Leadership / 11.01.23
Opry Entertainment’s Clinton Embraces Change and All That Is Ahead
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
“Change is inevitable — embrace it!”
Those are the wise words of Crystal Clinton, the Entertainment Ticketing Director for Opry Entertainment. And Clinton certainly knows what she is talking about when it comes to the ever-changing business of ticketing and live events.
She began her career as a programmer analyst in the mid-1980s for Opryland USA. Not long after coming aboard, she was able to become part of the team that built the first automated ticketing system for the Opryland USA Theme Park and its vast array of guided tours. “Our team then moved from general admission tickets to automating the assigned seating of the Grand Ole Opry House and General Jackson Showboat,” she says. “Over the past 38 years, I have been a part of six different ticketing system implementations for venues across five states with dozens of venues.”
And during that time, her employer has undergone multiple transformations from a privately held business to a publicly traded company to now a real estate investment trust. “We currently average well over two million tickets sales annually,” Clinton says.
Besides the iconic Grand Ole Opry, other famous and emerging brands she and her colleagues support include the historic Ryman Auditorium, the Wildhorse Saloon, and ACL Live at the Moody Theater. She provides support for team members who together build, configure and manage 40+ daily tours; more than 600 concerts, Grand Ole Opry Shows, private events and rentals; and other ancillary offerings such as parking, photo packages, souvenir tickets and more. Additionally, Clinton manages Opry Entertainment’s billing and other month-end reconciliations.
Through it all, she has never lost her passion for ticketing itself. In fact, she refers to ticketing as the “center of our entertainment business. We interface with virtually every department within the company. The obvious are our call center, box offices and group sales teams. But we also work closely with our marketing teams to ensure the correct information is posted on our websites about our events; with our accounting team to ensure everything is configured properly to flow through our automated financial interfaces; with our financial planning team to track our sales pacing and pricing; with our retail team for ancillary upsells; and with our tour teams to track retail, group and private tours … I love the cross departmental collaboration and teamwork and everyone’s willingness to support each other.”
But there is no doubt the work is challenging, even downright hard at times. Clinton freely concedes that her biggest personal challenge continues to be finding a work-life balance. She says, “My and my team’s roles require us to be in the offices Monday through Friday, typically, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. if we are lucky, and often later. But in the entertainment business, and with the number of venues we have, there really is only one guaranteed dark date a year — Thanksgiving! If Christmas or New Year’s happens to be on a Saturday, we will have an Opry Show that evening, too. Ticketing is the lifeblood of our business, and we must be available to our frontline stars who have the most important job of all, which is taking care of our guests.”
During her time in the business, Clinton has been in a position to help a number of women who have achieved success. Even with this article, she was eager to provide some helpful words to young women reading this who are just starting out. “Learn not to overreact,” she says. “Listen carefully to what someone tells you. But before making that phone call or firing off an email in haste or running into someone’s office to give someone a piece of your mind, dig a little deeper to make sure you have a clear picture of all sides. Then, you will be able to give a much more measured, thoughtful response.”
And, by all means, enjoy the journey! Clinton has several funny anecdotes of moments and incidents that have happened while working live events. She says, “During an upgrade that was going to take many hours, my team was attempting to limit the downtime as much as possible for our frontline staff. The vendor was anticipating giving us the system back around 1 a.m. So, most of the team decided we would get in the office around midnight. At 1:30 a.m., we got the call that there was a problem. They would have to restore and start over! No one wanted to go home and drive back in, so we decided to attempt to sleep on a very thinly carpeted floor.”
Smiling at the remembrance, she continues: “It was miserable, and we were all exhausted when it finally was time to start our testing. As we were running the lengthy validation process, one of the last tests was to test making a room charge at our hotel property. We had the hotel block a room for us the previous night for the test. It wasn’t until that moment that we realized we had a hotel room less than a mile away that we could have easily caught a much more comfortable few hours of sleep in! Not one of us had thought about that earlier!”
Clinton definitely has forethought now about the future of ticketing and live events. Heading into 2024, she described herself as “cautiously optimistic. We have a cross-departmental team that meets weekly to discuss what trends we are seeing and what levers need to be pulled to find the balance between maximizing review and attendance. Buying patterns have changed, and we are seeing a much higher volume of last-minute purchases. People still seem to want the live entertainment experiences, but are they waiting later because of a multitude of choices, or their fear of more stringent cancelation policies? This puts a burden on the venues to staff properly, balance F&B prep, and manage marketing spend. This focused attention has been crucial to our success this year, and we will continue to home in on our forecasting and modeling for 2024 shows. We already have many holds on next year’s calendar!”
You May Also Like
Want news like this delivered to your inbox weekly? Subscribe to the Access Weekly newsletter, your ticket to industry excellence.
Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing