have to be things like that. We took them to a farm [recently] where you take a tractor up, and they have different scarecrows, animals and things like that … I like exploring new places or new things, and seeing it through my kids’ eyes is an even greater joy.”
Brian’s kids Keeva, Annika and Dylan at Universal Studios.
He continues, “Watching the kids grow and evolve, it feels so fast. Obviously, their height is going like crazy, but their personalities, wishes, desires and hopes really lead me to try to be better. It's an easy word to say, but I’m just trying to evolve every day. Not just being a father to them, but also a husband to my [new wife], and making sure they all know that I am always there for them and that I am paying attention.”
Brian and family at Universal’s Volcano Bay in 2022.
Similarly, that is also what Brian values in his friends.
“People will always say trust and honesty and all that stuff,” he says. “It is more so about showing up. The friends I have today who are dear friends to me, they are not people you talk to every day. They are not people you may even see that often. But if I had a situation where I needed help, advice or honestly just someone to vent to in some cases, I have key friends who are there. The thing I most value is knowing that they are there and hoping they know that about me, too.”
When it comes to people, Brian is moved by those who believe in trying to do good and improve things.
“There are many things and people that inspire me with what they try to do, especially in today's world. I see people trying to do what they can to inform and make change for good, to further the people around them [rather] than themselves. It doesn't inspire me to watch people who try to make themselves more and more grand,” he says. “I think early in my career, that was a lot of my focus, unfortunately. It was a lot of ‘how do I get promoted to the next thing?’ And ‘how hard do I work here to get promoted to that?’ It was a lot of ‘me, me, me,’ and it took me a minute to recognize that [if] I take the time to help the people around me, all that stuff for me is going to work out.”
When he’s off the clock and not attending a Pittsburgh Pirates or Penguins game, you are apt to find Brian reading a book by one of his favorite authors (Michael Lewis, Mark Bowden, Patrick Lencioni), perhaps while listening to his favorite bands (Radiohead, The National). Or maybe he will let his mind wander, thinking about the advice he would give himself if he could go back in time.
Brian and his family celebrate Christmas, Pittsburgh Steelers style, in 2021.
“I would say be patient and probably listen more too. I was in such a rush all the time. I am so competitive, and I always have been. As my career started shaping … I was lucky early in my career for many reasons. I was given a lot of opportunities that maybe were opportunities given because of the situation those companies were in, not necessarily because I fully earned them, but I hope that once I got them, I took advantage of them. It took me too long at times to recognize some of the people that I had worked with in the past who I could have learned more from. I don't live with regret necessarily, but that was part of it.”
Brian continues, “When Advantix acquired BASS, it became this battle for Northern California, northern Nevada, Advantix versus Ticketmaster, [and then] Advantix later became Tickets.com. Once I got to experience that, once the business was acquired and it wasn't just this company with these great people you work with, it was now this company battling another company, I loved it. I already loved live events, but I loved that it was so competitive, and the competition was great. It made me work a lot longer hours. It made me work harder. It made me want to work faster and question why I couldn't at times. So, yes, I would go back and tell myself to be patient, calm down.”
Annika, Dylan, Keeva and Crosby the dog.
And if he had three wishes, what would they be?
“I would start with the world — no more cable news. I am not one of those people who says I hate Fox News because of what they say, or I hate MSNBC because of what they say, but I would like to do away with the opinionated news. When we only listen to things we agree with, it doesn't do anything for us. It causes us to be more divided and more polarized,” Brian says.
He continues, “World hunger does not make any sense to me … I do not care what taxes have to be. I do not care what we have to do to make that work. My wish would be that every kid has three square meals a day and the snacks they want. We should be able to do that as a planet, and it frustrates me that we can't … I think a lot of people are going to say, ‘oh, I wish for billions of dollars,’ but it starts there for me. Then the third wish is for us to somehow get it into our DNA to explore more. Let's build great big spaceships and go travel the cosmos.”
While Brian would, unfortunately, have to concede that he hasn’t gone quite that far himself, at least not yet, he does say, laughing, that he would love to be able to fly (yes, like a bird) and visit more places here on planet earth. He was born in Manchester, England, went to kindergarten in Nairobi, Kenya, and, as a child, traveled all the time with his family.
“I got to experience a lot of different cultures, and I watched my parents; how open they were with people that did not necessarily look like them or act like them. It is important to me to continue to evolve with experiences as well. Most of the problems I think we have as a country and as a world are because people do not witness other cultures, they do not witness other situations, and they do not witness other places.”
While we don’t know where Brian’s upcoming travels may take him, we do know he has a big decision to make before he leaves — which pair of shoes to wear! It may sound easy, but when we asked about his most prized possession, we learned this might not be the case. First, he mentioned a treasured photo of his grandfather when he was a young airman on a B-52 bomber in World War Two, and then the clincher:
“Shoes are important to me,” he says, adding that if everyone could see him during his INTIX interview, they would see 100 pairs of shoes behind him. “There are also 100 hats to the right of me. But those [shoes and hats] are not prized possessions. Those are just things I like to collect and things that make me happy to collect.”
This seems wonderfully appropriate for a person who has walked many miles and worn many hats during a highly successful career.
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Tags: Leadership , Ticketing