For Those About to Rock, We’ll Connect You: The Role of Tech in Live Music Today

By Scott Cutler, President of StubHub
Originally published on LinkedIn, Feb. 10, 2017

It’s 1987, and I’m at my first concert – Billy Idol and The Cult. They’re taking the U.S. by storm on their national tour. Billy is riding high on his new-found American fame, and he takes the stage to power through a few chart-toppers: “White Wedding,” “Rebel Yell,” “Eyes Without a Face.” Though this is my first live show, I know that this is it: I’m finally experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event that I’ll remember forever. The roar and push of the crowd, the feel of the bass, Billy’s fist pumps right there in front of me – I’m invigorated in a way that a vinyl record could never make me feel. I don’t stop smiling for the entire show. In awe of the talent I just witnessed, I think to myself, “Wow – this is one of the most memorable moments of my life.”

I didn’t know it then, but I’d eventually go on to lead a company that empowers other passionate music-lovers worldwide to experience this same feeling – a concert high that only comes with seeing your favorite artist rock a stage. If you had told me in 1987 that 30 years later I’d be watching Lady Gaga take the Super Bowl LI halftime show to new heights – literally – I would have never believed you. It would have sounded almost as outlandish as saying that 300 drones would be flying around Gaga as she performed. But wait… I saw that, too!

Indeed, tech in the live music industry has changed dramatically since that Billy Idol tour back in the ‘80s, and dancing drones at the Super Bowl are just the start. As streaming continues to overtake digital downloads, which long ago replaced physical CDs as our primary format for listening to music, artists will search for ways to find worldwide popularity in an industry that is inundated with new performers on every platform, every day. How can a rising star get into Spotify’s “Discover Weekly,” and will the momentum from that visibility drive concert ticket sales?

As streaming continues to strengthen, the role of mobile and social media in music will only become more important. At StubHub, we got ahead of the mobile trend and made our app a powerful way to tap into technology and surface well-known acts and up-and-comers to millions of customers around the world. We also see social media driving growth in live events because being there live and in person matters.  Being there in person provides social currency which we value and use to define us as unique individuals.  As concert-goers share live video feeds, snap the best moments and broadcast commentary globally, demand for in-person live events will continue to rise.

I also expect that as new and even more sophisticated technologies are applied to everyday uses, AI will secure its place as a technology influence within music. Across other industries, companies are already using smart data to predict consumer behavior. We see this in the recommendations tools on audio streaming services. Next, we’re bound to witness the application of this intelligence in the end-to-end music experience. For example, we’ve started to see AI technology being leveraged for chatbot integrations that provide instant recommendations to consumers who are deciding which live events to attend. And with AI like IBM’s Watson beginning to play a role in song composition, the music industry is sure to see the influence of intelligent tech behind the scenes as well.

I’d argue that the global music scene has been applying futuristic technologies even beyond what we’re generally familiar with in the U.S. For example in South Korea, K-pop stars are performing at their concerts virtually via hologram. These stars reach their super-fans at concerts that, aside from missing the physical presence of the band, are incredibly real: the music is bumping, the venue is packed, and the hologram is life-sized and life-like. While some acts only tour once every few years – don’t get me started on how excited I am about another Guns N’ Roses reunion tour – artists like Jaejoong, G-Dragon, and Psy are hosting concerts every day to thousands of fans who love to see their favorite singer in augmented reality.

At StubHub, we’re advancing all of these technologies – mobile, social, and virtual reality – to provide event-goers with the best possible experience at a live event. From our “virtual view” seat view tool to mobile browse and checkout, our technological advancements have enhanced event discovery, streamlined ticketing, and ultimately heightened all phases of the fan experience.

Tech is only going to continue to grow in significance in today’s digital world. Everyone in the industry is tasked with empowering fans to have seamless access to the once-in-a-lifetime experiences they want to attend. At StubHub, we know that our tech will be there for you before, during, and after the concert: we’ll get you there, elevate your experience, and ensure you’ll never forget it. We see ourselves as the ultimate connection between fans and today’s hottest shows.

