Today was a milestone day for Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and their new ticketing operation axs Ticketing, as the system went live at the arena level with on-sales by Lady Antebellum and Drake at AEG's Sprint Center in Kansas City.
The onsales "came off incredibly well," according to Brenda Tinnen, GM of the Sprint Center. "It was a perfect launch, not only operationally, but with the feedback we're getting from the fan experience and the process." Tickets for both shows were available at the venue box office, online, and by phone, and sales met all projections, according to Tinnen.
The consumer-facing brand for AEG's ticketing venture with Outbox Enterprises and Cirque Du Soleil, axs.com was launched last August and the company has quietly been selling tickets in what today became five markets. The Sprint Center onsales are significant in that they show the axs system can handle the volume of two on-sales for hot acts at the arena level. That it came off well will surely be viewed by some in the industry as a clear sign axs provides legitimate competition to market leader Ticketmaster, which is part of Live Nation Entertainment. AEG Live, second only to Live Nation in the global concert promotion business, is a subsidiary of AEG, which owns and operates sports teams and venues globally.
Bryan Perez, president of digital ticketing and media for AEG, says today was significant on a couple of fronts. "One, it was our fifth market, and two, it was the culmination of us having transitioned through every single venue type," he tells Billboard.biz. "So we've now done not only five different markets, but we've done clubs, theaters, arenas, reserved seating, general admission, VIP packages, season tickets. From that standpoint it's been tested in every possible scenario. And each one of these instances have been rolled out and the system has performed flawlessly."
Lady A's April 6 show went up first at 10 a.m. this morning, followed at noon by the on-sale for Drake's show set for March 1. Also today the Sprint Center and axs put up fan club pre-sale tickets for an upcoming Nickelback show, and axs K.C. also transitioned the city's Midland Theatre to the axs system. "It was important to get through a major arena [on-sale]," says Perez. "Now we've gone through every type of partnership: we've sold tickets to our own shows, to Live Nation shows, to independent promoter shows. From here on out, it's more of the same, accelerating our transition. We're really happy to be where we are and put our foot on the gas through the rest of the year and get the rest of our buildings transitioned, not only domestically but internationally."
With their large capcity and wealth of music, sporting and family events, arenas are the most coveted clients for ticketing companies, and the space has been dominated by Ticketmaster for decades. While several other ticketing companies have proven capable of handling this type business, it is critical that axs pull it off competently, as the company not only plans to sell some 12 million tickets annually for its own venues, events, tours and teams, but Outbox will compete directly with Ticketmaster in procuring third party venue business.
Since Live Nation and Ticketmaster completed their merger in January 2010, AEG has been licensing Ticketmaster's ticketing software under one of the conditions set by the U.S. Department of Justice in its approval of the merger. Under that provision, the DOJ required that AEG have the ability to license the software for up to five years to help it establish its own ticketing business and preserve competition in the market. AEG came out of the gate early in launching axs with Cirque and Outbox, the latter run in North America by former TM CEO Fred Rosen, a powerful industry figure. The Sprint Center had been a Ticketmaster building, and shows already on sale at the venue prior to today will continue to be sold via Ticketmaster, so the building is in effect operating two systems.
A key factor touted by axs is the system seeks to drive traffic to the building site as opposed to the ticketing site, thus further branding the building. "That's the beauty of it, fans feel as though they're dealing directly with the facility they're going to visit when they see their favorite artist," says Tinnen. "I think it's that relationship and transparency, at least from hearing the feedback we received today from the Internet, that they really do like. The other beauty is the facility owns and controls the data."
The latter factor is a big component in the axs messaging that, in the axs system, the building controls the data gathered in the sales process, the keys to the kingdom in the event marketing world. Not only does that data help the building market future events, "more importantly, your ticketing partner isn't using it to sell other people's events or other buildings' events. It's exclusively yours and you own it now and forever," says Perez.
axs is now up and running in Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas and Kansas City. Houston will likely be next, and come summer L.A., where AEG operates the Staples Center and several other properties, should begin selling tickets through axs. AEG's O2 in London, the highest-grossing arena in the world, according to Billboard Boxscore, should come online with axs by the end of the year.