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How DICE Makes Ticketing More Fan-Focused
Concert tickets have been in the news for a bunch of reasons lately. Whether it’s dynamic pricing or additional fees, live music fans have voiced their frustration with the process.
But even if a fan is willing to pay the fees, there’s still some friction. One of the main reasons that fans don’t attend more concerts is because they don’t have anyone to go with, or they didn’t know that their favorite musician was in town.
Russ and I talked about all of this on the podcast. It was great to hear his perspective, especially compared to how things worked in the UK.
Discovery fuels ticketing
In Europe, a single show can be sold by multiple ticketing companies, but in the United States, there’s typically a single point-of-sale on the primary market. For large venues, it’s Ticketmaster, and for smaller venues, it’s often Eventbrite. Given the landscape, DICE doubled down on discovery to differentiate itself.
“Most ticket companies in the U.S. previously have been transactional. When we pitch, it’s all about how do we significantly change how people are discovering events at a venue and how do we increase the number of shows that they’re going to by focusing on their experience on the actual ticket purchase. That narrative has paid off.”
Nowadays, 40% of DICE sales come from its discovery system and push notifications, which let fans know which shows are going on. The system pulls in different data points, like syncing with a user’s music library, tracking behavior inside the app, and more, to drive its suggestions.
“We knew our superpower would be personalized recommendations and building an algorithm that was extremely sophisticated and shows people the right shows to them.”
Not only is the discovery feature a value-add for concertgoers, but artists and venues too. Organic in-app sales mean spending less time and money on their own show promotions.
Owning the entire journey
Discovery is typically the first step of the process to attend a show, but there’s more in the customer journey that fans do leading up to a show:
– Listen to the artist’s music before the show
– Create a calendar invite to get it on everyone’s schedule
– Purchase the tickets once they go on sale
– See if other friends want to join too
In most cases, these are all on separate apps, but DICE brings them all together in one place.
The social component is a big part of DICE’s strategy. This can help make sure that fans don’t miss shows that they really want to attend.
“We talk to fans all the time and fans would tell us the number one reason that they wouldn’t buy a ticket for a show is they wouldn’t know who to go with.”
Not just the Bad Bunny effect
As you saw in our first-ever Trapital Culture Report, Latin music has had exponential growth in the US. Russ has seen a similar trend within DICE. From 2021 to 2022, Latin music ticket sales on the app are up 829%. Plus, Latin events listed on DICE have quadrupled between both years too.
We’ve all seen the huge streaming numbers, but it’s great to see this with Latin music concerts too.
It’s easy to pin the whole genre’s success on a superstar like Bad Bunny, but DICE is only working with artists in venues with less than 10,000-capacity. This movement is bigger than just one or two artists.
“It’s hitting that point where it’s not just that trickle-down effect. It’s also this bottom-up swell of artists coming through.”
Riding this trend, DICE expanded into Miami over the summer, signing up Club Space to its platform. Russ said more Miami-centric venues will be inked in the coming months, as well as Latin America overall.
Listen to my conversation with Russ here:
0:33 DICE entering the US market amid pandemic
5:45 Competing against other ticketing platforms
10:04 Re-wiring consumer behavior around attending events
14:10 Prior partnership with Kanye West
15:15 Has there been any artist pushback?
17:22 Showing ticket price upfront, not at checkout
20:44 How DICE deals with ticket-buying bots
23:01 DICE’s investment in data science is paying off
31:00 Partnering with Ice Spice
33:20 Early signals that an artist is on the rise
35:30 Correlation between social media and streaming numbers on ticket sales
38:30 Differences in ticketing in US vs. other markets
41:44 Sales strategies for low-demand shows
45:08 DICE’s plans to tap more into Latin music market
49:45 Expansion is DICE’s primary focus in 2023
[00:00:00] Russ Tannen: At one point I was booking in London a 150-capacity venue, and I thought it was amazing when 400 people would show up for the hundred 50 capacity show, and we try and cram them all in. And I always saw that was an amazing sign. Those shows were always free, but obviously, now we are ticketing around the world, many of the best 100 to 200-capacity venues that exist in some of the best music cities in the world. So what’s fascinating for us is to not just be speaking to the people that are running and booking those venues, but to be looking at the data of, okay, which shows sold out on and out at that level, and who’s got the biggest waiting list at that level. And we see a complete global picture of that.
[00:00:42] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level.
[00:01:02] Dan Runcie: Today’s guest is Russ Tannen. He’s the president of DICE, which is a ticketing platform for live events that’s working to make ticketing fairer for fans of live music. They’re also working to make sure that there’s personalization, so that fans have a better understanding for the music and the concerts from the people that they want to be able to see. And they’ve been using a ton of analytics to address some of the challenges that the live entertainment industry has faced over the years. DICE is one of the presenting sponsors for Trapital’s 2022 Culture Report that is out and available. You can get that on the Trapital website or if you’re on the email list. And it was great to talk to Russ about some of those findings and also get a better understanding for the main problem that DICE is trying to solve. There are several aspects of the live ticketing business from scalpers and bots that are raising prices, with artists and fans not necessarily being able to have the most direct connection possible, and fans not always necessarily knowing what concerts are in their area, other people that they may want to see, and being able to get personalized recommendations there. So Russ really brought us under the hood, painted us a picture of what the events business looks like. This is a company that started in the UK, was able to get a good amount of market share there, and is now expanding into the US. So we talked about how they’re focused on the venues, specifically, that have capacity from 200 people up to 10,000, what that looks like, what the opportunities are, what some of the challenges are, and what he’s ultimately looking forward to most. Here’s my chat with Russ.
