It was the Ticketing Professionals Conference (TPC) in Birmingham last week — and if the LinkedIn posts are anything to go by, everyone there had a great time.

In 2023, I presented at TPC about the bespoke ticketing website we built for Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, which has its own ticketing tools built right into the CMS rather than relying on a third party ticketing system to sell tickets. I called that session “Ticketing without a ticketing system,” but by the end of the hour many of the people in the audience took issue with that title. In their eyes, even if Ronnie’s didn’t use an established ticketing system, a ticketing system was indeed what we had built them.

This totally floored me, because in my head Ronnie’s doesn’t really have a ticketing system. It works really well for their unusual circumstances, but it doesn’t have a lot of features that more conventional venues would deem essential: it doesn’t do reserved seating, it doesn’t have an API for third parties to hook into, and most importantly it doesn’t even issue tickets! Instead, anyone who purchases gets their name put on a list at the door, and that’s the end of it.

More to the point though, it seemed crazy that in a room full of Ticketing Professionals, we couldn’t reach consensus on what a ticketing system is.

So naturally, for 2024, I put together a panel to discuss precisely that, with four great ticketing experts from across the industry:

  • Robin Cantrill-Fenwick, CEO at Baker Richards;
  • Nina Primeraki, Client Integrations Lead at Spektrix;
  • Joe Shellard, Head of Partner Data and Insights at Today Tix; and
  • Emma Young, Operations Manager at Ticketsolve.
Five people sit on stage, each has a microphone. One is speaking while the others listen.


Left to right on stage at Ticketing Professionals Conference 2024: Andrew Ladd, Joe Shellard, Nina Primeraki, Robin Cantrill-Fenwick and Emma Young

The panel’s responses ran the gamut from “a ticketing system is just a database of contracts” to “a ticketing system is a single source of truth for all the most important data in your organisation, from tickets to customers to donations to ancillary sales.” But there are a few things everyone agreed were critical. So if you have a ticketing system at your organisation, here are a few questions you should definitely be asking yourself about how well it’s working for you.

#1. Does it meet your specific requirements?

I worked at a puppet theatre once, whose ticketing system was just a Filemaker Pro database – and that worked just fine for them. I’ve also worked with organisations who use the most full-featured ticketing and CRM systems money can buy, and even then they need a digital agency like us to fill in some important gaps for them.

The point is, your ticketing system should be led by your requirements, not the other way around. You might have used System A at a previous job and loved it, or you might have seen a cracking sales pitch for System A, or you might have really hit it off with someone System A at a conference — but none of those things mean that System A will do what your organisation needs it to.

None of this is to bash ticketing systems or to say that every venue should have its own bespoke setup. That would be madness. For many venues, there’s an off-the-shelf product that will do an incredible job.

But if you’ve got a long list of requirements and System A only does 50% of them, you shouldn’t even be considering System A, no matter how much you might like the idea of it in theory.

#2. Does it let you understand your customers?

Everyone on the panel agreed that a barebones database like a Filemaker Pro file will let you sell tickets and manage admission, but it won’t help you grow your audience (or audience loyalty) over time. For that, you need a Customer Relationship Management system, or CRM. Without CRM you have no idea if Mr Jones coming through the door tonight has ever been through the door before, if he’s enjoyed himself, if he’s brought a bigger group than usual this time, if he prefers to book last minute, if he always waits for a discount code… etc.

Where the panel were split, however — maybe predictably if you’ve ever been to a ticketing conference — is on the question of whether the ticketing system itself needs to do CRM, or whether this would be best accomplished by integrating with some other third-party CRM.

As always, there were good cases made on either side of the debate. Emma (from Ticketsolve) gave a really inspiring description of the ticketing system being like the “water cooler” of your organisation, the thing that draws everyone together. If everyone knows that every question they might have can be answered by the ticketing system, that makes it much easier for people to do their jobs; no more hunting around for the right person to ask or the right spreadsheet. (“2023 Season Demographic Analysis Dec 23 FINAL with comments”, anyone?)

On the other hand, the rest of the panel made some equally inspirational points about the benefits of taking other approaches to CRM — whether that’s integrating your ticketing system with a third-party CRM, or doing training and consultancy to get more out of whatever CRM tools you might already have.

So the jury’s still out on whether your ticketing system needs CRM, but for sure your ticketing business does. And that brings us nicely to…

#3. Can it integrate with third parties?

Whether it’s a CRM or some other third-party system — ticket insurance, email marketing, EPOS, website, whatever — your ticketing system will at some point need to talk to some other system. So whatever solution you choose, make sure it can do that easily, reliably, and economically. End of story!

#4. Is it easy to use?

A lot of the panellists touched on this, for both customers and box office staff: the most powerful ticketing system in the world isn’t much help if nobody can figure out how to use it.

So if you’re considering a new ticketing system, make sure you have a clear idea of how easy it is to use out of the box – and maybe more to the point, how much you might need to spend to make up for any deficiencies.

That might just mean allowing more time and budget for training and support, but the takeaway is that any new ticketing system is going to have ancillary costs beyond the system itself. If you don’t budget for those additional costs upfront, you’re going to find yourself frustrated even if you have the best ticketing system in the world.

The last word

Last week’s panel maybe didn’t answer the question of “What is a ticketing system?” as definitively as it could have, but it was still a really useful session to help drill down to the key issues. Hopefully reading about them has been helpful, but if you still have questions please do get in touch!

Listing photo by Dylan Mullins on Unsplash

Profile photo of Andrew Ladd

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