Leadership / 03.16.22
Mitchell Klein Is Making a Big Impact in Ticketing from the Big Apple
“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” or so the lyrics go. And for Mitchell Klein, it could not be any truer. While Mitchell has lived in Los Angeles, Miami and London, he says there is no place he would rather be than where he is right now, in the place he was born, New York City. “I love it, I love it, I love it,” he gushes. “This is where I have always wanted to live, and I am happiest here.”
And what entertainment enthusiast would not be happy in a city with more than 2,400 venues?
“I need to be in a place where I am spoiled for choice for live events. Here in New York, I see five to six shows per week on average, so that is definitely what fills my time. I love it. I cannot get enough of it. There are plenty of weeks where I see a show every single day, sometimes multiple shows in a day.”
“Hello! My name is Elder Klein, and I’d like to share with you the most amazing book.” (Taken at the Broadway Across America 2017 Ticketing Conference, Salt Lake City)
With that said, while Mitchell had a hard time picking a favorite since he loves venues of all sizes and types, there is one that stands out. It is not on or off Broadway, but far away in Texas.
“I love being in the theater. I love being in an arena. I love being in a stadium. Heck, I love being in a club. I just love venues. I am fascinated by them. Half the fun of going to a live event is checking out either a new theater, arena or stadium that I haven’t seen before,” he says. “Of Broadway Across America’s venues, I am a big fan of the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio. It is a beautiful, historic theater. It is beautifully preserved and has an intimate feel. It has a very specific mood that is perfect for an evening of theater.”
After spending many years in other cities, Mitchell returned to New York in 2008 toward the end of a successful 20-year career with Ticketmaster, then took some time off and traveled around the world.
“When I came back,” he says, “I was living in an expensive apartment in Manhattan, and I did not really know where the future was going to take me. Several people in the industry were looking out for me and recognized my value. It was an important moment in my life and career.”
Front row, L-R: Tracy Wenckus (Broadway in Portland), Brittany Smith (BAA), Morgan Jones (Broadway in Portland), Shannon Reynolds (BAA). Is that the Portland Opera’s Baroque Ball Gala 2017 or a scene from “Dynasty”?
And then, in December 2011, Mitchell made it big once again in the Big Apple, assuming his current position as National Director of Sales Operations for Broadway Across America, which bills itself as the foremost market leader for live touring theatre in the United States and Canada.
“I am a leader of a team that I truly love working with,” he says. “That is what I love most of all about my job. I genuinely, truly love the team that I lead. They are hardworking, passionate, caring people who, like me, do not just view this as a job, but as a passion. What I value most in my colleagues is a collaborative spirit — someone who is open to constructive criticism, but also willing to give it. In a leader, I think fairness and trust are really important.”
“It’s good to see me, isn’t it?” Welcoming Broadway back to the road post-lockdown at the opening of Wicked at Dallas Summer Musicals, August 2021. L-R: Joanna Minerley, Mitchell Klein, Rachel Simmons and Susie Kent.
When it comes to what he values in his friends, Mitchell’s personality shines through.
“I count on my friends for constant laughter, so a sense of humor, for sure. I am the person who has access to all the shows, but my friends should not just depend on me for their entertainment. I want some reciprocity.”
That need for a good laugh or at least a quiet chuckle spurred Mitchell’s interest in George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and political activist who Klein regards as his favorite writer.
“He had opinions about history and about his contemporaries, and he held nothing back. He was an activist and a humanitarian, and he delivered all his messages with humor. That is probably what drew me to him initially.”
Mitchell also loves music and musicians, wishes he could play the guitar or another instrument, lists David Bowie as his favorite artist, and says his most treasured possession is an old jukebox that plays 45s, which he has carried around with him since he was a teenager. And, at the top of his list, he says, is his love for learning.
Mitchell with some of his BAA team at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, 2015. Front row, L-R: Eric-Michael Bauer, Tony Hiser, Sarah Mellow, Jon Soucy. Back row, L-R: John Keeter, Christine Walsh, Lezlee Kupchin, Mitchell Klein, Susie Kent, Jared Mestler (Ticketmaster).
“There is no one thing necessarily that I focus on,” he says, “but I love to learn. It is the most important thing to keep learning. That is why I love to travel. That is why I love to go to the theater. It is about learning, it is about expanding my mind and expanding my experiences.”
He continues, “Live events are not just theatre and concerts and sports. To me, it is everything. I go to a lot of meetings of groups. I go to a lot of lectures. What inspires me is to see people in their 80s and 90s who are going to these events and thinking that they have not stopped learning. They are still interested. Even going to some experimental piece of theater down in the East Village and seeing some nonagenarian sitting in front of me and thinking, wow, you have made the effort to come out here to see this experimental piece of theater. You are still expanding your mind. You are still learning. You are still taking it in. That really inspires me.”