[00:02:36] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we have Russ Tannen, who is the president of DICE, a company that is on a mission to help solve a number of the challenges right now in the ticketing and live events business. And I give you a lot of credit because this is a difficult business for a number of reasons, and you’re entering a US market where I think there’s so much opportunity for improvements with things. So it would be great to hear from you all, and for the folks listening, what your strategy is and why the US market’s been so important for you.
[00:03:08] Russ Tannen: Thanks Dan. Thanks so much for having me on. It’s really good to meet you and to get a chance to have this conversation. I don’t know why you think it’s difficult. It’s it’s been so straightforward. It’s been such a breeze the last nine years. No, it’s definitely complicated. Before we jump into it, and I do want to tackle that one, I wanted to ask you a question first actually. What was the first concert you went to, Dan?
[00:03:27] Dan Runcie: Ooh, the first concert I went to. So I am Jamaican and my parents are Big Harry Belafonte fans, so I must have been nine or so, and we all went as a family to a Harry Belafonte concert. I grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, so he had come through, so that was the first one.
[00:03:44] Russ Tannen: Wow. What was the first one where you, like, bought a ticket or you were, like, going with your mates and you were, like, excited to go?
[00:03:49] Dan Runcie: Okay. The first one where was actually, like, me going, it was a 50 Cent concert. He had come through, they had this concert venue, the Meadows in the Hartford area. So, yeah, we went to that. This is like right when he had, like, blown up.
[00:04:00] Russ Tannen: How was it? Amazing?
[00:04:02] Dan Runcie: I mean, at that age, it was amazing. I thought that it was the coolest thing ever. I mean, this was the person that everyone was talking about, Oh, you know, he got shot nine times. He’s this mythical legend. And then you get to see him in this venue. And of course, you’re also, you know, you’re young, you’re with your friends, you’re finally, like, getting out, like, people are finally starting to go different places. So I really enjoy that. And yeah, I mean, that was with my own money for the first time.
[00:04:25] Russ Tannen: Yeah. I love thinking about those memories. I found a picture of me going to my, like, first proper concert, which is, like, I used to have hair, obviously, when I was a teenager and it was, like, dyed green, and we were going to see Deftones and Linkin Park play. They were playing in London. And I remember just being with all my mates going, it was like the most exciting thing ever to, like, go to that show. And I love like, thinking about those things and that feeling and that emotion ’cause I think, like, if you have, like, a really amazing experience early going to a concert and feeling all of those emotions about going to see live music, then it can really stay with you, like, your whole life. And I think a lot of what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to capture is that feeling for as many people as possible and to get more people having those types of experiences, like, more of the time, really just spending less time at home. Like that’s what we’re really, that’s what DICE is all about. Like, more than being an app or being a company or all the other things that we’re doing, like, it’s really, like, how do you get more people to feel like they’re going to the 50 Cent concert and just, like, this is it, like, but thanks for sharing that.
[00:05:26] Dan Runcie: Oh, definitely.
[00:05:27] Russ Tannen: Yeah, I moved to the US in April last year. So I’m joining on the call from New York at the moment. And we already had a presence here. We’d been building up the business in LA for a few years before, and obviously, the pandemic hit. And I think coming out of the pandemic, we realized that there was an opportunity to start working with a number of partners in New York and really focus on our growth here and building out a team. So when I got here in April, there were three people on the team here. We’ve built that out to 70 people in this office and a hundred people in the US team overall with other little posts in Miami and Nashville as well as the team in LA. And, yeah, I think it’s an extremely competitive market, obviously, but I also think that one of the great things that the pandemic really showed us was just how big and how strong the independent music scene in the US really is. And a big part of that, I think, was the work that Dayna Frank did and founding NIVA and really uniting all of those independent venues together to lobby for the grants that they got to keep the businesses going. And I think that that was just like a really interesting thing t o come out of it and something that will go on for a long time and last for a long time. Now, that organization, and I think it helped to show everyone, you know, how strong the independent music scene is here and what a large opportunity for a company like ours that works only with independent venues and promoters has to build, you know, a very big business here, too, and to support all the artists that are playing in those venues. So we really focus between. 200 – 10,000 capacity. Those are the types of venues we work with. And for people that are listening that don’t know what DICE is, you know, we’re a mobile event discovery and ticketing app that’s working directly with venues and promoters to, you know, increase sales for those shows and to do all the things you’d be expecting a ticket company to do. So, yeah, but that’s really where we play. It’s a very competitive space, but it’s a bit different to thinking about arenas and stadiums and you know, maybe that part of the live business.
[00:07:19] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. I do think that, of course, that you have, whether it’s ATG or Live Nation, having those arenas and stadiums and a lot of the partnerships there, the independent opportunity is much more flexible and I think there’s less pure ownership there from a lot of the big players, but I do know that there’s still competition from, whether it’s your folks like Eventbrite or others. How have you been able to work and gain market share given that dynamic with some of the other players from that 200 to 10K capacity venue?
[00:07:51] Russ Tannen: Yeah, I think that we’ve been going for nine years now. And we had originally worked as promoters, we’d also run venues. We were working in artist management before starting DICE, and I think we had a number of different perspectives from day one in building the company and the kind of foundational things that we focused on were probably a little different to someone who’s maybe more coming from a technology background and seeing a market opportunity and looking at how to build for the venue client. Whereas we always kind of still had a management hat on the whole time. And also we’re really thinking about how to build for the fan, and we’ve had this kind of laser focus on building for the fan experience and that started all the way back with making it a completely mobile product, making the actual purchase of the ticket extremely easy, always showing the full price upfront so you don’t get that sticker shock at the end of the purchase when it’s suddenly more expensive, stopping the tickets from being sold on resale, introducing functionality like the waiting list where if a show sells out, you can join a waiting list and if tickets get returned to that waiting list, you can just pick them up at the same price. All these things that we did very early that just built a lot of trust very quickly, I think, with fans to become like their preferred platform for tickets and then through time thinking even more about social functionality connecting with your friends. We talk to fans all the time and fans would tell us the number one reason that they wouldn’t buy a ticket for a show would be that they wouldn’t know who to go with. But we would know that from all the fans that we had using the product, that there must be some that were already friends. So we made it so you could connect with your friends through the app, through your contacts, and then on an event level, you can actually see who from your friends is going to the show, who’s been to see that artist before, who’s saved that event? You can also go on a view where you can just pick, so me and you could pick this page where it will show us events to go to together based on both of our musical tastes and shows we’ve been to before. So there’s all these things that we’ve built that are really just nothing to do with the person sat at the venue who’s the ticketing manager, and they’re all about the real end consumer being the fan. And I think that’s just been a different approach to most ticket companies in the US previously that have built been more transactional. And so when we pitch, it’s all about how do we actually significantly change how people are discovering the events at the venue and how do we increase the number of shows that they’re going to by focusing all of their experience on the actual ticket purchase. And that’s really paid off and that narrative is paid off. And when we think about a city like New York, where, you know, last when I got here, it was still events weren’t happening. So obviously, you know, the number of users on the app was extremely low. We only had a few partners signed that think people were starting to think about putting shows on sale, but it was really early days. We were really selling a vision of what we could do in terms of driving sales and making people go to more shows. But now that we’re 18 months in, we can see, you know, over a million people in New York City using the app every month. We can see over 40% of sales coming through discovery, which is sales that we are driving. That’s really significant for the venues and promoters that we’re working with and of course for the artists playing those venues. So I think that New York’s a great case study for us, and we’re excited to do it even more across the rest of the US and also around the world. We’re already in London and Spain and Germany and France and Italy, so, yeah, we’re just getting started really.
[00:11:17] Dan Runcie: Let’s talk a bit more about that consumer behavior aspect of this because this is where I think you make the distinction. So many of the other events promoters, it’s more focused on their relationship with the artist, right? They’re essentially the end consumer or the venue itself. But then it’s the fan that then sees the after effects of it, whether that turns out in how tickets are resold or how they’re initially sold and offered in the first place and the fees and all the other things that come up. And you all are making it more so of the destination for someone that wants to come to a show and wants to check that out, and by also with some of the other measures you mentioned, not having scalpers, resale value or resale, in general, going directly to someone on the waitlist, how do you feel like this piece of it has been? Because I think so much of this is just rewiring the psychology of how consumers think about attending live events. So of course there’s the business aspect of it, but there’s also a bit of retraining the customer because I think for so many years we’ve been trained to follow the way that it’s been.
[00:12:23] Russ Tannen: I know. I also think that everything is always in flux, right? And everything’s always changing and shifting. And I think that the moment you stop innovating is the moment you start, like, failing, right? You’ve got to keep kind of pushing things forward and thinking about keeping the right north star, I think. And for us, keeping the fan experiences a North Star has been the thing that’s really led to, I think, a lot of our success. And I think that with the resale piece, that’s a really interesting one, how that’s evolved even in the last kind of nine years since we started. And I think where we’re at now is that we are so at odds with how, you know, some of the other ticket companies are doing it with integrated resale and this dynamic pricing debate that’s obviously going on at the moment. And we’re really at the complete opposite end of that, where we really believe that if you really rip off fans or give people an experience or perception that they’re being ripped off, then the next time they think about what they’re going to do with their spare money to spend on social activities or with their free time, they might not pick going to a concert, and we think it’s such a short term view to be doing those behaviors. And I think definitely in the sort of capacity size of shows that we’re doing and the types of independent festivals and promoters that we work with, it’s just not what people want either. So when we are pitching to those partners or talking to artists even about how we do things, which is really about stopping the resale of tickets and having this completely fair waiting list platform, then a lot of them love to hear that, and that’s what they want to be pitched. They don’t want to be pitched that we’ve built a system that could squeeze every dollar out of a fan who can happen to afford it. So I think that’s a better approach to be doing it. I think, like, with the resale piece, especially, a lot of the early success we had with artists was also on the fact that we could stop the resale of tickets. I was just thinking of when we worked with Kanye on the Project Wyoming launch parties around the US, it was very early for us when we just launched here. And, you know, that was one of the massive reasons that he actually wanted to use the platform was to stop the resale of tickets. So there’s been lots of case studies like that that we’ve had where just really big artists are trying to use us just to stop resale, and I think it’s a misconception that, you know, larger artists are actually all trying to just make as much money as possible from the fan using that dynamic pricing or participating themselves in resale.
[00:14:39] Dan Runcie: How did the Kanye partnership develop?
[00:14:42] Russ Tannen: It was really very last minute and unexpected, and it was all happening from LA, and Andrew who’s on our team and was in LA at the time, running there and setting up the business there had a call very late. And so it all happened while we were asleep in London, and he’d been told to set up some links, no event details, all super secret. And then we were all in a meeting the next day and I remember him texting us saying, go to kanyewest.com, and it rerouted to a DICE ticket page for the show. So it was pretty wild. But yeah, it was via promoter that we’d been working with in LA who’d been sort of brought on to find you know, locations for those shows and stuff. And there’s been lots of other examples of that, but great example of a large artist using the platform for protecting their fans, and, yeah, it was just a good one to do.
[00:15:27] Dan Runcie: Do you ever experience or see any type of pushback from any artist specifically? Because one of the underlying things about scalpers is that a lot of times it’s the artists themselves who also benefit from the secondary market, just with the price that is seen as what people perceive as the value for going to a particular show of theirs. And also, since some of these artists have also participated in buying their own tickets and selling them on the secondary market. Have there been any artists or instances where artists have had any pushback on that?
[00:16:02] Russ Tannen: No. Like, the way that we see it is we really focus on attendance. So by having the waiting list, we’re making it easy to return a ticket if you can’t go, then we’re going to be very, very close to a hundred percent attendance on any sold-out show. In fact, what we normally see is about a 15% increase in attendance when a venue switches from a traditional ticket company to DICE, which makes a big difference when you’re in the room. And I think the artists get that. The other thing with the waiting list data that we have is that you can really see the true demand for an artist. So an example recently in London would be with Little Simz, where we did this small show and we had 11,000 people on the waiting list for her, and it’s just, it was so easy for her to add another date on that show. So there’s been thousands. We’ve had millions and millions of people on the waiting list and millions of tickets returned. But the really exciting story, I think is always when an artist sees those waiting list numbers building and actually adds a second date, and that’s when they’re really making money. That’s a better way to do it, right, really fulfill the full demand, actually have the right number of people in the room, not just a load of tickets unsold on secondary, or use that data properly to make sure that the next show on the tour is going to be the right size, so not missing opportunity on the next go-round or on the next album. And that’s one of the data pieces that we really pioneered and a lot of artists have used very successfully at this point.
[00:17:22] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. On the pricing piece of things, does the fact that the ticket price, once it’s set is not going to be any higher and it’s not going to change, does that change either how you or the artist think about what that initial dollar amount should be relative to what they may do with a more traditional platform?
[00:17:41] Russ Tannen: Well, I think that the way that ticketing fees and fees in general on to tickets has kind of evolved, has made it sort of less relevant, I think, to have it kind of separate. It’s kind of all part of the pie in a way. And we just always thought that the best way to do that was to show the fans the full price upfront and explain that that includes any fees that related to the ticket. We also fight to keep fees kind of as low as they reasonably can be. So we hope that, you know, the tickets are as low as they can be, but the idea of a face value ticket in a world where that ticket is not available at that price anywhere, there’s no box office to go to to buy a ticket from. There’s no, you know, that ticket is never available at price. So to show that price anywhere to us feels a bit disingenuous to fans and really the, I guess, the theory is that you hook people in with the lower price, and then you just sort of surprise ’em at the end and they won’t care because they’re already down the journey. What we decided was that actually fans are smart, and once you’ve been to one show, you know that’s what’s going to happen. So it’s better just to be upfront with people and say, look, this is the full price of the ticket including any fees that need to be added. And, you know, that’s it. That’s the price you’re going to pay at the end. In terms of how that informs pricing, you know, we don’t actually inform pricing ourselves. That’s always down to, you know, the venue promoter, agent, artist. And I don’t know. I don’t know, maybe sometimes, because we see shows coming through now where they’ll say, actually, let’s put it up in 10 and make sure that that includes any of the fees. Or let’s put that up for 20 or 30 and make sure that includes all the fees. So maybe a little bit is starting to happen. And, you know, I hope that’s the way that that it goes ’cause people should really always be thinking about the final price that people are really going to pay. And, you know, that’s another thing that fans tell us all the time that they like about the platform. It felt a little bit, I think, to begin with, counterintuitive to show people a bigger price. Like, it feels weird, almost, like, to start, but then actually if you speak to fans, then they’ll say, no, It’s better to know. Be upfront. How much is it going to cost me? Don’t surprise me at the end.
[00:19:38] Dan Runcie: And this extends industries as well, right? It’s like the Airbnb thing. No one wants to be surprised to see the price double because of the cleaning and service fee ends up being twice as much as the rental.
[00:19:49] Russ Tannen: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. It’s just the way that we think things should be, you know, so it’s a change. Like, it’s been one of the big things we talk in length about with partners, especially new partners coming on board. They’ve done it a certain way for a long time. But actually, you know, there’s all types of legislation getting passed now to actually enforce upfront ticket pricing. And I do think this will be the way that everyone does pricing for ticketing, you know, over the next five years or so.
[00:20:13] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it’ll be fascinating to see how that all develops. I know that DICE has invested heavily in analytics and how you think about offering the best service, and so much of this also ties back to ensuring that consumers themselves are the ones that can get their hands on tickets. So how do you address bots? Because I know that’s an ongoing concern for ticketing.
[00:20:35] Russ Tannen: Yeah, with bots, in particular, we were very fortunate that we started the company when we did, and we built this from scratch as a mobile company. The main thing for us really with any bots or any really anti-secondary measure is that for the most part, you know, everything is happening on mobile. We actually have two of the founders of Google Deep Mind were seed round investors of ours. And very early day,s we were terrified that one of the reasons that the company would fail would be that we would crash on a big on sale. And we used to call it the Radiohead test. Like, if we could survive a Radiohead on sale, we could survive anything sort of thing. And we actually worked and we had our CTO at the time go into Deep Mind and like work with a couple of the developers there, thinking about the architecture that would support, you know, hundreds of thousands of transactions to support on sales, but also to think about how we could protect against, you know, fake people trying to buy tickets. So we’ve done a lot there, a lot around security. And yeah, we haven’t had a problem with it to date. So we hope that that continues. But I think, honestly, the biggest thing is that we’ve built this all ourselves. We have this huge, amazing product team who blow my mind every day, every year that we do this. And yeah, I think that they’ve built something really special. That’s not something like many other ticket companies have been building on the same, they’ve been building on the same platforms for many, many years. And I don’t think it’s as, new or as, you know, as capable of handling some of these bad actors as we are.
[00:21:59] Dan Runcie: And I think, too, on the analytics piece, you’ve also used a lot of that to inform how you think about whether it’s helping artists or venues or promoters think about capacity or other dynamics involved with selling a show or with putting a show on together. Can you walk us through that process and how that informs the end product that the consumer sees when they go to a show?
[00:22:22] Russ Tannen: Oh, totally. Yeah. Our first hire was a data scientist, so I don’t know. It’s, like, we’re starting a ticket company, what do we need? Okay. Like you might think, I don’t know, someone from another ticket company or, you know, an operations person or like someone from a venue. Like, we were like, no, let’s hire a data scientist first, ’cause we knew that our superpower would be personalized recommendations and building an algorithm that was extremely sophisticated, that was going to show people the right shows for them., Shows that we know that they like and shows that we think they’re going to like at the right time. And, yeah, so we hired this amazing guy, Greg, who still works for us and, shout out to Greg, and he’s been part of the team now for many years that’s been working on how to ingest all the different data points we have, starting with our onboarding process, which is all about you know, syncing with your music library, but also, you know, onboarding process, showing you different artists and genres and everything, and then starting to record all of your different behaviors in the app, which shows you’re going to what you’ve been on a waiting list for, what you’ve saved, what you’re browsing a lot of, and using all of that to inform your discover page, which is really the heart of DICE and the home screen when you go in there. And when we have like a critical mass inventory in a city that we’re in, like, in London or Paris or Barcelona or New York, once we have that inventory, then you have an extremely personalized experience that feels almost as personalized as your streaming experience can be where there’s enough inventory that you’re going to see things that you’re really passionate about and excited about. And we’re going to package that up in different ways for you. We’re going to show you things that your friends are going to, we’re going to show you the genres you like, your favorite artists. We’re going to show you things from your music library. We’re going to show you all the shows that have been announced for you from the last seven days. Fans are always missing these announcements because there’s no coordination between venues or promoters on when things announce. It’s just all getting announced all the time, every day, hundreds of announcements. So, when you’re looking at putting up, like in London, we’re maybe 1500 a month. In New York, it’s not far from that either. There’s so many shows, right? Like, how as a fan are you supposed to filter that? So we filter for them using the data and the algorithms that we’ve built, so that we’re only telling them about on a Thursday, here’s the shows that announced to you this week. And that’s really where all of that. You know, that’s the biggest piece from a fan perspective of where that all that investment that we’ve made in data analytics really comes to life, away from the numbers and the stats and everything. That’s, like, the real-world use of it. And that’s what’s driving, you know, that massive percentage, that 40 percentage of sales that we’re seeing come from discovery and from the push notifications we’re sending. And, like I said before, I think the person, the people that really benefit from that is the artist because that’s just sales that are just happening organically through the product that we’ve built and not another post that they have to do or another ad they have to pay for, which always comes out of their pocket eventually. So, yeah, that’s where that investment pays off.
[00:25:09] Dan Runcie: Yeah. That 40% number is quite high, and it’s impressive, I think, just given that this isn’t something where people are necessarily consuming their product itself on the platform, right? And I think sometimes that discovery versus on-demand breakdown, you would likely expect that more from, as you mentioned, streaming something where you aren’t consuming the actual product there. So the fact that you’ve been able to do that there is quite strong. And I do have to assume that given the investment that’s been put into the data science and the fact that you can direct people and understand what people like, are there any desires or goals to be able to use the platform and the insights you have on these customers to offer them things in addition to concert ticket notifications or things like that, or other ways to leverage it knowing that you’re reaching music fans?
[00:25:58] Russ Tannen: Yeah, there’s two. There’s two parts to that. One is, I think, uniquely with DICE, we’ve built it in a way that what we saw before was that people would discover the show in one place, then they would listen to the artist on their streaming platform. They would invite their friends through their messaging app, and then they’d buy their ticket from the ticket company. And what we tried to do was build that stack into DICE. So you’re going to open DICE and discover the show. It’s all integrated with Spotify and Apple Music to preview the artist, so you’re going to listen to the artist in the app. You can invite your friend directly through the app and then obviously buy the ticket there as well. So what we see is more of the journey happening there. Obviously, the event itself happens off of the app, but a lot more of the actual process of the functional and the emotional parts of like, going to the show, like who you’re going to go with, for example, that can all happen within the app and people just spend a bit more time in the app than I think that they would on a traditional ticketing site where it’s more like search to purchase is the normal journey, I’m sure, almost all of the sales. So I think that’s where we’ve managed to extend the amount of time people are in there. We are really excited about sort of commerce in general, and we’d made an announcement previously around merchandise and sort of doing more merchandise and things like that, and that’s something you’re going to see a lot more from us in the new year as well. So, absolutely, and that’s something that we already do. We do some really interesting things with Rough Trade Records in New York and also in London where we’ll do, like, vinyl bundles with album launch tickets and things like that. So there’s already other parts of commerce kind of happening through the app. And ultimately I think the product is well-designed to make it very easy for people to buy things. So yes, whether we’re selling them a ticket, or we’re selling an artist something alongside the ticket, or we’re adding something onto the ticket, I think that it’s a natural progression for us and something that we’re excited about exploring more.
[00:27:44] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. And I know a lot of the data analytics discussion leads we’ve had here is focused more so on the consumer side. Does it inform as well things on the business side, such as the artists, thinking about what size venues that they may want to be in or the promoters thinking about how best to organize things?
[00:28:02] Russ Tannen: Yeah, we’ve been working, I’d say that there’s definitely some artists and teams who have been really tapped into that. And, you know, we have a whole artist development team based out of London, New York, LA, and they’re working directly with artists and agencies and managers on these data reports where we’re really showing them not just where we’re seeing a lot of activity from their fans, but we’re doing things like suggesting support acts based on other shows that the artists’ fans have been to see that might be smaller shows, or we’re looking at what cities we think they should play there. We’re doing a lot of that on a very kind of bespoke level with artists and also working with artists on getting them into more of the DICE venues and thinking about really make sure that from day one, they’re treating their fans well and building that community on DICE, using that waiting list data to plan the next show. There’s been lots of successful stories and artists that we’ve done that with, but just one that’s top of mind, a New York artist that’s coming up would be Ice Spice, who we’re working with on just doing a first show somewhere, so it’s not announced yet. But our artist team here is working closely with her team on planning something there, and I think that’s really exciting, like, an artist that’s blowing up, who’s also really keen to make sure that the experience for the fans is going to be amazing from day one, from show one.
[00:29:11] Dan Runcie: So with someone like Ice Spice who is clearly having a moment right now, what does that onboarding, the initial process, look like? Is it similar to the Kanye example where these things happen, or did someone on your team looking and scouting to see who’s bubbling and then reaching out to be like, hey, let’s make this happen?
[00:29:28] Russ Tannen: Yeah, I guess I kind of take it for granted now ’cause we’ve been doing it for so long, but, you know, we literally have a meeting that probably looks more like an A&R meeting at a record label where we are really saying, okay, what are people hearing? What arts are coming through? And that’s how we’ve really, like, you know, a ton of artists now over the years, we’ve really identified very early as artists that we want to support and have worked with very closely on different types of shows that they want to do. Like, another example that’s kind of top of mind would be someone like Cuco, who he identified very early and worked with on this huge block party that he did in LA a few years ago and continue to build that relationship with. But there’s really, like, thousands of examples now, so, probably over a thousand artists this year. By the end of the year, it’ll be over a thousand artists would have really worked with us very closely, not just on having a show through the platform, but whether we’ve informed which venue they play or which promoter they’re working with or helping them with the marketing on that event or some other really tangible thing that we’ve done with them. And really that artist development team, I think is, part of kind of, like, the special source of DICE that’s like just a bit different to what a traditional ticket company would do. And I really think the fact that we’re able to do that is because of the brand that we’ve built around DICE, and it is a platform and a brand that I think artists do feel comfortable with and want to be associated with as well versus, like, maybe a traditional ticket company that wouldn’t have that same kind of feeling to it.
[00:30:46] Dan Runcie: Right. For the A&R piece of it, ’cause I think that’s interesting and I think that it makes a lot of sense, what are the factors that go into the decisions that you’re looking at? Because I know I talked to a few folks and there’s been a bit of debate around which stats make sense to follow, which stats don’t make sense, what’s more signal versus noise, how do you determine that?
[00:31:06] Russ Tannen: Well, I think, we obviously have, obviously, this really interesting data ourselves. So a lot of the venues we work with at the smaller level. And at one point I was booking in London a 150-capacity venue, and I thought it was amazing when 400 people would show up for the hundred 50-capacity show, and we try and cram them all in. And I always saw that was an amazing sign. Those shows were always free, but obviously, now we are ticketing around the world, you know, many of the best 100 to 200 capacity venues that exist in, in some of the best music cities in the world. So what’s fascinating for us is to not just be speaking to the people that are running and booking those venues, but to be looking at the data of, okay, which shows sold out on and out at that level, and who’s got the biggest waiting list at that level. And we see a complete global picture of that. So some of the data points that I think we are finding most interesting are actually the ones that we’re seeing very early come from our own data. And then I think that that’s always going to be the debate on the, you know, the taste versus, or the gut versus data kind of thing, and a lot of that comes from hiring amazing people, like, we have on our artist development team whose judgment we trust very much to pick the things out that are really going to cut through. But yeah, I definitely think seeing some of those early signals, which may, in the grand scheme of things, look quite small, but I think if you are playing a hundred-capacity show and you have a hundred people on the waiting list, that’s a great sign because if you’re already driving 200 fans to a show, and you are brand new then, I think that’s harder than going from, you know, 3,000 to 5,000 and finding those 2,000 people, I think those first 200 is really difficult.
[00:32:39] Dan Runcie: How important is streaming data or social media engagement or following in your analysis?
[00:32:47] Russ Tannen: I have to talk to the team about how much they’re tracking that. I think it feels more like, Ice Spice is a good example of this. So we are talking about Ice Spice, Morgan on the team who’s working with her team is telling me about this track, and he thinks it’s going to be big, and we’re talking to them about doing a show. And then in the time from when we first started speaking to her team to today, you know, her Instagram following has gone from, you know, in the tens of thousands to in the millions. And so it’s more like a, we’re right about this one moment. It didn’t matter a few months ago or whatever, that there was only 10,000 followers or whatever. We wouldn’t have ignored it ’cause it didn’t have millions of followers already. But I think that now it’s more like, okay, yeah, that is a good signal that this is really going to blow up.
[00:33:27] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I think just given that large number, it’s hard to ignore that. It’s been interesting though. I’ve talked to agents on this platform and they’ve said that they don’t see as much of a correlation between streaming numbers and ticket sales. And of course, I think there’s nuance there. Yes, someone like Drake or Bad Bunny that’s doing 10 billion streams a year is obviously going to be in arenas and stadiums, but I think it was more so highlighting that some of the newer artists, it can be tougher because you have people that have, you know, so much of a strong following, but they may not necessarily have that following because of their music or because of other things about them. So, and I think we’ve just started to see more and more of that. So it does create, in some ways, a bit of a unique opportunity for the promoters or events companies that can be able to determine, yeah, like what is the true signal and what are the things that have less weight?
[00:34:19] Russ Tannen: Yeah. We really want to try and work with managers and agents more and more on providing this data that we see so that they get a sense of what is really happening ’cause it is just so different. I think if someone’s put their hand in their pocket and spent $30 on going to a show versus hearing a track on a playlist, obviously, like, it’s just not the same type of commitment at all. So we’re working to keep growing that team and expanding the number of artists that we’re having that type of relationship with. And, yeah, anyone listening who wants to get in touch with our artist team is very welcome to as well, and you can do that through the site. But, yeah, we are keen to be talking to as many labels and managers, agents everyone really who’s interested in kind of digging into that, especially if their artists already have shows on DICE as well on in any of our venues. We’d love to get into that with them.
[00:35:04] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. Switching gears a bit, going back to the entrance and really expanding things in the US market, one of the things that stuck out to me from your past interviews was how you talked about how live events and concerts is much more of a localized business, and I’m sure that the experience that you all had in Europe and everything in the UK, there’s slightly likely some differences considering things being localized, whether it’s in New York City or some of the other markets here. What are some of those notable differences that you’ve picked up on in the US and some of the cities in the US as opposed to things in the UK?
[00:35:41] Russ Tannen: I’d say that one of the biggest differences is more of a technical thing, I guess, for us, which is that in European markets, the people who actually control the tickets, it’s much more spread. So on one show you could have 10 ticket companies selling tickets for the same show, and then it’s really just like on the fan to have a preferred outlet or who’s, you know, boosting their link the most, honestly. So it’s a little bit different versus the US where it’s exclusively with the venue. So every show pretty much has one ticket company and it makes the market difficult to break into honestly because of that. It’s very binary. You’re either working on the show or you’re not. Versus when we started in London, we could say, hey, to a promoter, we want 10 tickets to the show, and we would be able to list the show. So if you were going onto the app, you could see all these amazing artists playing. But we didn’t have more than 10 tickets sometimes or 20 tickets versus US, where you really have to have the whole inventory and you have to be in a position to do it. I also think that how the market worked in Europe was one of the reasons that we invested so much in the discovery piece because we were competing on every single show. We had to sell our allotment of tickets versus in the US. I think the ticket companies as soon as they’ve signed the venue, they’re almost more lazy maybe about it. So they haven’t spent so much on discovery piece. And I think that’s why, you know, our discovery story here and the way that it’s working here is kind of a rich one and honestly just better for fans. But we needed to do it that way around. I think it would’ve much harder to start here and then go into Europe. So I’m glad it works the way it did. But that’s been one of the big differences. I think for us, really, we’re just excited about finding all of the best kind of quality independent operators, whether they’re promoters or venues, and really helping them grow their businesses as well. And we love venues that have just really well-curated programming, like, we love the programming. Elsewhere, for example, is another New York venue that we work with where super diverse, amazing program that just kind of ticks all these different boxes, but always hits this quality bar that just seems like almost impossibly high, like, every night. It’s really special. So we are really, like, excited about working with people like that. And New York such, it’s an amazing city for music. So it’s nice that this is kind of our main base here at the moment in the US.
[00:37:55] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And given that in the US, things are much more all or nothing, does that have any type of impact on how the tickets may go throughout the entire process? I know at least in the US, I’ve seen a few things. If a ticket is on for a while. And we talked a lot about scalpers and just their influence when tickets and the demand increases, right? We haven’t talked as much about when the demand decreases ’cause I know that at times, I’ve seen things where artists will have their tickets go on Groupon and places like that where they’d be offered for a much lower price. How has that piece of it been in the US where, let’s say there’s a show that you’ve wanted to put on and if the resellers are needing to sell for the same price, but the demand itself may not necessarily reflect where it is, or if the artist is struggling to sell, how does the pricing dynamic impact that?
[00:38:43] Russ Tannen: Yeah, I think you obviously see that, and not every show can be a sellout with, you know, tickets being sought after. I think that there’s different strategies around that always. I think that for a lot of our partners, they’re more used to handling all of that themselves where maybe we might be able to work on doing like competition strategy or just doing discounts or looking at other marketing channels or extra support that we can give to a show, whether that’s really checking that we’ve done and reached all of the different audiences we think might be interested in a show and really keeping that as mobile and really trying to stay away from email, honestly. I think that one of the changes, if you think about how event marketing has changed through the years from kind of posters to magazine adverts to heavy social media to email, I think those email days are very much on the way out and really focusing on our push notification strategy and just having a very sticky product that people going to keep coming into naturally to check. That’s going to be the best way to really thinking about increasing sales on low-selling shows. I think it was also a really interesting summer for people just being very honest about their ticket sales. Like, there were literally artists just coming out and saying, you know what? We’re canceling these shows. We haven’t sold enough tickets. Like, that was kind of new. I think people haven’t been that straight up before, but that was definitely happening a bit this summer. And I think that it was a hard summer for lots of artists and lots of events and also some people had some huge success. So it’s definitely a kind of uncertain time still, only obviously one year or so out of COVID and shows being back. I think that people are still feeling some of that after effects. There was a, obviously, huge rebound last summer that we really felt here as we were putting together the team still, and then suddenly we had all these venues turning on and using the product for the first time. So that was an interesting experience. But this summer I think things kind of bounced the other way a little bit, and we’re going to hit a steadier stride coming into the end of the year, and I think next year is one that people are going to find easier to plan for, hopefully.
[00:40:31] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I bet. And I think that we saw a few things happen this summer. As you mentioned, there was some success, but I think it definitely was a bit subject to that power law, right, where the folks at the top were able to sell out and have their tickets sell for whatever the dynamic pricing set them at. And then a lot of the artists that were either your middle class of artists or emerging definitely struggled. But one area that I do see huge amount of opportunity is Latin America and in our Trapital Culture Report 2022, we talked a lot about how much growth Latin Music has had. Of course, Bad Bunny, but there’s many of other artists as well. What does your Latin American strategy look like for DICE?
[00:41:11] Russ Tannen: I saw that in your report and, yeah, it totally reflected what we have been seeing as well, actually pulled the stats to share with you as well as you’ve done such great work. So it was fun to kind of pull something back. So Latin ticket sales for us increased nine times in the past year, so, 829% 2022 to 2021. And Latin events listed on DICE have quadrupled 2022 from 2021. So we are absolutely seeing the same. It’s obviously huge. We’ve been working with people like the Paramount in LA and for a long time, been working with lots of Latin artists. We just did a show last year with Karol G at United Palace, with the Cuco show I mentioned, we did Bad Gyal in Spain. And also we haven’t touched on it yet in this interview, but last year we bought Boiler Room, and they’ve also had a lot of success with Latin and Reggaeton programming, and worked with many artists, especially at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, which was another one of the festivals we work with where we had Boiler on stage this year. And they had this amazing program there, which included lots of Latin acts. So I think that, yeah, like, I think the whole industry’s feeling it. I think it’s super exciting. I think it’s so cool. And I think that people are still discovering a lot of this incredible talent, and it just feels like a nice moment to have that exposure. I think for us more on the venue side. We’re also doing this big push into Miami, and we just signed our first venues in Miami. And we’re really excited about building that up there. And we just signed Club Space there, but there’s many, many more venues there that we’re looking to sign. So yeah, I think this is just like an interesting time. We’re probably a little bit further away from actually launching in Latin America itself. But, you know, our partners Primavera Sound are just doing, over the next couple of months, are doing their first festivals down there, which are selling really well. Like, they’re going to be really, really well. So definitely got my eye on maybe trying to make it down for one of those and checking it out. But yeah, it feels exciting, doesn’t it?
[00:42:52] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it definitely does. 9x is impressive, and it’s especially impressive because I think that a lot of the folks in the music industry are seeing the top line numbers on Latin, and they may assume, okay, well, yes, the Bad Bunny effect, his album is dominating. The difference for you all though is that you don’t have artists that are like the Bad Bunny level. Well, I know you’re working with them, but since you’re primarily focused on that 200 to 10,000 capacity, it means that you’re seeing this at that level, too. And that says, and I think that should instill a lot of confidence that this isn’t just one or two artists that are pulling up everything. This is an entire movement.
[00:43:30] Russ Tannen: It’s a really good point. Yeah. I think that’s a really nice way to look at that data. And that’s, yeah, it’s absolutely what we’re seeing and I think definitely it’s hitting that point where it’s not just that kind of trickle-down effect, but it’s also like this bottom-up ground swell of artists coming through. So, yeah, that’s definitely the right way to think about that, I think, that’s awesome.
[00:43:48] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and I think that Africa, with what’s happening with afro beats and some of the other sub-genres there, that’s next up. It’s only going to, I mean, it’s already happening, but it’s only a matter of time.
[00:43:58] Russ Tannen: It’s happening, yeah, yeah.
[00:43:59] Dan Runcie: You know, we see those numbers start to have even bigger and bigger market share.
[00:44:03] Russ Tannen: Yeah, it gets me excited ’cause we’re, you know, it takes so much every time we launch into a new country, and we kind of have to do it kind of one by one, and it’s a big focus. But we really want to build DICE into being a global business and be truly global. And that doesn’t mean just the kind of markets that have this really established touring infrastructure, all these other things. We want to be everywhere and explore all of these different genres and cultures in a way that makes sense. And, yeah, we’re excited to be everywhere in the next few years. But in the meantime, yeah, we are helping, you know, do what we can to support all different types of music and sub genres of music and subcultures within music, and we just keep an eye on what we think the next big thing is going to be as well.
[00:44:42] Dan Runcie: Definitely. Well, Russ, this has been great. Before we let you go though, what’s one big thing that’s on your radar for DICE that you’re focusing on for 2023?
[00:44:52] Russ Tannen: I think for us the big thing for us next year is really going to be expanding across the rest of the country here. We are really excited to be in tons of cities, and there’s so many amazing music cities in the US as you well know. And we’re excited to keep building and be everywhere because we want to be sat having conversations with artists where we can talk about doing a full US tour with them, playing all in venues that we work with, and helping them to plan how to grow across the country. So that’s going to be the big push for next year.
[00:45:22] Dan Runcie: Nice. Exciting stuff. All right. Well, if people want to follow along with DICE and if they want to set up their own profile, where do they go?
[00:45:30] Russ Tannen: They can go straight to dice.fm. So that’s the best place if you want to partner with us, if you want to get in touch with the arts development team, if you are a promoter or a venue that wants to work with us, everything’s there. If you want to buy tickets and play around with the app, then head to, you know, the app store, iOS, Android, and download the app and have a play around with it. And yeah, let us know what you think. And people are more than welcome to get in touch with me directly as well. So it’s just firstname.lastname@example.org and they can email me directly. It’s great.
[00:45:57] Dan Runcie: Nice. Sounds good. And yeah, the next time that Kanye throws one of these impromptu listening parties or these Wyoming get-togethers, I’ll look to see if I see that DICE redirect.
[00:46:09] Russ Tannen: Yeah, oh, well, I’ll let you know if it’s going to happen. I’ll give you the heads-up.
[00:46:12] Dan Runcie: Right. Sounds good. Thanks again, Russ. It’s a pleasure.
[00:46:14] Russ Tannen: Thanks so much, Dan. Thanks.
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