Ticketing 3.0: Facebook Becomes A Box Office

Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Evolver.fm Editor Eliot Van Buskirk, who has covered and occasionally anticipated music and technology intersections for under 15 years for CNET, Wired.com, McGraw-Hill, and The Echo Nest. He plays a bass, rides a bicycle, and lives in Brooklyn.

Once upon a time, we bought our concert tickets from a good old-fashioned cashier at the local box office. As time went on, we took some of the work out of the hands of the cashier and started buying our tickets at home — on the Web. (For a fee, mind you.) And if what we’re seeing today is any indication, the next step in the evolution of the box office? Facebook.

Ticketfly’s Facebook ticketing app, which launched last week, aims to boost sales by letting people know when their friends buy a ticket. The big idea is to complete the ticket-buying circle — from finding out about a show to buying a ticket — without ever sending the Facebook faithful outside the confines of their favorite social network.

This could quickly become a big part of the ticketing market. Facebook’s artist pages are putting up old-style MySpace numbers as fans increasingly look to Facebook for artists they already know, and others they want to learn about. On top of that, many music services send, or “scrobble,” listening activity to the social network. All of that musical activity makes Facebook a smart place to sell tickets.

This marks the first time users will be able to buy show tickets on a Facebook artist page without being funneled to an external site, such as Ticketmaster, says Ticketfly, which was a Facebook Connect launch partner. Artists (or their people) install the app on their Facebook artist pages, where it relies on Facebook Connect log-ins to authenticate users.

If the band (or whoever else controls the app) activates its “Facebook purchase amplifier,” and you buy a ticket, your friends can find about it, perhaps to join you at the show or catch the same band somewhere else.

“It took a couple of minutes to load the purchase app,” said Eboni Jones, who does marketing and communications for Parish Entertainment Group, a beta partner of the service. “When you use the Ticketfly marketing tool’s ‘Facebook Purchase Amplifier,’ your ticket sales definitely increase — and you leave it to the fans.”

“The fans help sell tickets, which pretty much frees you up to work on other aspects of your business,” she continues in the above video (via Ticketfly). “We’ve been able to sell tickets out and we’re just able to manage our inventory a heck of a lot better.”

This news comes on the heels of a big acquisition of consumer analysis firm BigChampagne by ticketing and promotion behemoth Live Nation Entertainment of the media. Like Ticketfly’s new Facebook integration, this purchase will almost certainly help Live Nation Entertainment (formerly Ticketmaster and Live Nation) sell more tickets by understanding what people are up to online.

“This acquisition strengthens our commitment to be the leader in Artist-to-Fan data,” said Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino in a statement. “BigChampagne’s expertise will accelerate our mission to drive deeper fan engagement throughout Live Nation driven by world class data technology.”

Meanwhile, Ian Hogarth, CEO of Spotify’s launch partner, Songkick, told us that he anticipates a boost in his company’s generation of ticket leads to sellers such as Live Nation and Ticketfly.

“What’s so exciting to me is the level of seamlessness,” said Hogarth. “In a single click, Songkick will scan all the music in your Spotify playlist and build you a personalized calendar [from] every single concert in your city.”

Spotify, of course, was the biggest launch partner of Facebook’s new music initiative… which also relies on Facebook Connect.

The future of ticket sales is already happening. It’s all about promoters knowing what you like based on the music you, and everyone you know, and everyone else, are listening to; pushing tickets through friends and artist pages over social networks you’re already using to share cat pictures and political statements; and, if all goes as planned, selling even more tickets when your friends see all the fun you’re planning.

Regardless of what fans might think of sharing their ticket purchases with friends, or having listening habits used to pitch stuff, this can only be a great thing for artists, who notoriously rely much more on box office receipts than they used to. As for music fans, once again, social butterflies — the people who are most comfortable with sharing activities and watching their friends’ activities — stand to benefit the most, as the market shapes itself around their habits.