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.

Vox Media Selects StubHub as Official Ticketing Partner to Connect Audiences to Live Events

voxmedia-logo-stacked-colorStubHub, the world’s largest ticket marketplace, and Vox Media, a leading new media company and home to eight distinct brands, today announced a joint content partnership, establishing StubHub as the official ticketing partner of Vox Media. This collaboration integrates the StubHub brand into Vox Media’s SB Nation and Eater, to inspire audiences to explore the world of live sports and entertainment experiences.

The customized partnership allows StubHub to provide informative and valuable resources to audiences that are already engaged with related content on SB Nation, Vox Media’s sports brand, and Eater, Vox Media’s dining and nightlife brand. For example, audiences consuming sports content on SB Nation can now easily find and buy tickets for an upcoming game through the integrated StubHub portal, and Eater’s audiences can engage with customized Heatmaps for 22 cities, to choose an Eater-recommended restaurant near a performance venue for a pre-show dinner reservation.

“StubHub believes in connecting people to inspiring event experiences and Vox Media was a natural fit for us: audiences on SB Nation and Eater are already engaged with experience-driven content, like tomorrow’s football game or tonight’s dinner reservation,” said David Pierotti, Head of Media & Distribution for StubHub. “By integrating StubHub into that content as the official ticketing partner of Vox Media, we’re giving consumers new options to enhance their love for sports and other events, and making it easy for them to explore relevant experiences.”

“Vox Media is constantly looking for new ways to elevate our brand partnerships and create custom integrations that align with our audiences’ interests,” said Mike Hadgis, Vice President of Brand Partnerships and Revenue, Vox Media. “We worked with StubHub to seamlessly integrate their brand across SB Nation and Eater, adding value for our audiences. Now, the millions of people who visit SB Nation and Eater each month have easy access to live events, while they’re looking at sports scores or researching restaurants in their city.”

Details of the StubHub and Vox Media partnership include:

  • StubHub integration into SB Nation: The fastest growing sports-media brand now features StubHub in its Navigation Bar and individual sports sections (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL), and embeds an interactive StubHub ticket widget into more than 300 individual team sites and schedule pages, giving sports fans direct access to their favorite events.
  • A first-of-its-kind StubHub integration into Eater Heatmaps: The go-to resource for food, drink, and restaurant obsessives, Eater now highlights one StubHub venue in each of its 22 featured cities, showcasing upcoming events at that venue and highlighting the best places to eat and drink in the surrounding area.
  • A more personalized brand experience for consumers: Utilizing Vox Media’s custom high-impact advertising units and Concert, Vox Media’s premium audience marketplace, StubHub can now geo-target users to surface relevant real-time events, granting consumers access to local games, concerts and shows.

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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StubHub Engineers Create First Ticketing Chatbot for Skype

In late June, StubHub engineers attended the Bot Hackathon at Skype’s offices in Palo Alto, and ended up celebrating a win for StubHub engineers Pablo Flores and Carlos Lopez.

Pablo and Carlos entered the developer hack-a-thon at the event and took first place in the “productivity bot” category.

The inaugural event was sponsored by Skype and Microsoft to evangelize a new framework that allows developers to build cross-platform bots that work on Skype and also run on KIK, Facebook Messenger, SMS and more.

The first-place StubHub bot was leveraged from a KIK-based proof of concept that Pablo created. It uses a text messaging interface to dialog with users and help them find events in their local areas, ultimately sending users to StubHub to buy tickets.

Today, Skype announced a series of new chatbots for the messaging platform, including the new StubHub chatbot, a fun, simple way to find your tickets out to an amazing event. Read more on the Skype blog, and add the StubHub Bot to find tickets to some of life’s most memorable artists, athletes, performers and experiences in the U.S. and Canada.

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StubHub Launches Virtual Reality Feature and Announces 10 Most Popular Events This Summer in Canada

Rogers Centre and Molson Canadian Amphitheatre Are the First Venues to Receive the Virtual Reality Treatment From StubHub; Guns N’ Roses Leads List of Top Events 

StubHub unveiled its new virtual reality product feature in Canada, virtual view, and announced its list of the country’s 10 most popular events for the summer, as dictated by demand on the marketplace’s site. StubHub’s virtual view uses virtual reality technology to allow fans to get a 360-degree view from their section while purchasing tickets to the hottest events of the summer, loaded with Canadian favourites on the baseball field and the stage.

