2019 American Music Awards

StubHub's Sukhinder Singh Cassidy Argues for Greater Transparency in Ticketing at Billboard Live Music Summit

At the Billboard Live Music Summit in Beverly Hills, California, on Wednesday (Nov. 6), StubHub president Sukhinder Singh Cassidy called for more transparency in primary ticketing in order to alleviate fan frustration with ticket pricing and demand.

“The average consumer does not understand what percentage of tickets are being put out into the market for general availability versus holdbacks versus dripping into the market,” said Singh Cassidy, noting that quantity and dynamic pricing are important aspects of the buying process for consumers. “In music, you have this lack of transparency in a transactional environment about what tickets are available when, and so the consumer is confused.”

“It matters because people have a perception of a fixed price and so they all want to get in at that price,” Singh Cassidy told moderator and Billboard senior director of touring and live Dave Brooks. “On the other side, they want flexibility. Because [live music] ticketing is half dynamic and half fixed, the consumer doesn’t understand which is which.”

Singh Cassidy explained that consumers are less confused about ticket prices for airlines because it is clear how many seats are available and that prices are dynamic, rising and falling based on supply and demand.

“The consumer confusion arises from the fact that there's not a lot of clarity around what's available,” Singh Cassidy said.

Singh Cassidy placed a lot of emphasis during her keynote interview on reminding the audience that StubHub is not a ticket broker, but a distribution platform. She explained that one of her main goals after being named president of the secondary ticketing service in 2018 was to help establish where the company lands in the live music ecosystem.

“One of the reasons I am here, is to discover how we partner much more closely with content rights owners,” said Singh Cassidy. “If the internet has taught us anything, it is that there is power on two ends of the spectrum. One end is content and the other is consumer distribution. We believe that our next chapter is not just about creating what we call ‘beyond the ticket experiences’ for our consumer. It's about partnering with the ecosystem and getting closer to content rights holders to help bring them the value of our data and distribution.”

In order to gain more data on ticketing and distribute it to its clients and content rights holders, StubHub has teamed up with Major League Baseball to act as an owner or “reseller” of a large quantity of tickets. Per the agreement, MLB provides a portion of their ticketing inventory to StubHub to sell on consignment. StubHub then plans to take the data it collects on how to best sell tickets and hand it back to MLB and provide insight to them as content rights holders.

“What it's about is using our data and our end developing pricing tools on top of 20 years worth of data to help content rights holders sell tickets,” said Singh Cassidy, who added that StubHub does $5 billion ticket sales every year and the small inventory they are working with from MLB is just for testing.

“If anyone thinks we have an initiative to be a broker, want to be broker, or think of ourselves as a broker, I want to be super clear that we are a distribution platform and we are using this as a way to test and build pricing tools,” said Singh Cassidy.

Singh Cassidy explained that StubHub’s main objective as a company is not to be a broker, but to drive sell-through on its marketplace. The pricing tools the company plans to develop are a means to help content rights holders and fans get the best price for tickets.

“We are as much a mirror of demand than a driver of demand,” said Singh Cassidy. “If there is a great World Series, we see high volumes. If there is a not-great World Series we see lower volumes. If there is a great set of [headlining] artists touring, we see that. If K-pop pops, we see a surge. People think we are manipulating price, but I want to be clear that we are trying to drive sell through, helping buyer meet seller at whatever the market clearing price is. That’s how we make customers happy and get more volume every year.”

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