Ticketfly Challenges Ticketmaster, Tackles 3X Bigger Market By Now Helping Venues Sell Reserved Seats

Ticketmaster could get away with high service fees because it’s one of the few ticketing options for huge venues, but not anymore. Ticketfly can now power sales for any reserved seating venue, not just general admission shows, with today’s relaunch of its ticketing platform. Considering 70% of advanced event ticket sales in North America are for reserved seats, this triples Ticketfly’s addressable market.

Along with the freedom to ditch Ticketmaster, Ticketfly’s social tools for efficiently marketing tickets on Facebook and Twitter are now available to concert halls, arenas, and sports stadiums that are too big for GA free-for-alls. And this could all mean lower ticket service fees for you.

Ticketfly considers itself a software company first — and a high-performing and fast-growing one at that. The 500 venues it powers saw a 17% increase in their tickets sold last year compared to the industry average of 3% growth. It doubled its client base in 2011 and is up another 65% so far in 2012 with only around 100 employees.

The Ticketfly software-as-a-service lets venues quickly map out a visual model of their general admission or reserved seat floor plans.  Venue managers can set different prices and whether fans can pick their seats or only buy the “best available, and instantly put their show up for sale on stable platform that won’t crash when hundreds of thousands of people rush to purchase Radiohead, Lady Gaga, or Rolling Stones tickets.

Rather than having to rebuild their seat map for each show, venues can reuse templates. Ticketfly clients can also edit prices and add seats on the fly (har har). For comparison, Ticketfly’s co-founder and CEO Andrew Dreskin says his competitor Ticketmaster’s platform takes days to create an event, and venues have to start from scratch to change prices and seating options. I’m awaiting a response from Ticketmaster on that claim, though Dreskin should have good insight considering he sold his last company Ticketweb to Ticketmaster a few years ago.

Reserved venues that partner with Ticketfly and pay it a fee per ticket will also get access to its social marketing tools. These let venues automatically create Facebook events for their shows, schedule tweets to promote them, and quickly generate email marketing blasts.

The Facebook integration includes deep hooks into Facebook’s Open Graph so a user can automatically RSVP to the Facebook event, publish to the Ticker and Timeline that they’re attending, or Like artists on the bill. Ticketfly clients also get analytics about which channels are driving sales so they can spend their marketing dollars in the right place.

Ticketfly still has a lot of work to do. It can’t handle season ticket sales, ticket subscriptions, or donations which it will need to serve performing arts and sports events. It also lacks Ticketmaster’s  awesome concert recommendations based on your Spotify and other music streaming listening habits. And it doesn’t yet allow buyers to see where their friends are sitting so they can buy seats next to them, which you can do on Ticketmaster. Expect that in an upcoming Ticketfly product update, though.

It’s going to be an uphill battle to displace the domineering Live Nation / Ticketmaster. Most huge venues have signed three year contracts with Ticketmaster, so Ticketfly will only get a shot to steal 1/3 of them away each year. But if it can focus on efficiency, affordable rates, and powerful marketing tools that let venues sell more tickets at lower prices, event promoters will hopefully pass the savings on to their customers. It might even force its Ticketmaster to lower its fees to compete.

So if you don’t feel gouged the next time you buy a concert ticket, you can thank technology!