Rogers Centre for Blue Jays games and Molson Canadian Amphitheatre for all concerts will be the first to receive this virtual reality treatment in Canada. Baseball fans and concertgoers will be able to pan around the stadium or amphitheatre, fully immersing themselves in some of the most iconic views in sports and entertainment in Toronto, as they enjoy these hot events this summer and beyond.

Looking at total sales for live events in Canada during the 2016 summer season, StubHub’s list reveals that fans are gravitating to the music stage – particularly for Canadian music acts – more so than the baseball diamond. Canadian men dominate the top 10, with Drake in the #2 spot, The Tragically Hip landing in #3 and #6 for their Toronto and Kingston dates, and Shawn Mendes closing out the list at #10. The list also shows Canadian fans’ strong affinity to nostalgia with legacy acts Paul McCartney and Sting showing a strong presence. Guns N’ Roses proves to be the hottest ticket of the summer, as their one Canadian stop in Toronto takes top spot for the highest sales for a single event, a distinction previously held by Drake in 2015.

The Blue Jays game against the Cleveland Indians on Canada Day is the only baseball game all summer to hit the most popular events. Festivals don’t make the list of top 10, but their demand continues to grow as newer localized festivals like Field Trip, Wayhome, TURF, and Bestival are driving up overall sales for festivals in Canada on StubHub.

TOP EVENTS*

  1. Guns N’ Roses – Rogers Centre – July 16th
  2. Drake – Air Canada Centre – July 31st
  3. The Tragically Hip – Air Canada Centre – August 12th
  4. Adele – Rogers Arena – July 20th
  5. Toronto Blue Jays v. Cleveland Indians – Rogers Centre – July 1st
  6. The Tragically Hip – K-Rock Centre – August 20th
  7. Paul McCartney – FirstOntario Centre – July 21st
  8. Sting – Air Canada Centre – June 29th
  9. Luke Bryan – Molson Canadian Amphitheatre – June 25th
  10. Shawn Mendes – Air Canada Centre – August 21st

*total sales for a single-event in Canada on StubHub from June 17 to Labour Day

Other Summer event season trends spotted by StubHub in Canada:

  • Comparing lead Canadian male singers, Drake’s date outsells Shawn Mendes’ date by 215%
  • Country star Luke Bryan is the best deal with the lowest selling price for a ticket bought on StubHub at $6 and the overall lowest average ticket price at $87
  • Fans can beat the holiday crowd and see the Blue Jays one day earlier than Canada Day for a 47% lower average ticket price
  • Adele may be the only female on the list, coming in at #4, but she commands more per ticket on average than eight of the artists
  • Festivals continue to gain momentum. Osheaga has held the top festival position over the last three years but Shambhala Music Festival takes the spot this year, indicating a strong demand for Electronic Music in Canada

StubHub’s Top Events by Region:

  • Toronto: Guns N’ Roses, Drake, The Tragically Hip, Toronto Blue Jays v. Cleveland Indians, Paul McCartney
  • Calgary: The Tragically Hip, Zac Brown Band, Sting, Bill Maher, Billy Idol
  • Vancouver: Adele, The Tragically Hip, Shambhala Music Festival, Flight of the Conchords, Dixie Chicks
  • Montreal: Sting, Osheaga, Celine Dion, Paul Simon, 5 Seconds of Summer
  • Edmonton: The Tragically Hip, Sting, Chris Cornell, Meat Loaf, Bill Maher
  • Winnipeg: The Tragically Hip, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Chris Cornell, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas

StubHub continues to provide unparalleled and convenient access to live events through its iOS and Android mobile and tablet apps. With the addition of virtual view, fans can see where they’ll be sitting on their phones or tablets before attending their favourite show or baseball game by simply moving their phone. With virtual reality goggles, fans can insert their iOS or Android phone into the viewer and move their head from side-to-side for an even more immersive virtual reality experience. Not only will fans be able to see the most in-demand concerts and baseball games this summer, but they’ll know their sightlines before the big event, helping to make a more informed and personalized ticket selection.

