Growing up in Philadelphia, Ali McCloud went to so many shows she had the Ticketmaster phone number on speed dial. Her favorite venue was The Mann Center.
“As soon as I was a teenager and able to go to some of those shows by myself, I was constantly buying tickets to almost every show there,” she smiles.
When, in 2003, McCloud joined Ticketmaster as Marketing Manager it must have felt like a full circle moment. It was, however, just one step in what’s been a storied career in event ticketing that’s taken in stints at companies such as TicketWeb, Eventbrite and Tixr.
Since November 2022, McCloud has occupied the role of Vice President, Live Music Partnerships (North America), at DICE. Fiercely passionate about ticketing and, particularly, price transparency and fan experience, here she draws on her years of experience to discuss issues such as fan expectations in 2023, what event organizers should look for in a ticketing platform, and more…
"We all have to realize that you may only have someone's attention for a second or 10 seconds, and if they've decided they want to buy a ticket, you need to make that a completely frictionless experience for them."
What are the key elements a ticketing platform must get right in 2023?
I think it's really hard to be everything to everyone. One of the things I love about DICE is there's a huge focus on music. Sometimes that's helpful for there to be a focus where you can really build not only the product itself, but the team, the ecosystem around that. So I think that's one.
But at the end of the day, I think it's improving the purchase flow. There's so much noise and people are getting notifications and text messages and every piece of content is floating in front of them. We all have to realize that you may only have someone's attention for a second or 10 seconds, and if they've decided they want to buy a ticket, you need to make that a completely frictionless experience for them. So I think that's super important.
Obviously, operational efficiency on the back end is key. No ticketing platform’s perfect, but I think the combination of a strong back end with a great team [is crucial]. People are so busy and wearing so many hats, and it's really important to have a ticketing partner [that feels like] a team behind them that understands their business, is knowledgeable of the industry, is knowledgeable of ticketing.
And then also having integrations. It used to be you'd have all these different platforms that would be siloed and you'd be pulling information from multiple places. And we strive to really have that all integrated. So if people have two, three, four platforms that they love that are part of their workflow, they can have data flowing between all of those products, which is also really exciting.
So I think there's a lot actually that goes into it today. And obviously security of data [and] price transparency are very important.
You mentioned having a really seamless checkout flow. What are some of the ways DICE reduces checkout friction?
There are a couple things there.
We offer price transparency. As soon as [a fan gets] on DICE they can see what their final price will be, inclusive of all ticketing fees. So there's no surprises.
We also literally have like a two-step checkout process, which is so fast. So if you do have someone's attention for 15 seconds, 30 seconds, you can probably complete that purchase in that time and have a super excited fan, all within the course of a minute.
And the other piece is, we've created the app as a place that fans come to discover events. So a lot of the people that are buying tickets on DICE, they have already set up their private profile, they may be using DICE to favorite events or search for events that match their music tastes. And so by them already being an active user on the app, it's just that much faster for them. They might get a notification that's a reminder for an event that they favorited, and they can just tap through and purchase that ticket in just a few seconds. Really easy process.
So you’re building a world for the customer that's very personalized…
Yeah, exactly. So when a fan comes to DICE for the first time, they can choose to set up a profile with us, which is really quick, and maybe choose to turn on our integrations with Spotify and Apple Music. So we can start to build a profile of, what are the events going to be that they love? What are some artists on sale through DICE right now that match the listening habits that they've had over the years?
Our goal is really making sure that any events that we're serving up to people are ones that they will truly be interested in. So whether it's an email, whether it's a push notification, a text message to reach out to a fan, we're 95% sure that that's going to be something that will be interesting to them. And every time that happens, the next time they're more likely to pay attention to that piece of content.
What do you think fans expect from the ticket buying process in 2023? What’s important to them?
Price transparency and fairness is obviously top of mind for so many people right now. It's been part of our ethos since we started, and we've always been so focused on transparency, but also on cutting out the resale activity that happens so frequently in the marketplace.
So when a fan buys a ticket on DICE, that ticket is kind of locked to their smartphone, and doesn't get activated until just shortly before the show. We've built a back end platform for our venues and promoters where they have all their ticket buyer data. So if someone lost their smartphone or something like that, they would be fine. But the fan has a really convenient way to know that their ticket lives in their phone, they don't have to go find their confirmation email, print something out, things like that.
