Unobstructed: Ticketing hugs #INTIXHugs (EP. 2)

AudienceView’s CMO Mike Evenson is joined by INTIX CEO Maureen Andersen. An industry veteran, community leader and mentor to so many ticketing professionals, Maureen shares her very unique vantage point on these unprecedented times. They discuss the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on the entertainment industry and the ways that this interruption will have a lasting impact on how live events organizations operate.

Maureen also provides a rundown of resources and support being offered by INTIX, which includes online forums, weekly video chats and more. She also sends virtual #INTIXhugs and asks everyone else to do the same.

Episode transcript

Unobstructed: Ticketing hugs #INTIXHugs (Ep. 2)


Announcer: You're listening to Unobstructed your view on the Live Events Industry.


Mike Evenson: Hello everybody, welcome to the Unobstructed which is the clearest view you have on live events, brought to you by Audience View. My name's Mike Evenson. I'm the chief marketing officer, and today I am thrilled to, invite and have my friend and former colleague and the CEO of Intix on today, Maureen Anderson. Maureen, how are you?


Maureen Anderson:  I'm good. Mike, how about yourself? I'm sheltered in place happily, safely and well in Palm Springs and taking it all very seriously.


Mike Evenson: Yes same, same goes with me, the only difference is we have two children at home and homeschooling is a challenging thing to do when you have two work from home parents.


Maureen Anderson: Yes, I feel for you and Nat, is that all I have is two cats who are now my coworkers who don't work very hard.


Mike Evenson: Yes, you've never seen colleagues that just stare at you so intently for a person wondering what you're doing. Well thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. There's one topic today, there's one topic in the industry and that is Covid, and how it's affecting live events and we're going to get into to all different aspects of what you're seeing in the industry, what I'm seeing and, and where we go from here.

But I guess just rewind back a few weeks and I mean, let's go back all the way to January. Here we are, the industry has come together in New York at Intix and it's every organization and, and member of Intix is kickstarting a new year. That is what Intix kind of represents for a lot of people. Is that kind of that kickstart, that jumpstart that gets, it gets everyone into the right mindset for the year. And fast forward a couple of months later, and we're all working from home. The entire industry is screeched to a halt. Did you ever see this coming?


Maureen Anderson: No, I didn't, I don't think any of us did, is somewhere maybe in our mindsets was what would happen if we ever had a pandemic. I'd think, venues in particular city, municipal kind of buildings, always kind of think about that because their job is disaster planning to a certain degree. But to have an entire industry brought to its knees, basically, I don't think was ever in anyone's mindset. And I don't think, especially, you know, in the U.S and Canada, North America, I don't think we, or even Europe and the U.K., I don't think we ever conceived that we would have to shut down literally in a minute, in a second everything that we do.


Mike Evenson: What's the closest thing that you've ever experienced like this? I mean, I've been around the industry for 20 years. There's nothing, nothing close to this, I've been through 9/11. But, I mean, what is your closest kind of recollection on something that really shut down this industry in the same way?


Maureen Anderson: Well, there's never been anything to this degree, I think, when you look at, Hurricane Katrina and the hurricanes in Texas, or 9/11, is that those were isolated incidents and they were pocketed, and they were very specific to a given area. And the opposite was true there, is that if you look at 9/11 is everything shut down for two days. But then the spiritual nature of what entertainment does come back up in two days. If you remember Saturday Night Live, came back on immediately with the live show and decided to do it. It became this balm for people who were very, very hurt and that entertainment and music and sports and theater and Broadway was what helped people feel normal in an abnormal situation.

But for an entire industry wide, for every sport, every music, every Broadway, every theater across the nation, across the world, there's never been anything like this. There's, it's that moment. It's like after a tsunami, you know that that suck of water that comes, it's like it sucked the air out of it.


