Leadership / 08.11.21
You Are a Ticketing Professional? OK, What Exactly Do You Do?
After nearly four decades in the business, INTIX President and CEO Maureen Andersen has a unique understanding of what goes on inside and outside of the ticket office. In an ode to ticketing professionals, she once described our community as “a tribe of magicians who, with a wave of their wands, turn into publicists, marketers, promoters, accountants, business owners, lawyers, psychiatrists, writers, technologists and purveyors of hospitality that ignite success” — and goodness is that right, and then some.
Of course, we all know that ticketing professionals are magic makers, people who sell fun, the magic (or power) behind the “buy” button and, heck, even the Swiss Army knives of live entertainment (credit for that incredible last descriptor goes to Rebecca Throne of Burning Man). Indeed, you are not “just” anything, but absolutely everything to our industry.
All this talk over the years got us wondering how other ticketing wizards might describe themselves when asked that age-old question about their jobs: What do you do? Then, consultant and former INTIX Board member Andrew Thomas raised the topic on a recent Wednesday Wisdom call, so we knew it was time to ask the question far and wide. Here, in no particular order, are many answers to that question!
“We all miss busy auditorium and stadia, but me, I always love the feeling of being in an empty arena, seeing it before the ‘fun,’” Andrew says.
He continues, “In my consultant role, I say that I am a writer. Then, I usually get asked a follow-up question or two, like ‘What type?’ or ‘Would I have read anything you have written?’ I clarify with ‘technical documentation,’ which usually solicits an ‘oh,’ and the conversation moves on.”
Andrew answers the question about his consulting work in this way because saying “it’s complicated” would always just bring on more questions. “To explain,” he says, “it is not that I am not proud of what I do. It is just that I find it draining to explain what we do, how we do it and that, yes, I can get free tickets, but no, I won’t get any for you.”
Free tickets. Yes, that’s a question almost every single ticketing professional has been asked time and time again.
“When I spend time acting as a ticketing pro, I fall back on my old boss, ticketing legend Paul Williamson, who taught me in the ’90s that ‘I work in computers’ works well, but nowadays, I have updated this to ‘e-commerce,’ given how our industry has changed,” Andrew says. “Maureen’s ‘magic behind the button’ description was an eye-opener for me and truly does sum it up, but I think only we get that. That is not me being snobbish; it is just that other people don’t understand everything we do.
“I recently ordered a set of fenders for my boat, and they arrived as promised. Until I was asked how I describe what I do for this article, I never thought about who took the photo of the fenders for the website, who priced them, who uploaded the photo, who printed the pick list for the warehouse, who picked the item, who packed the item, who scanned the postage bar code, or who drove the delivery truck, and the list goes on. Also, it never occurred to me that they would not arrive. Many of our customers feel the same way about ticketing; they never give it a thought. We should be proud of that. No one ever thinks about who or how ticketing works, as we make sure they don’t have to.”
“I always found it hard to properly describe to others what I do,” says Eric Valley, Senior Partner at TICTACTIX and INTIX Board Member. “I feel like whatever explanation I come up with never really does justice to what I do. If you mention ticketing or ticket sales, people automatically imagine you standing behind a window selling tickets. Just like with icebergs, people only see what is on the surface. They do not know the depth of our involvement with every event.
“Yet, ticketing is the cornerstone of live entertainment. It ensures that there are audiences standing (or sitting!) in front of artists and that everyone is having a good time. Simply said, ticketing puts the ‘business’ in ‘show business.’”
Eric continues, “What I really love about this job is that we sell fun. We have the privilege to sell unforgettable ‘money-can’t-buy-(but-you-can-be-sure-that-we’ll-try-our-best-to-get-pricing-right)’ experiences that enlighten people. I always feel privileged to be a part of the industry.
“That said, it is not easy job, nor is it for everyone. Ticketing requires a combination of intelligence, quick thinking, resilience, commitment, flexibility, agility and adaptability. A good ticketing professional is a versatile individual proficient in sales, e-commerce, finances, reporting, staff management, inventory and yield management, security, crowd management, customer service, ADA regulations, event production and logistics. They also need to have the ability to play the occasional psychotherapist to a client, staff member, promoter and/or artist. Oh, and yes, I was forgetting — very important — they also have to manage comp ticket requests!”