This weekend, I’m heading to the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, where Adele is bound to blow the roof off the Staples Center. Tributes to Prince, George Michael, and Leonard Cohen will remind us the great talent we’ve lost, and we’ll see Beyonce astound us as usual. As I watch these performers set the new standard for live music experiences, I’ll be thinking ahead another 30 years to imagine what musical performances will look like then.

And while I don’t think Billy Idol will make an appearance, if he shows up via hologram, you can bet I’ll be cheering louder than anyone else.

Ticketbis Rebranded to StubHub

Rebrand marks next phase of integration between the companies

 

FEB. 1, 2017 – SAN FRANCISCO – StubHub (an eBay company) announced today that it has rebranded Ticketbis, the Spain-based ticket marketplace it acquired in 2016, to StubHub. This milestone, effective today, represents the latest step in the integration process between the two companies.

 

“StubHub is making solid progress in our goal to integrate Ticketbis into our platform, and to give consumers access to the world’s largest catalog of live events,” said Scott Cutler, president of StubHub. “This phase marks a significant step in introducing Ticketbis customers to the StubHub brand, and extending to them access to the performers, artists and athletes they love, no matter where they live, or where they want to travel.”

 

StubHub is the world’s largest online ticket marketplace, and sells 1.3 tickets per second, across more than 300,000 live events. With this phase of the StubHub-Ticketbis integration, consumers who use StubHub will benefit from websites in their local language and currency, as well as the safety and security offered by the StubHub FanProtect guarantee, which ensures that consumers can buy and sell confidently, knowing that StubHub guarantees their transaction and will make things right in the rare event that something goes wrong.

 

In future phases, StubHub expects to fully integrate the Ticketbis platform and catalog of events onto the StubHub platform, and to launch a global app to surface live events around the world, wherever StubHub is available.

StubHub and Xolos de Tijuana partner for the first official ticket marketplace in Mexican futbol

This news was previously released in Mexico.

México, Jan. 4, 2017 – Just after the first games of the Clausura 2017 tournament, global ticket marketplace  StubHub (eBay Inc) has announced a new partnership with the Mexico-based futbol club, Xolos de Tijuana, to create the first official ticket marketplace for Xolos tickets. With this agreement, StubHub.com.mx becomes the official site for local and international consumers to resell and buy tickets to Xolos home games. This is the first time that a Mexico-based futbol club has selected an official ticket marketplace.

This partnership is a natural fit for StubHub and Xolos, as both brands emphasize innovative approaches that connect people through inspiring event experiences:

“StubHub is committed to connecting people to inspiring live experiences, and by partnering with Xolos, we are giving more people access to an incredible team,” said Miguel Medina, head of business development for StubHub in Mexico. “Xolos wants to enable the buying and selling of tickets in a secure way that makes it possible for even more people to experience a live match at the Estadio Caliente, and StubHub’s global presence expands Xolos’ influence to consumers in nearly 50 countries around the world.”

Beginning with the Clausura 2017, Xolos season pass holders can list their full passes, or tickets for individual games, on StubHub.com.mx. When season pass holders list an individual game, StubHub.com.mx will generate an electronic ticket for the buyer to get into the specific game, and will cancel the eligibility of the season pass for that specific game. In order to get into the stadium, the buyer needs to print the e-ticket and bring hard copies. Consumers can be confident that they’ll be able to enter the individual game without issue.

Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, with the firm conviction to provide a better service to their followers, avoiding limitations in the sale of season and individual tickets to attend games in the Estadio Caliente, took the decision of establishing one of the most important partnerships that aims to expand and increase the number of followers in and out of Mexico,” said Esteban de Anda, Director de Alianzas Comerciales y Comunicación del Club Tijuana. “One of the main goals, and probably the most important one, is to provide a full service based on the availability of platforms to serve both the primary and the secondary ticket markets, where our fans will find a unique, easy and fast service to buy their season or individual tickets. No matter where they are, our followers will always find more options to find tickets for our games. Although there is still a ticket box available in the field, fans can now buy their tickets from their computer, tablet or smartphone using both credit and debit card and the purchase can be made in and out of the country,” continued de Anda.

 

StubHub, an eBay-owned Company, entered into the partnership with Xolos to show its commitment to Mexico and its ability to give consumer there even more choice and access to the events they want to attend. In August 2016, StubHub acquired Ticketbis, a Spain-based ticket marketplace that had been in Mexico since 2012. StubHub and Ticketbis are integrating their platforms in a phased approach, and the agreement with Xolos represents one of the first platform integrations, with tickets available on StubHub.com.mx.

 

StubHub Releases Second Annual Year in Live Events Report: In a Year of Firsts, Lasts and Milestone Events, Consumers Are Spending More Than Ever on Live Event Experiences

SUPER BOWL 50, WORLD SERIES AND HAMILTON BREAK STUBHUB RECORDS

Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant’s Last Games, a Historic World Series, First UFC Fight in New York City and a First-Ever Music Festival of Legacy Acts Mark Milestone Events

DEC. 14, 2016 – SAN FRANCISCOStubHub, the world’s largest ticket marketplace, today revealed its second annual Year In Live Events (YILE) report, which found that consumers, globally, are spending more than ever on live event experiences in a year marked by firsts, lasts and historic milestone events.  The top-10 selling events of the year in the U.S. on StubHub were sports events, led by Super Bowl 50, which outsold last year’s Super Bowl by 7%, and the World Series, which was the highest-selling World Series ever on StubHub.  Adele led all the music acts with the #1-selling tour spot and the runaway Broadway hit, Hamilton: An American Musical, drove at least four times the sales of any other theater production in company history. International NFL games and fútbol matches led as the top five international events with the highest sales from U.S. ticket buyers.

“At StubHub, we are driven by one purpose:  to connect people to inspiring event experiences,” said Scott Cutler, president of StubHub.  “2016 has been a remarkable year, underscored by once-in-a-lifetime events that have demonstrated our customers’ innate desire to make life’s richest memories happen live at sports, concerts and performing arts events.  As these experiences play an increasingly meaningful role in our lives, StubHub is committed to leading in innovation, premium products and partnerships to make access to a life rich in live experiences easier than ever.”

  • According to a survey of international consumers, globally, consumers have increased spend on live events by 8% in the last year.
  • Additional StubHub consumer insights and sales trends show that the event-going experience is becoming increasingly connected by mobile, driven by social connections and an influencer of travel plans.
  • Around the world, StubHub reports that mobile usage to purchase tickets is up, and users who switch from desktop to buying in the StubHub app tend to buy more tickets and spend more money.
  • Regardless of region, buyers are willing to travel more than two hours to a live event of their choice, with buyers in Italy having the highest tendency to travel for events, buyers in the UK spending the most money on international events and Spanish buyers proving to be the most socially oriented, with the highest tendency to buy in advance and attend events in groups.

Across all live events, the past year has been highlighted by milestone and historic events that are unrivaled in years past, including  Super Bowl 50, which was also the last game played by Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant’s final home game, championship appearances for Cleveland in basketball and baseball, UFC taking its first match to New York City, the Cubs’ historic showing and win in the World Series, Desert Trip’s first year, a popular COPA America, and the Broadway phenomenon of Hamilton: An American Musical. A recent third-party survey, commissioned by StubHub, shows that events like these are driving fans’ happiness, with 88% of respondents saying live events make them happy and named their first concert as their best memory over first kiss and first job.

stubhub_infographic_social_05_120916

*List represents top events in the U.S. based on total value of ticket sales on StubHub for each event

(StubHub’s Top 10 Events in 2015: 1. Super Bowl XLIX; 2. World Series Game 3; 3. World Series Game 4; 4. World Series Game 5; 5. Mayweather v Pacquiao; 6. 2015 College Football Championship; 7. World Series Game 2; 8. NHL Stanley Cup Final; 9. New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys (10/11); 10. 2015 Cotton Bowl College Football Semifinal (Alabama v Michigan State)

