Leadership / 11.06.18
The Magic Behind the Button
When INTIX President Maureen Andersen spoke recently at an Ontario Ticketing Professional Association (OPTA) meeting, a ticketing industry icon, Alfred Hubay, the former manager of the Metropolitan Opera’s ticket office, had just passed away. Hubay, like so many others, Andersen noted, never really intended to get into ticketing per se.
“It all started with what he thought would be a temporary job ushering at the old Opera House [in 1943],” said Andersen. “He came for a week and stayed a lifetime.”
Hubay ran the Met Opera’s ticket office for 25 years, quickly becoming known for his uncanny ability to predict ticket sales, not just for individual shows, but for entire seasons. And, remember, this was in an era of pre-printed tickets with stubs that had to be counted by hand. The thought of simply having to push a button on a smartphone to purchase a ticket would have been unimaginable to him and others who worked in the industry at that time.
So, when Andersen took to the stage to remind her audience of the important role they play behind the scenes, it was only natural she would cast a well-deserved nod to this industry icon who was, by the time he retired, a “ticket office legend.”
“I didn’t know this fine gentleman,” said Andersen, “but it is my hope that all ticketing professionals, when the day comes, get a similar type of obituary. One that honors what we have done, like Mr. Hubay: ‘They came, they stayed, they made a difference.’”
And with that, Andersen put all ticket office professionals on center stage, reminding her audience how it all started in 1979 with a couple “cheeky ticket office managers” — Patricia G. Spira and Richard Carter — who built an organization that today represents well over 1,000 ticketing professionals in more than two dozen countries.
And, she noted, over four decades, the organization’s core values have remained unchanged.
“We are still the same noble, heroic, brilliant, patient, kind and incredibly dedicated professionals that work to make others’ lives better,” said Andersen.
Ticketing professionals make people’s lives better, Andersen said, through magically turning hours and hours of hard work into memorable events that are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people the world over.
“The ticket office is the barometer of any organization or venue — they are the heartbeat — the mysterious ‘I don’t know what they do in there, but they seem to always know the answers.’ The nobility of our business springs from this mystery,” she said.
Andersen related how she has worked for years on an elevator pitch to succinctly explain what it is she does. That pitch has changed with the advent of new technology so that today, she said, it is simply this:
“I represent a professional association of all of the professionals and technology behind that ticket you buy to the game, show, concert or musical. You press the button, but we are the magic behind the button!”
Andersen acknowledged and applauded all the time and effort that goes into the magic.
“You know all the work, the hours, the pain, the tickets, the re-seats, the errors, the hassles, the drama, the yelling, the tears, the panic, the upheaval, the changes, the re-doing our work sometimes countless times, the selling, returning, re-printing, the cursing, reporting, the meetings that go into just one single performance of an event. You are all magicians who with a wave of your magic wands turn into publicists, marketers, promoters, accountants, business owners, lawyers, psychiatrists, writers, technologists and purveyors of hospitality that ignite success. So to you, my friends and colleagues, the next time someone asks what you do, put these words into your defining statement: ‘I’m a magician! I’m the magic behind the button.’”
That button and the rest of the once unimaginable technology that has fueled a wholesale transformation of the ticketing industry is becoming ever more sophisticated, and Andersen sagely advises everyone to keep abreast of the rapid transformation.
“This industry is changing at a phenomenal rate with innovative technologies abounding. Our world has changed rapidly and continues to move quickly. The tools and technologies we are using today will be obsolete or radically changed practically overnight,” she said.
Andersen also gave her audience a glimpse into that future.
“We loom on the edge of another profound shift in the business of ticketing and entertainment management. Never has that simple transaction of “event, ticket, money” been so affected. The advent of ticketless purchase and entry, bitcoin, and blockchain technology is here, and what seems foreign today will in a blink of an eye be habit and old school.”
And with that, Andersen reminisced fondly about the industry’s rich history of passing the torch by sharing and teaching skills to newcomers. Many of those skills have become obsolete. Or, have they? Andersen warned that even the best technology sometimes fails, leading to the inevitable question: What now?
“If the technology all crashed on the same day, if there was no internet, would our ticket offices today be able to weather the storm? There are many ticket offices out there run by one or two very inexperienced people who have been dropped into this job with no training and seemingly no help. We owe it to our youth and newcomer colleagues to teach them our language, the glossary of ‘advance,’ ‘wrap,’ ‘dead,’ ‘cumulative.’ And not as just words, but also the why and what of those functions. We tend to teach to the function rather than explaining and teaching to the why and how it all fits. That is the challenge I take up for INTIX, and I need your help — to ensure that we are still teaching and being true to the original concepts and mission. That we provide a space to help and lift up those who need the basics, the training and the education to be a success.”
In doing so, every ticketing professional can continue to be the magic behind the button — even on rare days when the button fails.
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