Interview with Dean Budnick, co-author of Ticketmaster: The Rise of the Concert Industry

  Dean Budnick, who holds a Ph.D. from Harvard’s History of American Civilization program and a J.D. from Columbia Law School, is Executive Editor at Relix Magazine. His latest book, which he co-authored with Josh Baron, is Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped. Ticket Masters chronicles the previously untold story of the modern concert industry, revealing the origins, development and ongoing strategies of companies such as Ticketmaster, Live Nation, StubHub and the efforts of numerous independent competitors.


What do you think is the future of the live music industry?

Wow that is the big question, isn’t it? First off let me just say that despite broader economic concerns and the distractions brought on by mobile phone video capture, I am confident that live music will survive and thrive. I think that increasingly the emphasis will be on live music as an in-the-moment collective experience. There is a tangible, vital difference between watching a song on YouTube and engaging a performance in its many layers in the live setting. There may be some added pressure on artists and promoters for additional performance craft and production elements but I feel there’s a real opportunity. This also bodes well for festivals, which not only provide value in terms of the scope of music that is presented but also add a range of additional elements that elevate the context beyond just that of an audience member watching a musician on stage.


Online ticketing is a big business, what are some trends you have noticed within the industry?

The proliferation of secondary sales platforms has very much changed the game. What I think sometimes eludes people is not just that this has made it easier for professional ticket brokers, although that certainly is the case. What’s more significant though is the awareness and the ability for interested amateurs to make some pin money. When Bieber tickets go on sale, anyone from a soccer mom in Nebraska to a college student in Montana to a retiree in Maine, can make a little quick dough if they score some seats and then flip them on StubHub or TicketsNow. This has changed everyone’s perceptions about how to secure tickets and also how to monetize them as well.

Meanwhile, the online world has opened doors for venues and promoters to take charge in a new way. There are so many more opportunities to connect directly with a potential audience, share information and then ultimately sell tickets. Also, while customer data was once out of reach, in many cases it is now available and can be utilized for marketing purposes and to nurture relationships with fan communities.


What band revolutionized online ticket sales?

I’d have to start things out with the Grateful Dead. Josh Baron and I devote an entire chapter of our book to the origins and growth of Grateful Dead Ticket Sales. The Dead really were at the fore in terms of securing 50% of the inventory to all of their shows and then selling them to fans. Of course this raised the ire of Ticketmaster in the face of the company’s exclusivity agreements with venues but as we detail, the “Wooly Freaks” as Bob Weir described them held their own after a sit-down with CEO Fred Rosen.

Still, while the Dead changed the nature of what could be accomplished, they were selling hard tickets. Once we move into the online realm, it was groups like Phish and Dave Matthews Band that really picked up the mantle. In this context, I also think it’s important to single out the String Cheese Incident. We devote a chapter to their story in Ticket Masters. They too were selling online and also had been able to receive 50% of the seats but in the summer of 2003 they were shut down resulting in their decision to sue Ticketmaster. They eventually settled out of court and were required to abide by a non-disclosure statement but they were allowed to keep their allotment.

How has social media affected ticket sales?

Social media has facilitated a new ease and grace of communication. Information can flow directly from bands, promoters and festivals to fans and enthusiasts. Not only does this assist with ticket sales and related opportunities but it draws audience members into the circle earlier and more directly, creating an enduring connection for many people. The ability to have an exchange with one’s favorite artist or receive answers from a promoter or festival insider just makes for a deeper, more satisfying experience all around.


Interview with Cullen Conly of the Sundance Institute

Cullen Conly serves as the Manager of the Feature Film Program at Sundance Institute. In this role, he manages the Screenwriters, Directors and New Frontier Story Labs, supporting emerging filmmakers and artists through creative workshops. Prior to Sundance, Conly worked at Paramount Vantage and the William Morris Agency. He is based in Los Angeles.

What will the latest donation of $1 million from the Annenberg Foundation be used for?

The Annenberg Foundation has awarded a $1,000,000 three-year grant to Sundance Institute to provide general operating support for our year-round creative and tactical programs for independent film and theatre artists. These funds will support our labs, grants, #ArtistServices initiative and public programs, including the Sundance Film Festival. We are, of course, very grateful for their generous support!


What is the importance of grants and donations made to the film industry?

Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization, so grants and donations are critical to allowing us to continue supporting independent artists and audiences that enjoy their work.  Oftentimes these artists don’t have access to resources, or can’t secure funds to produce their work, and they need organizations like us to support their work.  In a larger sense, I think the importance of supporting the arts is critical to ensuring a thoughtful and well rounded society, not to mention contributing some beauty to our world.


What is your favorite part about working in the film industry?

I grew up in a small town in Louisiana, so I learned a lot about the world and about people through film and television. I think film is an incredibly powerful medium – to expose ourselves to other cultures and ideas, to see our own experiences reflected on screen, to challenge ourselves to see things in new and interesting ways. On a more personal level, I’m able to work with artistic and creative people every day, and I’m not behind a desk crunching numbers (no offense to accountants). It’s challenging at times, but it’s equally exciting and thrilling to have a hand in entertaining people across the globe.


What can we expect from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival?

Our Programming team is hard at work finding the best new work for us to share with audiences.  I personally believe every Festival gets better than the last, and I think audiences can once again look forward to discovering thought-provoking stories by emerging and established filmmakers and artists.  I know John Cooper and his team have more than a few new ideas in the works. Oh, and ideally, snow!

Interview with Vendini

Vendini is the leader in cloud-based ticketing solutions. Thousands of organizations utilize Vendini’s solutions for event promotionticket salesbox office management and mobile ticketing and scanning. The company’s suite of applications includes a fully integrated marketing system to promote events via email and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.  With over a decade of experience, Vendini is the preferred provider for thousands of organizations including Folk West, Arena Theater in Houston and Irvine Barclay Theatre.

 How do you think online ticketing software has helped music and film festivals world-wide?

Online ticketing has allowed festivals sell more tickets by giving fans an easy way to buy tickets when they decide they want to go.  Lost sales are reduced while waiting for the box office to open or someone to answer the phone.   Costs are reduced as box office orders, printing and fulfilling of tickets is moved to print at home and electronic tickets.

How has film and music festivals impacted Vendini?

Music and film festivals have helped Vendini to expand our product in many different ways to support them, including multi day passes, RFID support, and on site services.

How has Vendini’s ticketing system helped increase ticket sales at film and music festivals?

Vendini not only helps festivals with online sales but also with marketing solutions via multiple channels including email, online, social (Facebook and Twitter), and friend to friend (see Walletini in the mobile app stores).

Has the presence of social media and the ability to share information with your peers made a significant impact on ticket sale growth for concerts?

We have seen our customers percentage of ticket sales through social channels grow over 50% in the past year alone.  As commerce through mobile and social channels becomes mainstream, we expect this growth to continue.

What is your perspective on the future of film and music festivals?

Our customers are seeing growth in their festivals as fans are gravitating more towards events versus single acts and films.  We expect this trend to continue and see a bright future for festivals.

Programming Your Music Festival

Recently the International Music Festival hosted a webinar featuring Jay Sweet, Cohort, Paste Magazine/Newport Folk!

Click here to download the full webinar!

  • Learn how to not break the bank and still get the headliner
  • Understand what perks make artists (and agents) more likely to book your festival
  • Discover solutions for when talent cancels