Top music events in 2016 were dominated by music festivals with the mainstay festivals – Coachella and Lollapalooza – maintaining their top positions, and newcomer Desert Trip coming in with sales that rivaled both. Artist tours were highlighted by Adele and dominated by nostalgic legacy acts including Springsteen, Billy Joel, Guns N Roses and Pearl Jam, as well as pop including Bieber, Beyoncé, Drake and Coldplay. Luke Bryan was the only country act to break the top-10 tour list; Luke Bryan and Billy Joel are the only acts returning from the top 10 in 2015.

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*List represents top music tours in the U.S. based on total value of ticket sales in the U.S. on StubHub

(StubHub’s Top 10 Tours in 2015: 1. Taylor Swift ; 2. Garth Brooks ; 3. Billy Joel; 4. U2; 5. Ed Sheeran; 6. Luke Bryan; 7. The Grateful Dead; 8. Kenny Chesney; 9. One Direction; 10. Rolling Stones)

 Top Selling International Events*

  1. Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans (Mexico City on 11/22)
  2. Barcelona vs. Atlético de Madrid (Barcelona on 4/5)
  3. Arsenal vs. Chelsea (London on 9/24)
  4. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid (Barcelona on 4/2)
  5. Chelsea vs. Liverpool (London on 9/16)

*List represents the international events with the highest sales generated by U.S. buyers on Ticketbis

The theatre category grew the most in 2016 but the greatest amount of ticket sales were generated in the concert segment of the StubHub business:

stubhub_infographic_social_03_120716

*List generated by total ticket sales across event type in the U.S. on StubHub

2016 Top Growing Genres*

  1. Theater
  2. Music Festivals
  3. Motor Sports
  4. Soccer
  5. Concerts

*List represents most growth in total ticket sales since 2015 across event type in the U.S. on StubHub

2016 YEAR IN LIVE EVENTS HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Kobe’s last game generated nearly 25% of the total sales for the Lakers season and sold twice as many tickets than the NBA Finals game this year.
  • Sales for this year’s World Series were 160% higher the 2015 World Series and were 85% higher than the 2014 World Series (SF Giants v Kansas City Royals), which previously held the lead as the highest sales for a World Series on StubHub.
  • Tickets to the final game of the World Series were purchased by a buyer in every state within the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii) and from 12 different countries.
  • Adele’s highest-selling single-tour date was Sept. 23 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
  • The top-selling, single-day music event overall was for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on March 28 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
  • Metallica’s Aug. 20 show at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis also outsold Adele’s highest-selling tour date.
  • Luke Bryan was the best deal of the top-10 artists with the lowest average ticket price across his U.S. dates while Adele generated the highest average ticket price, earning her nearly three times the total sales of Luke Bryan but with 16 fewer dates than Bryan.
  • With the fewest number of dates, Pearl Jam had nearly one-fourth the number of dates as Luke Bryan who came in behind the rock group at #10, but the group was able to command nearly twice the average ticket price as Bryan.
  • Coachella remained the biggest music festival and Desert Trip’s arrival generated a comparable level of demand that’s unique for a newcomer festival.

Data provided throughout this release is compiled from StubHub and Ticketbis sales data and consumer buying habits, StubHub consumer insights studies surveys and buying trends from 2015 through 2016, and StubHub international strategic research on consumer behavior.

StubHub Global Survey Finds Live Experiences Hold the Keys to Happiness

People around the world say that live event experiences lead to greater happiness and human connection than the use of social media or mobile phones

SAN FRANCISCO — Oct. 18, 2016 – StubHub, the world’s largest ticket marketplace, and consumer insights firm Trendera today released the results of a new global study that demonstrate the power of live experiences on happiness and social connection. Exploring the attitudes and behaviors of consumers in 20 cities around the world, the study highlights the extreme – and often surprising – lengths to which people would go to see their favorite acts, including giving up daily technology use, toilet paper, relationships and more.

