The Box Office Ticketing Industry in Transition

Last week at the annual INTIX conference for the ticketing industry, I moderated a session titled “From Transactions to Relationships: How Box Office Professionals Are Transforming,” which highlighted the changing role of box office ticketing. Each of the panelists (Mark DiMaurizio, Comcast-Spectator, Linda Forlini, New York Philharmonic, and Jessica Dulberg, Adelphi University) said, in different ways, that the job of the box office is morphing from a transaction-based approach (“butts in seats”) to building relationships (“how we should collect as much information so we can treat people specially”).

This is precisely the same thing that’s going on in the rest of the world of marketing. All the articles we’re reading about “big data” are really all about how marketers want to collect, analyze, and act on the massive amount of data available to provide a more targeted and personal communication to the customer, with the ultimate goal of improving their ROI.

The difference in our field, as opposed to a website business such as, is we have a lot of face-to-face interaction — we see the customers and deal with their issues in real time at the box office with a fixed deadline: the curtain. Sometimes just getting tickets into customers’ hands is as much as can be expected. But more and more, collecting data (names, emails, birthdays) is part of the mix. And what I also heard was that since the box office is on the front lines collecting the data, they are the ones that are expected to know what to do with it. Part of that is why there’s such interest in CRM technology — because if you collect information about patrons, you have to have a reliable and organized place to put the data, and then report on it.

The big takeaway for me was that there’s a real blurring of the lines between box office ticketing, marketing, and customer service. There’s now an intense interest in data: collecting it, analyzing it, and using it. However, it’s not so clear who is responsible for what. Which department sets the strategy? Who is responsible if data isn’t collected? Who should report on the data? And if there’s data that demonstrates a trend that shows that something isn’t working, whose job is it to fix it? In yesterday’s world, marketing paid money for media or mailings, and analyzed the results in isolation. The box office sold tickets, in isolation. That’s clearly changed, but my sense is that the rules of engagement are still being written.

The good folks at INTIX videotaped our session and they will be making it available online. And you’ll want to watch — not only for what I described above — but because there were some priceless moments of hilarity when panelists revealed what goes on at the box office behind the scenes. As soon as the video is posted, I’ll let you know.

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