StubHub, QCue Execs Talk Secondary Market, Ticketmaster at SXSWi: 'Stop Pricing Tickets Like It’s 1999 Panel'

(Photo: Jeff Miller)

QCue CEO Barry Kahn (left) and StubHub Director of Business Development Greg Ivry at South By Southwest's “Stop Pricing Tickets Like It’s 1999 Panel.”

Though theoretically a part of the brand new SXSports conference at South By Southwest, the “Stop Pricing Tickets Like It’s 1999 Panel” on Saturday at the Driskell Hotel in Austin was full of takeaways for the concert industry as well. That’s thanks to the experience of the two panelists, QCue CEO Barry Kahn and StubHub Director of Business Development Greg Ivry, who conducted an open, back-and-forth discussion mostly related to the two companies tactics in approaching ticket sales, and how they see ticket-buying trends for both sports and entertainment events changing in the future.

Kahn’s company’s focus is on dynamic pricing, and he reiterated multiple times a new hope that ticket prices aren’t looked at as having a set “face” price, but rather a change based on demand. “There is no such thing as an optimal, magical price,” he said, pointing out that when he meets with clients to discuss pricing options and asks if they want to make more money or fill the room, they often say “both.” That’s not really possible. “The best practices or solutions are the ones where they’re trying to do [one thing], and you can use prices to do that.”

Ivry spoke on StubHub’s recent “all-in” pricing structure, where they take all applicable service charges and add them into the price of the ticket that the consumer sees rather than tacks them on at the end of the transaction. “What we’re trying to do is eliminate the surprise element at check-out,” he said, noting that customer satisfaction scores have increased 6% since the change was implemented in January. “The secret to StubHub’s success is that we’ve been relentlessly focused on customers from day 1.”
The duo also talked about the way the secondary market affects group and season ticket sales. Kahn seemed to have a negative outlook on the long-term prospects of season tickets staying a working business model: “I don’t think it’ll be much longer, based on the value proposition that’s surmised,” he said, while Ivry argued that corporate clients and other fans who want access to multiple games or events will continue buying tickets for client entertainment.

Kahn surmised that perhaps the solution is venues buying back tickets from fans rather than letting them go on the secondary market. “Teams [eventually] will be willing to take that inventory back,” he said.

Ivry, unsurprisingly, is looking at Mobile as the biggest sector of growth for the industry; though he didn’t have hard numbers, he guessed that their mobile sales have grown by 50% in the past year. “That’s where e-commerce is going,” he said, before describing the company’s GoTogether product, which allows fans to each buy tickets separately while still sitting together. Kahn had suggested developing a similar service earlier in the conversation – and while that and other factors would suggest that the two are competitors, they clearly believe that there is plenty of room in the ticket-sales space.    

“What’s going to evolve in the ticketing space is how tickets are sold,” said Kahn. “I don’t think we’re going to be sitting here in 10 years talking about a venue with contracts solely with Ticketmaster.”