Survey respondents offered compelling reasons for prioritizing live experiences over regular life routines, reporting that: Live experiences have a deeply meaningful impact on their emotions and memories; sharing live experiences with friends is increasingly important; and attending live events is a benefit that stretches across borders.

“One of the biggest trends we’re seeing at StubHub is that live experiences are an increasingly valuable way to enrich people’s lives, especially because of the incredible memories they create,” said Jess Tassell, StubHub Director of ’Think’. “Around the world, people are placing a premium on live events, participating more and more in the so-called ‘experience economy,’ and sharing a surprising willingness to give up basic human comforts for up-close-and-personal experiences with their favorite artists and athletes.”

Key findings from StubHub’s new study include:

  1. Live experiences have a direct impact on our emotions and create lasting memories.
  • Musical magic. Survey results showed that music sparks the most positive emotions out of all types of events: 62% of all respondents said that attending a concert makes them happy, vs. 49% for sports.
    • Females more musically inclined. This is particularly true for women: 66% of female respondents said that concerts make them happy, vs. 58% of men.
    • Festivals draw a younger crowd. Young people responded similarly to musical happiness: 18-24-year-olds were more likely to say that going to a festival makes them happy than other age groups.
  • Memories add up. 75% of respondents cited making unforgettable memories as the best part about attending a live event.
    • There’s something to be said for the past. Respondents named their first concert as their best memory (35%), over their first job (33%) and their first kiss (32%).

According to StubHub's new global survey, the majority of respondents said their first memory is their first concert.

 

2. Sharing live event experiences with friends is increasingly important, especially on social media.

  • Live experiences have become inextricably linked with social media and mobile, and nearly one-third (31%) of respondents said that sharing these experiences over social media was one of the best parts of attending an event.
  • Experiences are a new form of social currency. 83% of respondents would prefer to post on social media about a live sports, music, or theater event than about a purchased material good.
    • Social skews younger, too. Social sharing is most prevalent among young people: While all age groups ranked high for social sharing, 88% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 were more likely to post about a live event on their social media accounts than older age groups.

3. The inspiration of live experiences knows no bounds.

  • Outside the U.S. Fans from all corners of the globe care about sharing experiences with their peers: 80% of respondents from countries outside the U.S. said they prefer to tell their friends about an experience instead of a purchase (vs. 74% in the U.S.).
  • World travelers. International respondents were significantly more likely than those in the U.S. to travel internationally for an event: More than half (51%) said they were willing to travel outside the country for a major championship, mega-concert, or music festival, in contrast to only 27% of U.S. respondents.
  • Fútbol scores with international audience: Globally, fútbol (“soccer” in the U.S.) is the most popular sport, as respondents would choose the FIFA World Cup (25%) over the Olympics (24%), the Super Bowl (14%), or the NBA Finals (10%) if given the opportunity to attend any sporting event.

Fans’ affinity for live experiences proved to be stronger than a number of day-to-day human behaviors, needs and even hygiene.

The survey found that fans would go to extreme lengths for VIP experiences to see their favorite artist play live or to see their favorite sports team or player play in a championship game:

Classic – and somewhat concerning – behavior change: See their favorite MUSICIAN/BAND of all time play live See their favorite SPORTS TEAM or PLAYER play in a title game
Work on a major holiday: 45% 36%
Delete social media for a month: 42% 31%
Give up mobile phone for a week: 35% 28%
Give up drinking for a year: 33% 27%
Go without sex for a month: 26% 19%
Go without Wi-Fi for a month: 26% 22%
Give up toilet paper for a week: 11% 11%
Go without showering for a month: 12% 15%
Break up with their partner: 7% 7%

ebay_stubhubinfographic_whatwouldyougiveup_final

 

Other things respondents were willing to give up for VIP experiences include: promotions at work, international vacations and favorite foods.