After joining Broadway Across America, Mitchell’s passion for learning took him to his first INTIX conference where, he says, he unexpectedly experienced one of the most memorable moments of his career.
Mitchell at the INTIX 2019 Conference with some of his BAA team. L-R: Tony Hiser, Shannon Reynolds, Joanna Minerley, Mitchell Klein, Trish Goggin, Tyler Loiselle.
“I ran into somebody who was a ticket seller at a sports team in Miami that I used to support when I was at Ticketmaster. I had not seen him in a very long time. He came up to me and said he was thrilled to see me. Obviously, I was happy to see him as well. He told me that he was now the director of ticketing at a major sports league team. I could not believe it. I mean, this guy was a ticket seller only a few years prior. And then, he said, it was all because of me! He said that I used to come into their box office in my support role, and he saw the passion I showed for ticketing,” Mitchell says. “Unbeknownst to me, he saw me as a mentor. He loved when I came in for a visit because he knew he was going to learn something. He was going to feel good about what he was doing. He had somebody whose career path he could look up to.”
Since that first conference, Mitchell has continued to play an active role in INTIX. The membership also recently voted him to the Board of Directors, which he has joined for a three-year term from 2022 to 2025.
“I have only been a member for about 10 years,” he says. “If I had known what I was missing, especially when I was starting out in this industry, I would have made it a point to be part of INTIX earlier.”
Mitchell continues, “INTIX gives me a sense of community. There is nothing better that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic than the Wednesday Wisdom sessions that have brought so many of us together and closer to each other. For me, it is less about what I get out of INTIX and more about what I can give to others now that I am an older member of the community, now that I have been around. More than any other reason, I am involved with INTIX so that I can share my acquired wisdom with others who are coming into an industry that I love. My entire career has been in ticketing, and it is so important that there is an organization like INTIX that brings together people and promotes the future of our industry.”
Indeed, Mitchell sees INTIX as a connection to others in the industry, whether they are in the arts, sports or otherwise.
“We are all in ticketing together,” he says. “Most people here at Broadway Across America can only reach out to other arts organizations because that is all they really know. INTIX allows me to pick the brains of sports folks, concerts folks, stadium folks as well as other performing arts professionals.”
When asked what brings the most joy to his life, 30 years after starting in ticketing, he became quietly reflective.
“When a ticketing manager or a box office manager is being pressured into something or they are getting a hard time from a customer, it is often said, and I am sure you have heard it: ‘You know, this is not heart surgery. This is not brain surgery.’ The suggestion being that we are not saving lives here. We are just ticketing. We are just putting on a show. I take issue with that because quality of life is as important — I would actually argue more important — than the quantity of life. And so, a heart surgeon or a brain surgeon may be able to extend someone's life — and obviously that is great, that is miraculous, and we are thankful for them — but what we are doing is we are actually improving the quality of people’s lives. I am part of an industry that is improving the quality of people’s lives, and that gives me immense pleasure.”
Still in a reflective mood, we asked Mitchell what advice he might give himself if he could go back in time. He paused, then responded, “Be bolder. I spent most of my life being very conservative.”
And if granted three wishes, what would they be? Not surprisingly, he did not have any. For Mitchell, it seems, all his wishes have already come true.
“I really dig the life I have,” he says. “I am not really aspirational in the sense that I would want wishes granted as much as I just want to achieve. I have loved every minute, well, most minutes of my life in this career. I have been so lucky, not only for what I have gotten out of the people who I have worked with, but what I have also given to them.
Mitchell’s career in ticketing began similarly to many others in our industry. Simply put, it was serendipity.
Mitchell celebrating Sondheim in lockdown with a few of his friends, Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald.
“I just wanted to take six months off from my master’s studies, and now it has been 30 years,” he says in happy disbelief. “I looked at the job board at my college and one of the jobs was at Ticketmaster. I thought, ‘I have given them enough of my money, maybe it is time for them to give me some money, for them to pay me.’ I really did say that aloud to my flatmates while I was living in London at the time. I got the job and could not have been happier about it.”
Mitchell continues, “I have really taken advantage of the access we have in this industry. I have been to every major sports final. I have been to the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA Finals, the NCAA Championships. I have golfed with Jim Kiick from the ’72 Dolphins, I have bowled with Shaq, I have partied with Stevie Nicks after a Fleetwood Mac concert, and I partied with David Lee Roth after a Van Halen concert. I have had a drink thrown at me by Patti LuPone at an after-show party. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like if I didn’t have this access,” he says.
Ultimately, the ticketing life that granted him this incredible access has also brought incredible satisfaction and joy.
“I don't know whether live event ticketing found me, or I found live event ticketing,” he says, “but it has been a marriage made in heaven, and I am just living the dream.”
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