In any transaction, the middleman always gets a bad wrap. This is especially true when it comes to events. After purchasing tickets from a third party, ‘annoying’ is often the word used by most to describe their experience. Long wait times, high fees, and platforms that are far from user-friendly all inhibit what, “should be the easiest part of going to an event,” says Iain Bluett, Co-Founder of Ticket Alternative. I recently sat down with Iain to learn more about his rapidly growing business and understand why his company should be your teammate in ticket acquisition.
Founded in November 2003 by Bluett and his best friend Jamie Dwyer, “Ticket Alternative is a full service ticketing agency and marketing agency aimed at helping people sell more tickets for their events,” says Bluett. “We thought we could do that by keeping service fees low and customer service really high. We started off with general admission venues, then we moved into larger reserved seating venues, and now we handle the ticketing for soccer teams and some other pro sports as well.”
Bluett got the idea for Ticket Alternative after his experiences in the music industry. “I started a website called Atlanta Music Guide, which, back then, was the only music news website in the city,” recalls Bluett. “I was managing bands, playing in bands, and I used that site to promote our shows. I had relationships with venues in town and went to them and said, ‘I can help you sell tickets by marketing your events.’ This evolved into Ticket Alternative and back in the old days, we started off by going after the smaller venues that nobody else wanted to touch.”
It’s no secret that the ticketing industry is crowded in 2015. Ticketmaster, Ticketly, and Eventbrite are just a few of Ticket Alternative’s competitors. How does Bluett and his team separate themselves from the competition? “Today, clients are looking for more of a boutique service, more of a partnership,” he explains. “Client relationship management is where we fill the void now. A venue like the Atlanta Botanical Gardens dropped Ticketmaster because they couldn’t compete to be in their newsletter, nor get the level of service they required.”
“The first question someone asks when pitching to them is, ‘how are you going to help me sell more tickets than my current provider?’,” says Bluett. “A lot of what we do is really marketing-based. We have a newsletter that goes out to 400,000 people. That’s a huge marketing proposition that no one else, other than Ticketmaster, can offer in the city.” Bluett also prides himself on the variety of Ticket Alternative’s clients. “We do the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, which is the largest Jewish film festival in the country, all the way to beer, food, and wine festivals, soccer teams, and nightclubs. Because we’ve worked with so many different events, we’re able to garner all that knowledge to create one of the best ticketing systems that’s out there. A lot of other ticketing systems tend to focus on one particular vertical and that’s never been our mantra.”
As a veteran of the industry, Iain knows that events are far from static. Last year, he and the Ticket Alternative team launched a new platform, Freshtix, which is aimed to compete with Eventbrite head on. “That’s a whole different kettle of fish to Ticket Alternative,” he jokes. “We’re moving the complex clients over to Ticket Alternative and moving the simpler, general admission events over to Freshtix. It’s more of a DIY model and we’ve already sold nearly $3 million worth of tickets on that solution alone in the last 12 months.”
Although originally from the UK, Iain is proud to be based in the heart of Braves Country. “One of our competitors did a study and found that Atlantans attend more events than the citizens in any other city in the country, which is a huge accolade for us,” he boasts. “We love going to live events and there are so many beer festivals and concerts taking place every week. We couldn’t be located in a better place. In terms of looking for talent, we’re in a tech hub here, which is fantastic. We’re always hiring. We always seem to be looking for that quintessential ruby developer. When we started we only had 3 employees. Now, we’ve got a staff of 50 people and we expect to double that within the next 5 years.”
When booking tickets for your next event, look to Ticket Alternative. Stay tuned as they continue to grow and disrupt the ticketing industry this year and beyond.