 

A DEEPER DIVE

SAMPLE SIZE, DEMOGRAPHICS + MARKETS

StubHub’s global survey was compiled in partnership with brand strategy firm Trendera in July 2016. Two thousand individuals were surveyed from 20 key U.S. and international markets, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Miami, Phoenix, Washington DC, Barcelona, London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Lima, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Sydney, and Toronto.

METHODOLOGY

The Live Event Study was conducted online and fielded over the course of approximately three weeks in July 2016. We spoke to 2,000 18-45-year-olds across 20 markets (10 of which were international) and accordingly the survey was translated into five different languages. Respondents used either a computer or mobile phone to take the survey.

MORE FINDINGS

WHAT MAKES PEOPLE HAPPY (respondents were able to select more than one):

  • 62% of all respondents said that attending a concert makes them happy, over playing video games (49%) and spending time on social media (47%).

WHICH EVENTS MAKE PEOPLE HAPPIEST (respondents were able to select more than one):

  • Concerts: 62%
  • Festivals: 51%
  • Sporting events: 49%

WHICH EVENTS PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO ATTEND MORE OF (respondents were able to select more than one):

  • Concerts: 29%
  • Festivals: 26%
  • Sporting events: 22%
  • Broadway play or theater: 21%
  • Comedy show: 20%

WOULD PEOPLE RATHER MEET THEIR FAVORITE MUSICAL ARTIST OR THE NEXT PRESIDENT:

  • 76% of respondents would rather meet their favorite musical artist than meet the next president.

WOULD PEOPLE RATHER ATTEND A LIVE EVENT WITH HILLARY OR DONALD:

  • 73% of respondents would rather attend a live event with Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

WOULD PEOPLE RATHER SEE THEIR FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP OR SEE THEIR PREFERRED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WIN THE ELECTION:

  • 54% would rather see their favorite sports team win a championship than see their preferred presidential candidate win the election.

ebay_stubhubinfographic_presidents_final

 

THE BEST PART OF ATTENDING A LIVE EVENT – IMPRESSING A DATE:

  • One in four men (25%) say that one of the best parts about live events is impressing a date.

DATING DOS & DONTSWHAT WOULD IMPRESS A DATE:

  • Hard-to-get tickets to a popular concert: 53%
  • Hard-to-get tickets to a sporting event: 27%
  • Hard-to-get reservations to a popular restaurant: 19%

DATING DOS & DONTSDATES THAT WOULD MAKE FRIENDS JEALOUS (respondents were able to select up to three):

  • Seeing a concert: 40%
  • Going to a sporting event: 29%
  • Spa day: 24%
  • Going to the beach: 23%
  • Trying a trendy restaurant: 21%
  • Seeing a show/play: 17%

DATING DOS & DONTSTOP LIVE EVENT FOR A DATE:

  • Concert: 37%
  • Sporting Event: 22%
  • Festival: 15%
  • Comedy Show: 13%
  • Play: 10%

WHO WOULD PEOPLE PREFER TO BRING TO A CONCERT:

  • 44% of respondents prefer to take a significant other to an event over a friend (24%) or a sibling (6%) to a concert.

THE FURTHEST PEOPLE WOULD TRAVEL FOR A LIVE EVENT:

  • Out of the country: 40% total; 27% U.S.; 51% international
  • Out of state: 33% total; 46% U.S.; 22% international
  • Out of town: 22% total; 22% U.S.; 22% international
  • None of the above: 5% total; 5% U.S.; 5% international

 

ebay_stubhubinfographic_101716_final

 

StubHub Launches First Ticketing App for Apple TV

App encourages people to get off the couch and discover their ticket out

OCT. 3, 2016 – SAN FRANCISCO – With mobile becoming an integral part of the event experience, StubHub today announced the first ticketing app for Apple TV. Designed to be purposefully different from its core mobile app experiences, the new StubHub app for Apple TV is less transactional and more emotional – and encourages people to browse and discover events nearby or in a city aross the U.S.

