Hot Seat: Harley Evans, CEO, News Ticketing (Moshtix & Foxtix)

Published in The Music Network

 

Back in 2010, Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited aggressively targeted Australia’s ticketing industry when it launched Foxtix. At the time, the media group’s then CEO John Hartigan boldly declared his aim to “break-up the cosy duopoly in ticketing,” namely Ticketmaster and Ticketek. Fast forward two years, and the duopoly is still cosy. Though there’s been some tech and personnel changes at Murdoch’s Moshtix and Foxtix agencies, which now come under the News Ticketing banner and are led by Harley Evans.

The New Zealander was promoted from Chief Operating Officer to Chief Executive of News Ticketing in June 2012. Evans joined Moshtix in 2010 as Commercial Director, and he’s had stints at Ticketek, at Dainty Consolidated Entertainment and with the London-based Fulham Football Club in ticketing and management capacities.

Hartigan’s big statement about busting the “cosy duopoly” hasn’t quite happened yet. What’s the ambition and how are you getting there?

Both businesses are going very well. Moshtix is a highly-recognised and respected brand in its space. Most people would feel that Foxtix has done better than had been expected. The priority in the Moshtix space is to build on the platform that we’ve had going back to 2003, when the business started. We invested in the business 18 months ago by bringing on board experts from the ticketing business.

Hartigan, of course, isn’t there any more. Is that just a pipedream, to think you might compete with the two big boys?

Not at all. There’s a real appetite in the market and we’re more often being invited to participate and pitch.

I don’t really get a sense that Moshtix is significantly boosting its game at the moment. What’s the plan there?

We spent the last 18 months building on the underlying technology. We’ve just relaunched our website which gives customers a much better search and buying experience, and we’ve introduced music news and reviews. We’ve just integrated with Apple’s Passbook, which makes the mobile ticketing capability easier and the process smoother for customers. With Splendour selling-out in record time this year, we’re at the point where we can deal with on-sales of any size through cloud technology. We feel like we’re one of the–if not the–dominant ticketing provider in that space.

Most of the main venues are tied into exclusive arrangements. Do you have to look elsewhere to make activity happen?

There are the large stadia of the world, the MCGs. And then you have arenas. But there’s an awful lot of venues that don’t have that high-profile nature, who are absolutely interested in different ticketing options. We’ll be participating in all of those larger-scale tenders when those come up. We’re finding our involvement in the market is changing how those tender processes are working.

Do you see a time when the Moshtix and Foxtix brands are absorbed into one other?

They tend to operate fairly independent of one another. We have specific staff on the different brands. There’s no plans to integrate as such. There’d be no clear benefit in doing that.

Is the live biz growing?

It’s a tough market. We always see price as a key factor when it comes to attracting a good crowd. Promoters are really trying to build a stronger relationship with their fans. We’re always looking at ways to provide those tools.

Does the live music industry have anything to learn from the sports business?

Yeah, it’s about understanding your customers as best as possible. Certainly you see a crossover with the festivals and venues that essentially are looking to engage a similar audience. The ability to talk to those customers in the right way is crucial these days.

How would you define Australia’s ticketing space?

In the UK, there’s a more allocation-based model. But that brings its own complexities, when it gets to the entry on event-day, and reporting to clients. Australia is a cleaner market in that sense, and more consolidated. Though we do have a number of ticketing service providers. You do find a cross section of venues and promoters who really want ticketing to be done by someone else, and done safely and securely. You’ll also find venues and promoters who’ll want to have as much control over their ticketing as possible. You’ll continue to see those extreme ends of that market – of wanting lots of control, and wanting a ticketing agency to do it for them.

Are ticketing companies becoming promoters?

Those sorts of things can happen and probably have happened in the past. It’s a different model because of the risk-profile attached and ticketing companies have the opportunity to look at those opportunities on a case-by-case basis. We want to be seen as ticketing experts. We’re here to serve with our promoters, rather than compete with them.