It is clear to just about everyone that the ticket business is broken. The fees are too high, secondary markets are filled with scammers and there is collusion between scalpers and major ticketing companies for profits. There are few solutions for fans who are forced to buy tickets from a select number of companies like Ticketmaster, AXS or Eventbrite. While it seems like Ticketmaster and AXS are the worst offender, Eventbrite can often be just as bad. Viagogo is not really cooperating with authorities over an investigation and it often seems like tickets go to bots rather than humans. DICE is an app that hopes to try and alleviate some of those problems.
The company just launched in North America. It uses an app that locks tickets into your mobile devices so they can’t then be bought and sold at extreme mark-ups. Refunds are available for sold out shows. Machine learning monitors the app for cheating.
Fees still exist but are lower -- 99% of the time they say. For a Deem Spencer show at Baby’s All Right on April 3 in Brooklyn, DICE has $2.25 in fees listed up front for a $17.25 total versus on the event website, the show is listed at $15, but comes out to $20.23 after you select purchase. They list the fees up front and 48% of shows do not have fees, but 52% do.
DICE partnered for 18,000 shows in 2018 and hopes for 60,000 in 2019. It has a limited number of shows compared to some of the biggest ticket companies around, but you have some distinct advantages.
We chatted with Head of Music in North America Shanna Jade about the company, her journey to her current role and how the ticket market needs a kick in ass for reform.
1. How did you get into the music business?
I knew I wanted to work in music at a young age. I got my start as a teenager managing friends’ bands and interning for a concert promoter in Upstate New York, where I grew up. I continued working with artists while studying Music Business at Northeastern University in Boston and after that I took a couple jobs adjacent to the music business at Karmaloop, then Complex. The opportunity that really brought me into the music industry full-time was at distribution & payments platform Stem. I joined in 2015 as the second employee & first non-engineer. Joining so early allowed me to build and work on several departments internally like artist relations, support & marketing. I also championed key releases & partnerships that solidified Stem as a great distribution partner that empowered artists to understand their businesses.
Now I’m at DICE as the Head of Music for North America. I love helping artists and improving the music industry with technology, so this is the perfect place for me to be. DICE not only makes ticketing a better experience for artists, venues & promoters, but also for the fans, who are the most important piece of the equation.
2. What are you looking for in prospective new employees?
People who are smarter in ways different than myself and the team we presently have. We’re looking to grow and stretch in ways we never have before.
3. What can consumers do to try and avoid such high ticket fees when not using DICE?
It’s tough to avoid fees in the states, isn’t it? Like anything else, being mindful of who you’re buying from makes a difference. If you’re going to pay a fee to get to into a show, put the money back into the pockets of neighborhood promoters and venue owners instead of big corporations. Also, telling artists over social media that you want lower fees can help, too. Artists care so much about giving their fans a great experience, so if they hear enough that their fans are frustrated with something, they’ll look for a solution.
4. Why did you launch in the US now?
There’s never been a better time for DICE to launch in the US. Fans are fed up with the broken ticketing system — they’re tired of the ‘bait & switch’ and paying high fees, they’re inconvenienced with paper tickets and they hate dealing with scalpers. DICE solves for all of these things and so much more. Plus, with the Federal Trade Commission’s workshop on problematic practices in event ticketing marketplaces happening this June, it’s the perfect time for it to be known that DICE is here to stay. We’re coming in with a solution that just works.
5. What were some of the challenges of launching in the US?
I think ticketing has been the way it has for so long, everyone has sort of defaulted to “oh that’s just the way things are.” But, look at how much listening to music has changed from physical to streaming. Artists used to just accept that they’d never make money from fans actually consuming their music again, since purchasing plummeted. While it’s still not a perfect system, we have seen in the past couple years that streaming can be lucrative for artists & a great experience for fans (streaming revenue grew 29% in 2018, and 41% the year before that) — it just took some time for behaviors to change and for the industry to adapt.
I’m fully confident that ticketing is next piece of the music industry to undergo many much-needed updates to meet fans’ and artists needs, and DICE is going to be the company leading that change.
6. What are your primary concerns with the ticketing market?
Ticket scalping and exorbitant fees. These things are putting people off from going out and having great experiences, and they need to be stopped. We’re fighting them because that’s what is right. DICE’s mission is to get people out more, and we’re against anything that gets in the way of that.
7. What is the hardest part about promoting brand awareness and then actually keeping customers (something tech is not good at)?
DICE is so much more than a place to buy a ticket, and that’s why fans love us so much. We speak to them like they’re real people, we offer incredible support, and we create a unique connection with them by recommending them shows based on their interests & music library. That’s what makes Discover so powerful; fans trust DICE to understand what they like and help them discover their next amazing night out.
8. What can governments do to help make things more equitable? Should promoters own ticketing companies?
Bait and switch pricing is the thing fans in the US seem to hate the most, so legislation to make ticket companies display the total price up front would be a big win for fans. I think the secondary market also needs more attention. Bots are illegal, but the monitoring of them could be better -- they're still buying up thousands of tickets, which are flipped onto secondary sites at inflated prices.
9. Explain how your machine learning works and how is data kept private or used?
Privacy is really important to us. We only use data fans give us to improve their experience on DICE.
Our algorithms look at shows you’ve interacted with on DICE and suggest others you might like. Also, if you connect DICE to Spotify or Apple Music we can give you even better recommendations based on artists you’ve been streaming.
10. What are some interesting innovations in ticketing that could actually come to the marketplace in the next five years that fans should be aware of?
Mobile-first venues are really exciting to me. Paper tickets are wasteful, and a pain for fans & venues. Fans aren't showing up to concerts without their smartphones, so why not store the tickets there? That's what DICE does, and it's how we keep tickets secure and out of the hands of scalpers. If you look at any news on Troxy in London, you’ll see that they’ve partnered with DICE to establish the world’s largest digital venue, and we’re going to be recreating that here in the US soon.
11. What do you expect from the FTC workshop in June?
Changes! Fans have been dealing with terrible ticketing experiences for far too long. For example, why are ticketing sites listing tickets for $20, then charging fans $28 at checkout? How does that build trust or loyalty among fans? At DICE we always show the full price upfront, because that’s the right thing to do. Fans deserve transparency. Bait and switch pricing needs to go and I think it will take legislation to bring that about.
12. If Dice charges such low fees, how do you make money?
We do have fees, but we work hard to keep them low. The price fans see on DICE is the price they pay at checkout, so there is none of the ‘bait and switch’ I mentioned before. Most ticket companies seem to think the only way to make money is to keep upping the fees. That’s short-term. DICE is thinking long-term; we want to get everyone out more, and that's how we're going to grow the live entertainment industry.