“Interestingly, a few weeks ago, I was having this exact conversation with a fellow arts professional who is pursuing a PhD and works in policy but, admittedly, had never considered how sales or ticketing is important to the arts,” says Jennifer Dobrowolski, Box Office Manager at Walton Arts Center and Walmart AMP.
Jennifer is also in the process of hiring additional staff and has had this same conversation in this scenario as well. So, she has crafted a response for both arts professionals and nonexperienced job seekers.
To the policymaker, Jennifer says, “ticketing in the arts [or sports, as she’s done both] very simply creates a connection point between the artist and the public in a space that is both relevant and accessible so that a relationship between the two can be formed. There are a multitude of economic choices a person must make every day, and so they must be judicious with their discretionary income. Ticketing professionals verbalize the value of that specific experience and what it means in context, not only to the consumer, but also to the larger community. It transcends a simple economic transaction into an emotional, visceral relationship between groups. Ticketing is the catalyst that gathers 60,000 people for the game, 2,500 patrons for the show or 100 parents for the fifth-grade recital. For all of our differences and disagreements, for that one fleeting experience, we become a community, moving united in support of a common goal. And ticketing professionals do it one dollar, one phone call, one meeting at a time. In short, we get butts in seats.”
When speaking to job applicants, Jennifer describes ticketing as “an excellent way to get your foot in the door of an organization if you’re new or switching careers.” She continues, “we are a unique department in that we interact with every other department in some way. Whether we live under ops, communication, marketing, finance or we’re independent, we still have a guiding hand in how our organization runs. Because of that, we need to have a multitude of skills and personality types. We know just as much about our patrons and our community as we do about what were selling. We are the main earned revenue generators for our organizations, and in some, like mine, we also secure the revenue of other departments. We are both back of house/administrative and front of house/patron facing. We are the information gate keepers and the data managers. We are the first point of contact for patrons, facilities, production, front of house, finance, marketing, communications, public relations and even security. In short, we control everyone else’s chaos and then execute a functional, hopefully profitable, event. Potential for growth and promotion is really up to you, depending on your interests. By beginning in the box office, you set yourself up for stepping into any department or role with a sound understanding of what it takes to succeed. We also happen to fix copiers and printers, program computers, make the best coffee, have the best-stocked snack drawer, and tell the best stories and jokes.”
“I enable joy. It’s really quite simple to understand,” says Gary Lustig, Principal at LusTicks Consulting Services. “Look at the wonder in the eyes of a little girl at her first ‘Nutcracker’ with grandma. The look of amazement on a child watching the ‘Lion King Circle of Life’ and the smile it brings to their parents. The tears of someone lost in the emotions of a live symphony performance. The excitement in the air a few minutes before the curtain rises on a Broadway musical. The memories someone carries after seeing their favorite artist perform live, be it the first time or 20th time. The gratitude of a guy you helped find the ‘perfect’ seats for a show that will end with a marriage proposal (she said yes!). That’s what my colleagues and I do. Too often we are consumed with solving problems, dealing with some form of unhappiness (promoters are first on the list) and driving revenue. We lose sight of the joy we enable every day for millions of patrons and fans. While we are skilled professionals with amazing talent, capable of doing the impossible on a moment’s notice, this is all in the service of enabling joy in the lives of those around us.”
Gary buried in a report of some kind prior to opening the gates to 5,000 people at the Fort Worth Symphony’s Concerts in the Garden, circa 2002.
You will likely recognize Chris Stasiuk, Head Treasurer of the St. James Theatre, from a recent Fox News report about Broadway’s reopening. In it, she shared a similar sentiment to Gary Lustig, saying, “We create joy.”
“But when that joy,” the report goes on to say, “was taken by a pandemic, and no one knew when theaters might reopen, she thought about a new career. Other jobs just weren’t for her.
“None of them sounded like what we do,” she said. “And so, selfishly, and after a conversation obviously with my family, I said, ‘I’m going to stay unemployed until I can get my job back.’”