And by doing that, it's also virtually impossible for the ticket to be resold. Because up until right before the event, there's no ticket to sell. And the only way that that ticket can move to someone else is if it's transferred securely through the app with a dynamic QR code that's constantly changing.
The worst thing that can ever happen is a fan comes in with a ticket that they've probably paid four times the face price of and then they can't even get into the event because it wasn't a real ticket; maybe it was something someone sold to two or three different people and has already been scanned. That's virtually impossible to do with DICE.
Do you think that leads to more conversions? That people are more willing to buy if they know the ticket obviously is not going to be fraudulent?
So many of our partners, once they come on board with DICE and their fans really get active in the app, we find their conversion rates really do skyrocket, and we're able to move a lot of tickets that way. But I think the most important thing is, by keeping the price transparent and fair, people will go to more shows.
"I think the most important thing is, by keeping the price transparent and fair, people will go to more shows."
Do you have any statistics on the most common ways people are finding events through DICE? Whether they're coming in through a social media ad, or they're using the discovery tools in DICE?
This always looks a little bit different by venue, by genre, by market. In New York we have roughly a million fans interacting with the app. So obviously we have a ton of people discovering through the app itself. Other markets where we're still growing, we see that some of the more traditional methods like Instagram or other social media platforms or other marketing and CRM tools are how they're finding it.
But we find over 40% of the tickets sold through DICE come through some part of our discovery features.
We still feel CRM directly from venue or promoter to fan is super important. If we're to give best practices to people, we're always like, don't stop anything you're doing. It's great to have your newsletter, it's amazing to be able to get insights on your customer data – do your own really targeted marketing. So all of that is super important.
But what we've seen is really, even after the first or second time somebody interacts with the app and they start to really engage with it, it really does make a difference. When we know that a show has sold out at a venue, and we know that that same fan is listening to all these other kind of lookalike artists, we're able to send them a push notification.
We also find that everyone has different ways they like to buy. So some people like to buy right away, but other people really like to set reminders for themselves. So offering people the ability to set a reminder, favorite an event, follow a venue – every time someone interacts, we're getting just a little bit more data.
So push notifications perform really, really well for us. Because it's super targeted, and usually timed really well. When you send an email, you never know when that person is going to open it. When we send a push notification, we can have a little bit more of an idea of when they'll see it.
What are some of the issues you see venues and promoters wrestling with at the moment?
When I chat with venues and promoters, one thing that's been so top of mind is the increase in no-show rates. And I think some of this does actually come from the resale problem. So DICE is trying to help with that in two ways.
One, I think you have these resellers that go in and scoop up all these tickets and sometimes they don't actually get in the hands of the right fans. And that increases no-show rates. But also, you legitimately have people that just can't make it – they're on a work trip, they get sick, whatever it is. And a lot of times at that point, they just don't really know what to do with their ticket.
And so we really try to make it so easy for fans to see that, hey, if they can't make a show, there's a waitlist of people waiting to get tickets for this event. Let's just securely transfer it, I'll get my money back, that person can pay a fair price for the ticket. So it's a win-win – understanding the demand and collecting customer data, and also reducing no-shows.
If I was an event organizer searching for a ticketing platform to work with, what would you say are the most important things I should be looking for?
They have to look for a platform that fits their operational needs. We’re pretty music focused. So if someone comes to us with a real detailed sporting event, we might not be the perfect fit for that.
So we try to stay uber focused on having a platform that's really serving that community, and I think that's important.
Obviously meeting the team and knowing they're going to get the support they need, they're going to have a service both on the fan side and on the venue, promoter side, that they'll have someone that they can call.
And then I do think at this point the demand from fans is price transparency, fairness, the ability to not have an event sell out in seconds, but have that all be to like bots and resellers and things like that. So I do think that's important, especially if it is a venue or promoter that puts on high demand events.
And then to me, also having a modern platform with APIs that can integrate, reduce time and friction for these teams that are trying to work on a lot of different things. So, you know, it can integrate with other platforms in a really seamless way. I think that's so important.
And then, part of our special sauce is all the marketing and event discovery that goes on top of that. All those things together hopefully will really help drive growth.