Mike Evenson: Absolutely. I've never seen anything so immediate and with, you know, consequences that we're not even sure what that's going to look like in the industry. And it's so heartbreaking being from the industry and just being a patron of live events and loving live events. I mean, we're in the middle of March madness right now. There should be college basketball games being played around the country. Everyone should be getting ready for the Masters. It's the Tony's, there's so many things that have just been put on hold. What I've been heartened though to see is kind of the energy and support that kind of the live events industry has put behind this. You're seeing spokespeople and people taking the platform, to take an opportunity to encourage people to shelter in place, and to live by the rules.

And you're not, what you're not seeing is this eagerness to break the rules so we can get back to kind of the live events that we all love. We all miss them, but absolutely we're seeing celebrities and organizations take this very, very seriously and do things for good and to make sure that this industry is as strong as ever. Is that what you're seeing too?


Maureen Anderson: I am, and I've got two thoughts about that. Is one is I'm so proud and really humbled by the courage of our industry wide because they were the first ones to truly step up and to say, we have live events where thousands of people congregate and they really did a huge self-inflicted body wound to themselves, they knew was going to cost them millions, if not billions of dollars. And they were the first to stand up to say, we will stop this in the tracks. So, then you have this pause moment of what the heck just happened? What are we going to do now? And then after a nice pause and a great big deep breath, the creativity of the industry has started to rise. And they're figuring out ways to fill that void and to be leaders to a world in pain and to provide content and moments of joy and leadership.


Mike Evenson: Yes, no absolutely I've loved seeing it too, and the innovation that's come out of the industry and just the things that we've been witnessed to, have been amazing and it makes me proud to be part of this industry and excited for the time when the curtains go up, and people go back into events. At the same time, like a lot of organizations are trying to find ways to stay afloat. And you know, seeing different things that organizations are trying to do and difficult decisions they're having to make when these events are not happening. What have you at Intix been doing over the last few weeks to kind of help organizations around the world kind of get through this time?


Maureen Anderson: Our job at Intix after some painful deliberation on my own part, is what was our role going to be? What could we do? And by extension, my personal self as well as what would the organization Intix going to do?

And one of the things that has always been our mission is to ignite success. Well, success may look a little different now, but it became the point of how we can support our members in such a way that through, for the short term, the midterm and the long term. Because each one of those pieces are going to have different needs and different issues involved with them. So right now, we have started a weekly forum, actually it's a webinar, it's a Zoom meeting that we do for our members and they can call in. The first one I did was last week and there were 26 members and nonmembers, I've ungated it. So, you don't have to be a current member because that's not the point, it's the industry and we had 26 people. Yesterday when we did it, we hit a hundred and then kind of cap back down to about 89 people.


Mike Evenson: Wow.


Maureen Anderson: And then the topic was Working at Home. As you know, this industry, the ticketing industry is very social, they're very outgoing. They're the face, they are people inside of Box Office Windows, they're on the phones. And it was interesting to watch them all shut themselves down and move into a work at home environment. The homeschooling thing, both partners, wives, husbands, everybody working together in one environment, starting schools. But there was a whole bunch of people out there who had never worked at home.

And a lot of them are grappling with that and trying to figure out how to do it. They may not have had the technology at their fingertips, so we created this forum for us to talk to each other on their success stories. What's worked, what's not worked, what's painful, what's funny. What did you get home with your office and you figure out, I brought all this stuff I don't really need, but then I forgot my headset, the very fundamental thing that they needed? And it’s communing together in a social environment in a way, in a Zoom meeting, which everybody's doing now. And they can see each other's faces and they can do that kind of virtual Intix hug and support one another.

We have also, the moment all of this started to happen, we realized at Intix that our messaging, our social messaging, our stories via Access, our Content Hub had to change. And I started meeting with my teams every day, basically is to shift our messages and to buoy people up and to provide support. And we don't talk about horror stories. We can watch the news for those, but it's more about sending the world a virtual hug, celebrating who and what we are. And one of the things, I had a venue manager call me the other day and he said that he'd always known that ticketing and ticketing professionals were important and he'd always supported his by sending them to Intix and to user's group meetings and continuing education and support. And he said, ticketing people are on the front line of this. My Ticket Office Manager is now the only person who is communicating daily with the customers and with the fans and with our patrons and our donors.

