Leadership / 12.08.21
The Kennedy Center’s Anne Vantine Speaks Truth About Ticketing as a Career
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
Anne Vantine speaks truth. And one of the truths she hit this writer with during our recent interview was this: “Most of us fell into ticketing by accident, because it is rarely talked about or taught in schools as a career option.” She then went on to detail her glorious “accident” that has led to a distinguished career in the business we all know and love.
Vantine started her ticketing career as a temp. She was pursuing a master’s degree in performing arts administration at New York University and needed some extra money. One of the first jobs the temp agency sent her on was in the Subscription and Group Sales Department at Madison Square Garden (MSG). “At MSG,” she says, “I was lucky because even though I was a temp, I had a wonderful boss who encouraged me to pursue projects and allowed me to run with them. Ultimately, a job was created for me as a Projects Manager and later as a Systems Analyst/Database Designer.”
MSG also sent Vantine to her first INTIX Conference — Chicago 1996 — an experience she has some wonderful stories and special memories from. After her time at MSG ended, she decided she belonged in the arts more than in sports. After all, she was a classical guitar minor as a Rhode Island College (RIC) undergraduate. She subsequently moved on to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) as Director of Ticket Services.
“While I loved working at BAM,” she says, “there were more work opportunities in Washington, D.C., for my late husband, which brought me to the Kennedy Center as a Treasurer for the Eisenhower and Terrace Theaters.” After nearly a decade there, she went back to the New York area to be closer to family and took a job as Director of Ticket Services at the New York City Ballet. She soon realized that living in New York was not affordable, though, so she decided to return to the nation’s capital, to the Kennedy Center, and to her union family.
“I [have been] a proud member of IATSE Local 868 Treasurers and Ticket Sellers since 1998 and am the current Business Agent. Local 868 is a union that represents box office professionals. Having worked in ticketing in both non-union and union settings, a union box office gives me the financial security I need to pursue a career as a full-time box office professional and a bigger voice in my workplace. More importantly for me, it provides an opportunity to stand up for and to negotiate contracts that benefit box office professionals whose skills are often discounted and who work hard nights, weekends and holidays and are often not given the respect that is deserved.
Vantine was recently promoted to Senior Treasurer in the ticket office at the Kennedy Center. She calls this full-time job a “jack of all trades” position that assists all of the venue’s ticketing office teams. She and her co-Senior Treasurer are the “bar backs of sorts,” she says, “acting as backups for the Treasurer teams and for the ticket sellers at the window during curtain times.”
Vantine has been in the business for years, but she has never faced a couple of years like 2020 and 2021 with a global coronavirus wreaking havoc with live events and performances. She says her biggest challenge during the COVID-19 crisis has been finding ways to help colleagues who lost their jobs. “I was extremely lucky because I not only worked the entire pandemic at the Kennedy Center, but we were busy the entire time,” she says. “First refunding and managing customer service surrounding hundreds of canceled performances, then with setting up or rescheduling events and contacting patrons regarding reopening the Center. I had a lot of ‘survivor’s guilt’ because not only was I working, but I was able to work remotely.”
She adds, “Also, as 868’s Business Agent, my negotiating skills were greatly challenged. Most of our theaters were closed with little to no work for their ticket staff. I worked with many of the employers to find ways to assist the venue financially, while also ensuring that our members and their box office staff were taken care of where possible. Most of our theaters were extremely kind and worked hard to at least ensure that their full-time staff did not lose their health benefits during the pandemic, and to them I am extremely grateful.”
During such tough times, she is especially appreciative of the things she loves about her work. Chiefly, problem solving. “In ticketing,” she says, “there is always a problem to solve, be it a customer service challenge, how to sell VIP packages using the ticketing system, how to schedule enough staff for four-plus matinees and four-plus evening performances on a Saturday for three remote box offices, and so forth. Give me a challenge or puzzle to solve, and I will do whatever I can to figure out how to make it work!”
She continues, “I really love what I do. Both working in the box office and for Local 868. No two days are alike. There is always a challenge, always something to learn, always something to teach, always something to stand up for. But finding time to do it all and enjoy life away from this work is difficult.”
Vantine says she been lucky enough to have received some wonderful advice over the years, but there are two pieces of counsel that drive her to this day. “One, I feel, is good advice, and the other is horrible advice,” she says with a laugh. “The good advice? If you want to be heard, deliver the message in a thoughtful and kind way or the people who need to hear it will shut down and not receive it. As a work in progress, I fail at this often but keep trying.”
The horrible advice? It was given to her early on as a student. “It was not just bad advice,” she says, “it was harmful advice! In a college management course, I was taught that to impress management and to prove I was a valuable employee I had to ‘be the first in to work and last to leave’ — for no extra pay — which was the mantra of the time. What a disservice to a whole generation of workers that was, and I believe helped to create the cultural idea that we were lucky that they hired us when in reality, they were lucky we worked to make their business successful! This is especially true in the arts and entertainment industries where our passion and desire to work in this field is often used to convince us that we are lucky to work in these industries. Are we lucky to work in the arts? Absolutely! Are they lucky we work odd hours, nights, weekends, holidays so the show will go on? Absolutely!”
Vantine delights in delivering such truths. And she loves to have this opportunity to impart some wisdom to any young woman reading this who is just starting out in ticketing. “Be proud of being a ticketing professional,” she says. “Those who don’t know or understand what we do will try to diminish its importance as a profession. Know that it is an exciting, challenging and fulfilling career that will use all of your talents.”
Vantine hopes that ticketing will eventually be included as a major in degree programs and given the same importance as marketing, finance, etc. “It is the one area in an organization that intersects with every department: marketing, finance, production, programming, fundraising and more,” she says. “Even if your path is to be an executive director at a performing arts organization someday, working in the box office is the best place to gain important knowledge about how an organization runs because just about everything that happens in the organization at some point will be touched by box office in one way or another. Let’s face it. It takes very special skills and passion to be a career ticketing professional. It’s not for everyone. We are a rare and fun breed!”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing