Earl Scioneaux, III, also known as The Madd Wikkid, talks about his new ticketing platform, Downtix, which offers a better deal for both fans and artists.
[Updated] Outrageous ticket costs have come to be expected over the years, with scalpers and secondary sellers buying tickets in bulk and manipulating market values. With the music industry in trouble, new strategies are being employed to keep tickets out of scalpers’ hands, to maintain fair prices for fans and provide artists and event organizers with a higher percentage of the revenues. One concept gaining popularity among ticket sellers in professional and collegiate sports is dynamic ticket pricing, which means that the price of ticket rises or falls according to demand.
Earl Scioneaux, III, the New Orleans musician, producer and engineer, also known by his stage name, The Madd Wikkid, has created Downtix, a dynamic ticketing platform. He is the musician behind the Brassft Punk project, and has seen how the current system works against fans and musicians.
“The motivation was more of a frustration with the current paradigm of ticketing," he says. "The way things are handled now; there are a lot of inefficiencies. Far too often these situations are created where these secondary market resellers are stepping in and making these transactions to the point where they are manipulating the market and driving ticket prices even higher, and those people aren’t adding any value to the package. Money should really go to the artists and the people producing the event.” Scioneaux claims that as a result of large-scale scalping, ticket sellers are unable to accurately predict a demand for a given event. This is further complicated by promoters’ incentives to sell out events, maximizing sales for concessions, merchandise, and parking, even if it means taking lower than face value for a ticket.
The idea isn't new. A number of college football programs now sell tickets through dynamic ticket pricing platforms. Scioneaux says that what separated Downtix from other popular dynamic ticketing sites including Qcue, Digonex, or MarketShare is its simplicity. “Looking at sites like Qcue, it seemed to me that nothing was ever really clean," he says. "Things were a little bit complex. What I’m trying to do is create a site that just incredibly simple and efficient, that people can just step into and make an easy transition.”
Downtix's process is fairly simple. It posts a price ceiling and a price floor, then gives buyers the option to lock in a ticket at the ceiling price or name the price that they'll pay. As the event gets closer, prices drop. If they drop to the buyers' named price, they get tickets. If the show sells out before the quote price is reached, they don't.
Downtix is being tested this week as tickets are on sale now for the first ever acoustic bounce show with DJ Jubilee and The Big Easy Bounce Band Saturday night at Preservation Hall. “This is the first test of the core prototype,” says Scioneaux. “We are putting this show on to show people how to use the system and learn what we can from that process.” Scioneaux then plans to take the site offline, implement the suggested improvements, and re-launch sometime in the spring or summer of 2014.
While the system in other places has proven to be successful in generating more revenue for artists and keeping prices low, there is still concern that the new site might alienate some fans, particularly fans who would like to reserve early tickets but have a limited budget. “If there are a limited quantity of tickets, the orders that are lowest will be cancelled," Scioneaux says. "Basically, people are betting against each other in a way because only the top however many orders are actually going to get tickets. So if fans really want to go to the show, they have to determine what the top of their comfort zone is.”
But even with these potential issues, Scioneaux remains optimistic. In 2011, Ticketmaster transitioned to a system similar to dynamic ticket pricing, which Scioneaux claims, “created something in the range of a 30 to 50 percent revenue increase, which is huge." But overall, Scioneaux hopes to see his site succeed to benefit the larger music community. "The system is better for everybody. Fans can get a better opportunity to get tickets at fair prices that are determined by supply and demand and the artist can walk out of a gig with more money in their pocket than they would have.”
Updated Nov. 22, 8:02 a.m.
For more on DJ Jubilee at Preservation Hall, see my story in Friday's New Orleans Advocate.