Leadership / 06.17.21
Not ‘Just’ Anything, But Everything
Editor’s Note: This letter was originally published by INTIX media partner VenuesNow in the July 2021 VenuesNow INTIX Quarterly Issue.
A letter to the industry. Let’s trade jobs for a day, then let’s talk!
As the greater industry around the world turns the lights on, opens the doors and welcomes back customers, fans and audiences into live entertainment venues, I take this moment to celebrate the fortitude and dedication of the unsung ticketing professional. I urge everyone to pause in this moment and really think about what these pros have done in the past 15+ months and to honor their incredible work to keep “live” alive in one form or another.
Ticketing professionals are a group that so often goes unheralded. They are frequently taken for granted, and quite often forgotten, yet they are the backbone of so many aspects of a venue, an organization or a team. Ticketing pros wear many hats in an organization; hats that are integral, and they are expected to be proficient in all of them, including revenue generation, strategy, marketing, digital/social media, technology, finance, budgeting, health/safety, fundraising, leadership, project management, training, public relations, communication, unions, negotiations and HR. That was before the pandemic and shutdown, and even now the skills they require are morphing and changing exponentially as we reopen. Think about that! Rebecca Throne, the executive ticketing pro at Burning Man, has the best description when she defines the ticketing pro as the generalist or Swiss Army knife of live entertainment. Indeed, they are the hardy, highly functional and trusted tool that can fix any problem, get you out of sticky situations and are the go-to providers of solutions!
Recently, I heard from an INTIX member whose general manager had said, ‘You are just the box office manager.’ There’s a lot to unpack in this statement, but I’ll stick to the subject — even though this is, of course, language and attitude that is a red flag for this bull in the ring. Ticketing professionals are so far from “just” anything, and this language should be eradicated from the industry vernacular.
Ticketing professionals kept the lights on. As our industry shuttered and events were canceled, postponed, moved, rebooked and rescheduled — sometimes multiple times — the ticket pros were the center point of communication to fans and customers. They’ve done their work not once but two, three, even 10 times on some events. They protected revenue, convincing folks to keep their tickets or move the purchase price to a donation. They kept the customers happy.
Beyond that, ticketing professionals were and are the voice. When venue doors closed, the only voice that could be reached at an organization was the ticketing professional, often on their mobile phones in their kitchens by themselves. You rolled your central phones to them to answer the calls, give the service, provide information, work through the cancellations, postponements and the refunds. They took the heat and the ire of the customers and explained it all repeatedly.
Ticketing professionals invented bubble and pod seating to accommodate social distancing. Working with technology partners, they invented a new language; envisioned a new system of sales and protocols; demanded new reporting for pod/bubble integrity or orphaned pod seats; created stacks of seat maps not once but dozens of times for reduced capacities; measured seat distances; scaled and rescaled events; moved their entire operations to mobile distribution, sometimes with no infrastructure to support it; deployed cashless systems; zip-tied seats; communicated and continue to do so with customers who grow ever more cranky with rules. All this and with a sense of humor, a smile and dogged determination that this is the path to live, and we’ll get there!
My greatest honor over the past year was to have a front-row seat to witness these professionals — to see their integrity, their grit, their humor, their passion, their loyalty, their courage, their dignity, their frustrations, their fears and their honesty on full display. What started as a quick Zoom call for ticketing professionals has become an invaluable weekly support and solutions meeting with anywhere from 100 to 400 global ticketing pros from all walks of life and every segment of the entertainment industry. This group comes together weekly to share information, talk through difficulties, look for solutions, teach and learn from one another. They have suited up and showed up for each other and for their organizations knowing that their community will have the answers for success!
In show business, it is, of course, true that all of us are asked to wear different hats at different times, and I think most of us happily do so because the show must go on. Ticketing pros, by and large, didn’t choose this as a profession but rather arrived via circuitous journeys — and it takes a certain personality to do this job. We may have trained or been educated to be opera singers, teachers, doctors, journalists, dancers, bankers or lawyers, but this calling gets us. It’s the taming of the chaos via our Type A personalities and it’s the thrill and challenge of finishing the puzzle that keep us here. We are so much more than “just” anything. We are the magic, or as a U.K. colleague says, we are the power behind the button. We make that “buy button” work time after time and make it look seamless and easy. That’s the point, after all. The show isn’t in the ticket office, and we do remain hidden; however, none of it works without us. Let’s trade jobs for a day, and I know you’ll see the ticket office and the professionals who manage it in a whole new light. Try doing “just” any show without them.
Admittedly, I have one primary purpose in my job: to promote, celebrate, elevate, support and illuminate the live entertainment ticketing professional. Please join me in celebrating our ticketing professionals, pay them well and thank these unsung heroes of live entertainment. Like the general managers, tour directors, stage managers, promoters, actors, musicians, riggers, carpenters and more, the role that ticketing professionals play is vital — and so much more than “just” putting on a show.
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Tags: Leadership , COVID-19 , Coronavirus