Lyte Executives Talk Coachella Partnership, Why Primary Ticketers Don't Give Refunds
“Ticketing companies, at least when we speak to them, love this idea (of returning tickets), but it hasn’t been part of their mission.”
In just over a year, ticketing exchange platform Lyte has gone from six festival partners to 30. Lyte has made a name for itself allowing fans to safely buy, sell and exchange event tickets after sell-outs, and has carved out a significant niche for itself in the world of high-profile festivals.
Lyte has partnered with country music festival Stagecoach since 2018, Newport Folk Festival for three years and Napa Valley’s Bottlerock for four years. For 2019, Lyte has partnered with Coachella and introduced new features to accommodate one of the world’s biggest festival names.
“What we give our festival partners is control where those big gaps and a lot of the pain that we know as the secondary market has sort of crept in to the fan experience,” says Lyte founder Ant Taylor of the time between onsale and an event. “For all partners on average, we’re doing 60 percent of all transaction activity after the onsale. If you look at the festival space, we’re doing higher than that: 60 to 70 percent.”
Rather than fans heading to the secondary market to find tickets to sold-out festivals, Lyte is triggered at high-demand events and those fans can sign up to be notified when another fan returns a pass or passes become available after a sponsor or rights holder releases them.
In the case of Coachella, Lyte is also allowing fans to exchange weekend one tickets for weekend two and vice versa. Fans can also upgrade their Coachella passes if VIP or other sold-out packages become available.
“Coachella has always wanted to provide this. It’s not like we dreamed it up and brought it to them,” Taylor tells Billboard. “That’s what’s so fun about working with partners with that kind of scale. They tend to take your platform and stretch it out as far as they possibly can to do things that they need to have done.”
Lyte has also signed festival partners Electric Forest, Life is Beautiful, Afropunk and more in recent years as these events are investing in the fan’s ticketing experience. According to Lyte, fans who use the platform return to festivals at substantially high rates.
“We see great longevity stats where our share of the secondary market grows from year one to year two to year three,” says Taylor. “Year one for Newport Folk Festival we did 67 percent of aftermarket transaction and year two we did 76 [percent]. Fans just continue to adopt and modify their behavior once the promoters offer it to them.”
“There is a deep affinity between these fans and these festival brands and it flows both ways. These festivals are treating their fans with a lot of respect. They think long term,” says Lawrence Peryer, Lyte’s head of business and corporate development. “It is a really interesting and unique position to be in as a live event producer when you can be programmatic and think in terms of multiple years, think about building a community.”
Several Lyte partners have taken that relationship a step further and begun offering presale tickets to fans who previously used the platform.
“Festival tickets go on sale so much earlier than the event actually happens,” says Peryer. But with Lyte users, he continues to explain, “I think there is this notion of risk-free shopping. If you get in early and you secure your place, it’s OK if your plans change. Life happens.” This way, he says, fans can most likely get thier money back.
Even as the live entertainment and touring industry grows, there has been little modification to ticket returns through primary tickets. Fans are often refunded when a show is cancelled due to complications on the artist or promoter’s end, but fewer options outside of the unverified secondary market for fans who can no longer make an event.
“Our industry has typically been built around a one way transaction. No refunds, no exchanges,” Peryer tells Billboard. “Ticketing companies, at least when we speak to them, love this idea (of returning tickets), but it hasn’t been part of their mission. They have been about helping their event partners and sort of de-risking as quickly as possible.”
“People think primary ticketing is easy because it is made to look easy. Running concurrent processes at that scale that are different every time and making sure you get the tickets into the hands of the right fans is hard,” says Taylor. He adds that these primary tickets are looking to outside platforms to develop additional technology to help with other aspects of the ticketing process.
Primary ticketers are “not trying to be everything to everybody. They are focused on inventory management, their enterprise tools and for these fancy features and extensions they are partnering,” adds Peryer. “It is the meta-trend of where technology is going in terms of open ecosystems and platform extensions.”
“We plug into and participate with the primary ticketing companies, the rights holders and the artists and we move 60 percent of that $13 billion [secondary] market back into their control on our platform.”