Specially designed for 4th gen Apple TV, the new StubHub app builds on the theory that the best screen is life-size. It takes advantage of a large-format TV screen to showcase event imagery and an energetic, highly visual design aesthetic within StubHub’s new, dynamic brand look and feel.

In creating this design aesthetic, StubHub’s designers and engineers had to consider new use cases for Apple TV and design for the person who isn’t sure what they want to do, or who needs extra motivation to get out of the house. The design was tested and iterated through several rounds of user feedback, in which StubHub designers added the side-scroll interface for browsing within a seating section of a specific event, and included high-resolution seat maps on the listing cards so consumers could get a clear idea of the view from the section in which they were considering tickets.

“We know that most people will be interacting with our app from their couch, as they’re looking for something to do, so we kept the StubHub app for Apple TV focused on browsability and discovery, to better motivate people to get up and get out,” said Marcus Shelksohn, director of mobile product. “The StubHub design team wanted to create a more custom interface to reflect the emotional nature of event discovery – and the result is an engaging look and feel that maximizes event imagery and seat maps, and is highly intuitive to navigate.”

As consumers rely even more on their mobile devices to research, access and share their live experiences, StubHub’s goal is to be everywhere their customers are, across multiple screens via multiple devices. For example, StubHub and third-party data shows:

  • Over the next few years, mobile will account for more than 50% of digital tickets purchased1.
  • Fifty-two percent of concert-goers use their mobile devices to look up details about shows2.

The new StubHub app for Apple TV expands on StubHub’s goal to connect consumers to inspiring experiences, and for event-goers to be able to access their favorite events, artists and performers on nearly any screen.

 

1,2StubHub: The Year in Live Events, 2015

 

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How to Engineer Anomalies on a Seating Map – Or, Building the StubHub-76ers Ticketing Platform

By: Camila Franco, Director, Product Management, StubHub

In July, for the first time ever, the Copa America Centenario was held outside of Latin America.

“COPA” – as it’s known – is one of the largest futebol tournaments in the world – and for a native Brazilian like me, it was a chance to welcome my sports culture to the United States.

I volunteered with StubHub’s last-minute sales team during the Mexico-Chile match, and helped distribute tickets to fans who were picking them up. The excitement was incredible as fans came out to support their respective countries.

That’s what people usually think when they hear “StubHub” – a way to access their favorite teams, artists, performers and events. But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes with our platform, and as director of product management, I get as excited about the technology and innovation our teams are driving as the chance to connect our customers with must-see events.

One of the most innovative new features on StubHub launches today, in partnership with the Philadelphia 76ers.

StubHub is now the Official Ticketing Partner for the team, and we have built a first-of-its-kind ticketing experience that blends all types of ticket inventory.

What does that mean? In the past, people with 76ers tickets used StubHub to resell those tickets if they couldn’t go to, or weren’t interested in, a particular game. Now, all 76ers fans can use StubHub to buy all types of 76ers tickets – tickets sold directly from the team, and tickets resold by other fans. We’re making this happen through a new platform and purchase experience on StubHub – which is also a complex technology problem when you consider the landscape of tickets and the need to make it possible to purchase a combination of tickets, potentially from multiple sellers, in one transaction – and, to bundle other game-day services like parking.

For example: Think about a fan who wants to buy eight tickets in a single row to a 76ers game. In the past, that fan could only search for sellers offering a set of eight tickets in a single row, or do multiple searches for smaller sets of tickets that, when combined, would provide eight tickets in a row. StubHub’s new platform allows this same fan to engage in one search to locate all possible seat options that meet her needs – including tickets from an individual seller offering eight tickets in a single row, as well as tickets from multiple sellers that, when combined, total eight tickets in a row.

In short, the platform puts the most optimal sets of tickets together according to a fan’s needs, in one transaction.

Going behind the scenes

Much like os jogadores de futebol assess an individual team when they prepare for game-day, at StubHub, we had to evaluate the 76ers’ ticket ecosystem separately from any other team, venue and even seating configuration to understand how to best build this new platform.