And they are truly, truly at the front line. And that kind of brought me back to that thing that I do like to say is that we are the magic behind the button and that we have all this great power to sell events. But now we also have this amazing ability and being very nimble to turn around and undo them all.


Mike Evenson: Absolutely. You raise a great point. And when I at your conference, when I was presenting a session, one of the questions was what is ticketing? And I think that as this time period is proving it's way beyond what that traditional definition was and these professionals are, they are the front lines. They are the welcome mats and dealing with a time of crisis for a lot of consumers out there who are facing difficult situations here in the near future. And so, I think you're spot on and it's great that you've been able to kind of take your association and organization and build out that community, continue to create opportunities for them to work together. It really is changing every single day, so just a message to all of those frontline, ticketing professionals, we fully and respect what you do and love what you do for your organization and for our industry. And I think that's a really great point that you raised. 


Maureen Anderson: So, you think about is what they're grappling with, just to kind of finish out that thought. Is not only do they have to figure out how to work at home when they've never done it, but those shops that are still open, and there's a lot of them that are. We're in renewal season particularly in the arts. So, there's a lot of camps that are still working. How do you motivate a staff? So, they are starting to share with those ideas of the virtual happy hour at the end of the day, instead of doing a potluck together in the office. Like ticket offices always do around food, is there sharing the recipe and they all make it and eat it together.

So, you know, it's motivation, and it's also figuring out how do you motivate yourself in an environment that you used to be so tight with other people, and now you're kind of out on your own and some people are struggling with it. Some of them absolutely detest this and are really fighting it.


Mike Evenson: Yes.


Maureen Anderson: Others like you and I, I mean, we've been working remotely for decades almost.


Mike Evenson: Thanks Maureen. Yes.


Maureen Anderson: Yes sorry, sorry.


Mike Evenson: No, it's okay. You're pointing out my seasoned age in the industry. But you're right, and it is brand new and working from home. I mean, we've faced that with our company and working from home is new to people and it's a different muscle that you're having to exercise.  And it is a change, especially, when a lot of these live event professionals just get, their energy from other people, from events, from the different people that are coming to events every night. So, to keep the energy up and to replace anything physical you have with virtual, food is an amazing comfort and during situations like this, but it absolutely is a change. And speaking of change, like how do you think this will fundamentally change our industry?


Maureen Anderson: Oh, go guide in hundreds and countless of ways. But I think in looking at it, I'm a glass half full kind of girl, and I am very optimistic because you don't get these opportunities very often. In fact, for most of us it's a lifetime opportunity or a 500-year kind of opportunity. It's almost like it's going to be in my view, is that it's going to be a Renaissance of how we do things. So, if you take the concept that Shakespeare was quarantined during the plague and he wrote King Lear. If we extend that, think about, all the things and ideas and creativity that have been shelved or we haven't done.

There was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on the 17th or 18th of the month, couple of, 10 days ago.  And it was talking about some Bay Area theaters, ACT being one of them, Berkeley Rep, another small theater where they're already partnering with Broadway HD and they are taking their canceled shows and they are allowing their season ticket holders to actually see and stream these shows.

You know for a long time, we as an industry didn't want to do the live streaming kind of events, because we thought it would eat away at our audiences or people would stay at home. But think that that genie is now out of the bottle, and so you think about a concert and you're seeing it with Elton John and all these other, there’s an article in Pollstar talking about all the artists, Dave Matthews, who are doing concerts. You sell a 20,000-seat arena at one price and you're there for the live experience. But then you sell 100,000 tickets at a different price for someone to take advantage of the live moment. All of the reasons that we didn't do that have changed. I think we're going to see more and more of it that people from around the world could take advantage of that one Lady Gaga concert at The Forum and you still buy a ticket. But it's just a different kind of ticket and a different way of consuming. And I think live will be live. People are always going to want to go live, but the doors are going to open it a whole different way. 