Additionally, StubHub’s app includes personalization tools, recommendation notifications and exclusive partner content to make it easier than ever for fans to discover live events. With iTunes library scanning (on iOS), personalized algorithms to identify team and artist favourites and more, the StubHub app helps ensure fans won’t miss some of their favourite acts, while also providing for the opportunity to discover new acts based on personalized recommendations.

 

StubHub Expands Apple Pay to the Web 

StubHub today announced that it will be among the first to bring Apple Pay on the web to customers this fall so they can make easy, secure and private payments in Safari on iPhone, iPad and Mac with a single touch.

 

“StubHub connects fans to inspiring events and experiences, and it’s important that our transaction process is simple and seamless, so customers can focus on the artists, athletes and performers they want to see,” said Mats Nilsson, senior director of product and technology for StubHub. “By expanding Apple Pay beyond our iOS app to our desktop and mobile Web platform, we’re giving customers a convenient, secure way to complete their ticket transactions and get excited for what’s really important – the event.”

 

Apple Pay has been a payment option on StubHub’s iOS app since January 2015, and is popular with StubHub customers. StubHub data shows that Apple Pay users transact more frequently and spend more in total than users of other payment methods in the StubHub iOS app.

 

StubHub plans to add Apple Pay to its Safari checkout flows for iPhone, iPad and Mac users when it is available this fall. The checkout flow will be quick and easy, and customers will be able to check out without the interruption of creating a StubHub account.

 

Security and privacy is at the core of Apple Pay. When you use a credit or debit card with Apple Pay, the actual card numbers are not stored on the device, nor on Apple servers. Instead, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element on your device. Each transaction is authorized with a one-time unique dynamic security code.

 

Apple Pay is easy to set up and users will continue to receive all of the rewards and benefits offered by credit and debit cards. 

 

For more information on Apple Pay, visit: http://www.apple.com/apple-pay/

 

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Stubbers Express Their Inner Emoji With Unique Team Building Event

Marketing and Technology Teams “Face Off” at Silicon Valley Comic Con

Until last weekend, most team building events at StubHub were a traditional mix of happy hours and dinners.

But on Saturday, March 19, a group of Stubbers got creative and got together at the first-ever Silicon Valley Comic Con.

“I just wanted to get together as a team, and I just wanted to have fun,” said Eddie Tang, user experience designer at StubHub and the originator of the idea.Emoji_Team_outdoor_compressed

 

 

 

 

 

Fifteen Stubbers from marketing, user experience, engineering, research and other teams agreed, and decided to make the trip from San Francisco to San Jose for the day, with the goals to welcome new team members, get to know each other across organizations, and create the feeling of a cohesive, collaborative team.

And to really set themselves apart, Stubbers decided to dress the part.

The Comic Con crowd is known for wearing costumes of favorite super heroes, comic book characters and other figures from pop – and tech – culture, so StubHub’s team brainstormed costume ideas for the group. The criteria were simple: “Our costumes had to be fast, cheap and scalable,” said Tang.

The winning idea: emojis. Known for individual personalities, but often used together to express a larger sentiment, emoji costumes let each Stubber pick something relatable, that also looked good in a group.

With the idea solidified, it was up to newly minted costume designers Tang, Kenneth Lee and Jordan Springstroh to actually construct wearable emoji faces. The StubHub Design Studio became an emoji workshop, and the three created 15 unique emojis using visors, foamcore, glue and a lot of creativity.

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“The emoji costumes were a hit once we got to Comic Con, and a lot of people asked us to pose for photos,” said Safia Ali, manager of user experience for StubHub. “What really stands out about those pictures is that people wanted us to stand together as a team, more than they wanted individual photos. To me, that shows that while it’s important to express our individuality, when we work together we’re able to achieve so much more.”

Safia, who wore the “barf emoji,” saw the event as a powerful example of surfacing great ideas from within the organization, and leveraging the management team to clear hurdles and help make the idea happen.

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“This entire team building idea was crafted by members of several teams, and then I and other leaders within StubHub enabled the team to get it done,” she said. “When we empower everyone at every level, culture builds itself, and people find purpose in what they do.”

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With the success of this type of team building, more ideas are sure to come.

“Comic Con celebrates ‘being a geek,’ but it really appeals to a broader audience, and that’s why it’s fun,” said Tang.