Not only did this allow us to solve the complex challenge of blending different types of ticket inventory within a venue-specific configuration, but by applying data science and manual data cleaning, we made sure the technology underpinning the new platform learns as it goes to provide the best option for customers’ needs.

At the highest level, we decided to optimize the ticket platform for mobile and search, which not only required us to design for simplicity and screen size, but also allowed us to capitalize on fans’ increasing demand to browse and buy anytime, anywhere, and to give them a great experience whether they’re familiar with where they want to sit or not.

As a result, the platform uses a new, proprietary algorithm to facilitate ticket selling, browsing and buying at the best value that meets fans’ specific needs.

To make this easier to visualize:

sixers-sh-iphone-1sixers-sh-platform-2

World-class engineering

There were three prevailing engineering considerations we took into account when building this technology:

  1. We needed to ingest ticket inventory from multiple sources and build an algorithm to blend all types of tickets together, both primary and resale, as well as layer on additional goods or services such as parking.

Blending this data together was unique in that the inventory is perishable — the value of tickets and parking disappear after the event ends. This means the algorithm needs to work in real time to consistently ingest and refresh new inventory.

  1. Data science and machine learning were critical to building the platform. We needed the system to learn the nuances of various seating configurations in order to configure what inventory could and could not be packaged together.

Not all venues are created equal. While one might assume that all seats in an arena are configured in a uniform manner, with seats spaced and numbered consistently (seat AA equidistant to seat BB), in reality, there are often empty spaces behind seats, gaps between corridors, suite configurations, and other facts that create anomalies for our mapping technology.

Our algorithm had to understand these anomalies in seating so that we didn’t split groups of fans, or put them in a seat that doesn’t exist. To solve this problem, we worked together with the 76ers to map the entire venue manually, noting various configurations for basketball games and other events. We then built an algorithm using machine learning and data science to decipher which seats/tickets should and should not be blended together, building different formations to ensure ticket-buyers are sitting together when they get to the event and ensuring that the platform will improve with every event and new configuration.

  1. In building the platform, no stone was left unturned. We evaluated and updated the entire StubHub backend to ensure our new platform functions properly and that additional StubHub features like ticket fulfillment, customer service, and fraud protection work seamlessly. We overhauled much of our existing infrastructure when creating this technology.

Throughout this process, we evaluated a number of technologies to determine which would provide the most flexibility and stability on a global scale.

We selected Solr because it provides fast computation at the massive scale required by StubHub, as well as excellent stability. While we initially prototyped Hbase, it ultimately did not perform as well, and neither Spark nor neo4J had the stability we required.

Creating a customer-friendly experience

The majority of StubHub customers – 97% – purchase the best-available listing. Understanding this, the new 76ers platform surfaces the best-available seats first to make it easier for customers to make their purchase decision.

Because of the quantity of tickets available on StubHub, as we were building the platform, we realized that a customer searching for a group of four seats could be presented with more than 1,000 different purchase options. That can be an overwhelming number of results, so we used machine learning to scale back the display results and recommend the best combination of those four tickets based on value. Once those tickets are purchased, our technology updates the listings with the next best available tickets for that set of parameters.

Most websites allow customers to make all of their purchases in a single transaction, and our technology now provides a simple shopping cart experience that allows customers to layer on additional items such as parking passes. To do this, we built a platform that not only blends primary and secondary tickets, but also bundles other inventory into a single purchase.

Finally, we know that StubHub customers and 76ers fans, like any of us, can have a change in plans, so our barcode integration makes it just as easy to resell tickets on the platform as it is to buy them.

Looking ahead

Building the technology to support the first ticket marketplace that offers all types of available tickets in partnership with the 76ers is a significant accomplishment. Understanding the nuances of one stadium allowed us to address many of the complexities we expect to face at other venues as we make this type of platform available to more partners.

For today’s fans, a ticket is a ticket is a ticket. They want the best seats for the best value. The new StubHub.com/Sixers delivers in an industry-changing way, and we’re excited to scale and improve upon it through interactions with more users and fans.