Leadership / 11.03.21
Life After the Circus
Like so many others, Eric Valley fell into the ticketing industry after selling tickets part time when he was still in university. And what a beginning it was. In his website bio, he jokes that he “ran away with the circus” in 2001 and toured Europe for two years. After 16 years with Cirque du Soleil, he decided to go a different route, launching a new career as a consultant and subsequently cofounding TICTACTIX, a ticketing services company in Montreal, Canada.
Eric in Pasadena in 2019.
While on that early trip across the pond, Eric met the woman who he now describes as the greatest love of his life, his wife Maria. “It was love at first sight!” he says. The two met in Amsterdam in 2002 while Eric was on the European leg of Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbanco Big Top tour, then ended up working together in the ticket office.
Eric’s 2002-2003 office.
“From touring together, getting married in Seville, [Spain], lengthy immigration processes, becoming parents, buying a first apartment, going back on tour with a child, more children, new apartments, new jobs and companies, children becoming teenagers, it has been and still is an amazing ride. I am grateful to have her in my life,” he says.
Eric, top left, rocking on tour in 2002 with friends and future wife, Maria, far right.
When it comes to others, Eric admires people who are genuine. “I like people who can speak from their heart and who are respectful of others. I cannot stand artificiality.”
In those he works with, Eric respects a leader who has gumption and can rally the troops by not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk. In addition, he values honesty, respect and integrity. “Vision is also important,” he says.
As for colleagues, Eric values people who are trustworthy. “You provide and receive the space needed to allow everyone to perform their duties,” he says. “People who trust each other are willing to share success and accountability for failures to the end. It reinforces teamwork, pride, a sense of belonging and allows individuals to take risks. Trust helps creates efficient team dynamics where you can get the best out of everyone.”
In his 16 years working for a circus that has been described as one of “the world’s most famous live spectacles,” Eric oversaw ticketing for many of its iconic tours that included over 28,000 performances across North America, Europe and Asia. In that time, his ticket office team sold an incredible 38 million tickets. With such accomplishments, what does he consider his greatest?
With daughter Mariana in the Corteo by Cirque du Soleil tour ticket office.
“Professionally,” he says, “there is not a single achievement that stands out that I define myself by. I was very fortunate that people believed enough in me to give me huge responsibilities such as creating the ticketing team for the arena tours, implementing dynamic pricing and overseeing ticket sales for 11 simultaneous tours worldwide. But it keeps going on today. I am very proud to have cofounded TICTACTIX with two amazing partners. The company is growing, and I’m having a lot of fun.”
On a personal note, Eric says his greatest achievement is his family. “Although I am extremely grateful for my career so far and all the experiences I have had, work will always come second to my family. The experience of having children, seeing them grow, learn, evolve and develop their own identities is fascinating, and I am fortunate to have a great partner to share that with.”
Eric camping with his family.
The intersection of music and ticketing came early in Eric’s life. The first tickets he ever sold were for a Pearl Jam tribute band that he played in as a teenager, although his favorite band is and always has been Pink Floyd. To that end, he credits David Gilmour’s guitar playing as the reason he picked up the instrument himself. When asked which talent he would most like to have, Eric says he wished he could have sung well when he was performing with local bands in Montreal.
Eric performing in 1995.
Now family-oriented and with teenagers of his own, Eric’s thoughts turn to more practical matters. “One thing I always tell myself is that I could be more disciplined. I also wish I could find pleasure in exercising. Unfortunately, I have not achieved that yet.” When asked what he would ask for if granted three wishes, Eric says, “health — for me and my family for many years to come — that there was more respect, tolerance and compassion in the world, and ongoing prosperity.”
Having toured the world, Eric obviously has had a chance to visit some top venues, including London’s Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden in New York, both of which never fail to impress him. But his one visit to an iconic amphitheater stands out. Indeed, it was where he says he took in the best live event of his life. “Daft Punk at Red Rocks in 2007 — by far. [It was an] amazing set and lighting, incredible settings and good friends. It was simply magical.”
Baseball with son Paul.
Magical moments are something Eric treasures. Simple things like tending his garden in the summer, coaching baseball, watching movies with his family and spending what he says is probably too much time on video games. When asked what advice he would give himself if he could go back in time, he responds candidly, “I would not try to change anything. I do not have any regrets. I made mistakes, had failures and did things I am not proud of, but you learn from your mistakes, and I believe they make you grow as an individual. But I would try to remind myself to enjoy the moment — live for today. I do it more than ever these days, but it is wisdom I wish I had gained when I was a bit younger.”
Eric when he was 7 years old.
Turning back to his professional life, Eric says his most memorable career moments involve meeting incredible people, including Peter Gabriel, Barack Obama and Buzz Aldrin. “I mean, a superstar, a president and someone who walked on the moon. Pretty far out!”
But Eric says it is his own “tribe” that he values the most. “I went to my first INTIX conference in Toronto and discovered people who dealt with similar challenges and day-to-day realities. It was a bit of a shock. My first feeling was ‘I am not alone anymore.’ It was both a relief and empowering. It was great to talk with people who actually could relate to what I was saying and vice-versa.”
Eric continues, adding that INTIX has given him “access to a strong professional network. Even though I already had a pretty good one working at Cirque, INTIX allowed me to develop it even further.” Never underestimate the power of a network, he says. “The ultimate test was the last 20 months — there was a lot of support and solidarity. I never felt alone thanks to my network.”
INTX also gives Eric something different from everything else he is doing. “The information obtained is catered to our field of expertise. For example, NFTs have many uses, but INTIX translates it, through articles or sessions, into how this could [and] will impact our industry.”
When asked about a mentor, Eric says he does not have one now, though he has had many in the past and is grateful to them all. Today, he finds inspiration everywhere — in art, science and people, without the latter formally becoming mentors. For the past three years, Eric has been a member of the INTIX Board of Directors. He is also on the Board for Théâtre PÀP, a not-for-profit organization in Montreal, where he says everyone inspires him in some way. “Some for their artistic ideas, some with their management and/or communication skills. After every board meeting, I get a positive dose of energy.”
As the INTIX community knows far too well, the pandemic had a devastating impact on the live entertainment industry, including Eric’s former employer. Cirque du Soleil filed for bankruptcy in June 2020 and laid off 3,500 employees but then bounced back when a new owner came on board five months later. Eric had left the circus earlier, in 2018, and started down his new path in consulting, both on his own and through TICTACTIX. Offering his experience to serve other organizations in this way has given him the chance to continue learning. “As every venue, promoter or sports team has a different reality and culture, it is the constant adaptation and change in mandates that keeps me motivated.”
Corteo by Cirque du Soleil reunion in 2018.
This is clearly just what Eric needs as he enters the second half of his professional life. “I hate repetitive work and tasks, and I am very fortunate to have very little repetition in my job. I also love the fact that there is a lot of room to be creative in ticketing. People may have heard me say this before, but I like the idea that we are the gateway to life-changing experiences. I love concerts, artistic or sporting events, and I feel fortunate that my job is getting people in the venues for them to live unique experiences.”
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