Women in Music 2016

Billboard Touring Conference: How Streaming Companies Are Trying to Drive Ticket Sales

Michael Seto
Julia Hartz (Co-Founder & President, Eventbrite), Dan Kruchkow (CMO/Head of Digital Strategy, Crush Music), Jim Lucchese (CEO, The Echo Nest at Spotify), Lars Murray (SVP, Music Makers Group, Pandora), Ryan Okum (EVP, Digital Marketing, Live Nation) and Randy Reed (Manager, Red Light Management) on the “A River Runs Through It” panel at the Billboard Touring and Conference Awards on Nov. 18, 2015 at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

For all the talk of how streaming services like Spotify and Pandora help music fans find the type of artists who don't get terrestrial radio play or television coverage, not as much attention has been paid to how that exposure translates to ticket sales. Though quietly at first, these companies have built up ways for artists to use analytics, advertising campaigns and social exposure to help plan and route their tours, and make to sure as many fans as possible know when and where they're playing.

On Wednesday, the Billboard Touring Conference explored this topic with a panel called "A River Runs Through It -- How Streaming Influences Touring." As Randy Reed, an artist manager from Red Light, pointed out, one of the most frustrating things for a musician is playing a city only to find out that a large portion of fans didn't know the concert was even happening. "You have tons of fans who don't regularly engage with the artists," he said, admitting that even he occasionally misses out on shows from his favorite acts because he's not signed up for their e-mail newsletter or following their social media accounts. "Even with the best marketing plans, we're still missing people," he said, noting that most of the artists on his roster don't receive terrestrial radio support.

The prime example for the panel was electronic duo Odesza, who have 300 million plays via Pandora versus 7 million from terrestrial radio, according to Lars Murray, svp of the company's Music Makers Group. "Pandora really became Odesza's radio station and we wanted to help them bring that revenue home." To do that, on top of the regular streaming royalties, fans who created Odesza stations were given localized audio and digital ads, as well as pre-sale tickets via Ticketfly, which Pandora acquired in October. Pandora, according to read, was responsible for selling 25,000 of 85,000 total tickets on Odesza's last tour.

Spotify is also trying to help drive ticket sales; just this week the company announced its new Fan Insights dashboard, which allows artists to track how their music is being discovered, target "super fans" for tickets and other exclusives, and appear more regularly on a new concert recommendation page that's similar to the service's Discover Weekly playlists, an initiative that has generated a billion plays according to Spotify. More directly, Spotify also recently unveiled its new 'Concerts' feature, meant to drive sales as well.

Jim Lucchese, CEO of Spotify's Echo Nest, said Scottish electro-pop trio CHVRCHES was one of the first groups to benefit from this data. When their second album, Every Open Eye, came out in September 2015, social sharing of the songs surged, and 13 percent of these streams came from people who'd never listened to the group before.

Without getting too specific, both Lucchese and Murray said this data-based targeting will only get more detailed and easier to monetize for artists. Ticketing company Eventbrite, according to co-founder Julia Hartz, uses purchasing information as a means to recommend new shows and identify customers who are influencers. "We're not just speaking to the super fan, we're speaking to the people who haven't discovered that music yet," she said. She predicts that, sooner than later, companies will be able to use mobile and RFID data to let fans immediately get more recommendations and ticket info for artists they discover at festivals.

Going forward, fans can expect even more taste-expanding, easy-to-use tools from their streaming services. Artists, meanwhile, should dive into their data in the hopes of becoming the next Odesza.