“As an independent contractor in the ticketing industry, I have had the pleasure to work many different types of events. I live in San Francisco, California, and explained my varied jobs as compared to a Marine pilot, or port pilot. The big ships that come into the San Francisco Bay have a pilot come aboard and take over the helm to drive the ship to dock. The maritime pilot understands the topography and hazards of the waters and the shipping channels and other potential dangers to bring ships to dock safely. I think this is a fair comparison to my approach to managing a box office and many different types of events,” says Phoebe Joecks of revneD Productions LLC.
Phoebe hams it up at Taste of Country in Hunter, New York.
When Stuart Levy, Ticketing Manager for “Wicked” at 321 Theatrical Management Ticketing, describes his work in ticketing, the first thing he tells people is that he cannot get them comps. Like many professionals in our industry, it’s a question he is asked before people ask what he does for “Wicked.” Then, he shares that he is “the counterpart of marketing as they are so connected.” Additionally, Stuart uses the term “seating guru” and tells people he’s the “man with all the sales answers.” Oh, and that, “I’m not in the box office, and I make pretty reports and charts.” Stuart explains that he has performed data analysis for 18 years’ worth of sales for a Broadway show, adding that it is much more fun and energizing than it sounds!” Stuart also says, “I’m a Tableau junkie, and then I have to explain what Tableau is.”
This is what Stuart calls his “thinking face.”
“Typically, when I describe what I do to people, I tell them, ‘I have a unique job that you have probably never heard of’ and go on to give them my spiel about what I do at Ravinia, like running all things [related to] entrance/access including all donor benefits and ticketing,” says Duncan Moss, Associate Director of Ticket Operations at Ravinia Festival. “Most of the time I have to explain that, yes, there is indeed an entire industry built around ticketing entertainment events, and there is even an annual conference I get to attend and geek out on all things ticketing: INTIX! I also like to quote one of my favorite, go-to movies, “Willy Wonka,” to describe what we do: ‘We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.’ To me, it is all about creating unique and memorable experiences that last a lifetime. My constant focus is providing the best customer services to ensure that every person coming to our venue has an extraordinary experience. The happiest moments are when I get to walk around my venue and see people enjoying themselves and think to myself ‘I played a key role in making this happen.’ It is rewarding and truly is magic!”
Duncan working a concert at Ravinia.
“It is funny because so many people do not understand the complexity of what a box office manager or ticketing professional does, and it’s really difficult to sum it up in a few words, so I think we always undersell ourselves unknowingly,” says Samuel Biscoe, Ticketing Operations Manager at Selladoor Venues. “I tend to say, ‘I look after ticketing and box office’ to try and emphasize that the two are not actually necessarily the same!”
“What do I tell people about what I do?” asks Anja Arvo, Pre-Sales Manager at Red61. “I tell people that I work with potential clients to reimagine what their business potential can be with our software solution. It is not just about ticketing; it is primarily about the relationship with the client, how we can work together to achieve their objectives as technology is ever-changing, and how key the customer journey is in today’s e-commerce environment and at the heart of everything that we do.”
Anja continues, “How do I describe a ticketing professional and the vital role they play in making the world of live events go ’round? I describe a ticketing professional as an ‘entertainment analyst’ who constantly must take a set of evolving circumstances and tools (customers, events, software, scheduling, staff, budgets, marketing) and put this all together into delivering an event experience.”
Anja in a selfie taken on the job working from home.
Also looking at things from a slightly different perspective, Kacy Woody, Box Officer Manager at High Point Theatre, shared her thoughts. “I can’t think of a better way to explain to ‘normal people’ what we do. But I do have a good way to describe what I do to our clients: I work for a small (900-seat) performing arts center. When talking to rental clients, I always tell them that my job is to give them one less thing to have to deal with. I take care of their patrons so they can focus on putting together a fantastic show.”
Kacy waves while answering the phones.
In all of this, we cannot forget hard tickets, the souvenirs that fans and patrons alike keep tucked away as incredibly special mementos. That is an area that ticketing professional Matt Wolff, Founder and CEO of Ticket Time Machine™, believes in wholeheartedly. “We are keeping the printed memory alive while helping to generate revenue, enhance the fan/attendee experience, and add value for sponsors/partners with unique and innovative products/experiences. Ticketing is where all the magic starts and we are with you until you enter the venue or event.”
Then, he sums things up with six perfectly chosen words: “Without us, there would be chaos.”
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Tags: Leadership , ticketing pros