And the creativity of what can come out of this kind of uninterrupted time. The books that will be written, the plays that will be written. The software technology that will be written. You work for it, obviously it, you know, a technology company. When do software engineers and coders get 8 to 10 weeks or whatever of uninterrupted time? I mean, literally to create, to fix, to augment. You know, those kind of things, creativity software of this Renaissance. I think when we come out the other side of this is going to be an incredible, fruitful, wonderful, joyful, expansive period.

Now it's going to be bumpy while we're in it. There's no getting around that, but, and once people start settling down and there's that whole cycle of grief and anger and that you have that you're shut down. Is the taking advantage of the moment of quiet, of peace, of no traffic of not having anywhere you have to go, and you can create. And that's the same whether it's art and sports, you get that moment.


Mike Evenson: Yes, absolutely. So, we're looking at creating the virtual price zone that we're going to be adding to all these events that we can sell. And that comes with opportunity and challenges.


Maureen Anderson: Oh yes.


Mike Evenson: If when you're looking at a region, when you're looking at Minneapolis, say your target audience is people within a certain driving distance radius. And all of a sudden when that changes and your content, your, your events are now available to the world, that's a shift, that's definitely a shift. It also means you're competing with the world. And so, absolutely, it’s going to be fascinating to see, how much of kind of this innovation during this dark period changes who you engage in, what type of organization you are.


Maureen Anderson: Right, your brand, it becomes a whole different kind of brand. And you may have multiple sub segments of your brand working in different places. And I mean let's talk, there's a midterm, we’re in the short term right now. You know, what's going on, the news changes every day. You know, the sliding thing is, there's probably going to be another wave of cancellations and postponements and refunds and all that kind of stuff. But the midterm is that once we can come out of our homes, people may be shy about going to events.  Is there going to be something like, you sell a checkerboard facility to capacity. So, like every six feet, you sell a seat.


Mike Evenson: Yes.


Maureen Anderson: I mean, literally, I mean, yes you pay more money to be isolated and you pay less to be in kind of not, so you're a little closer to each other. So, will we start slowly bringing audiences and fans back in, or will the NBA and baseball start up with no fans in the building to start with.


Mike Evenson: Yes.


Maureen Anderson:  It'll be fascinating to watch, kind of how we slowly roll the environments back out. And then if you take the buildings, like, Javits and Convention centers and in arenas and things that may eventually in the days to come be quarantined or hospitals and just getting them ready for environments of collective gathering again will be that midterm kind of thing. And then the long term, I think the options are going to be endless.


Mike Evenson: The challenge I have with that Maureen though, is that the number of random strangers that I've hugged or given a high five too, at a sporting event is unlimited. And that interaction that you have as a, whatever event you're going to, whether you're knocking knees with someone at a small cramped Broadway theater, but you're enjoying the musical that you're seeing. Or you're at a final four game, that you just can't replace that. So, I'm also fascinated to see kind of the level of enthusiasm or timidness that kind of event goers will have when we get there. And you see it on the performer side, they don't, the NBA players, they don't want to play in an empty arena.

So, as we look at how this industry is going to get back to normal with, I think back to, going to the Intix conference in January in New York. And the first thing that we all did, as you mentioned, is hug each other when we see each other. And I guess I have confidence that we'll give back there; where do you sit on this Maureen?


Maureen Anderson: On Intix or getting back to life or both?


Mike Evenson: Getting back to hugging.


Maureen Anderson: We'll get back to hugging. I mean, human beings are not designed for isolation and living in caves, we just aren't. It is the one thing that we crave is intimacy and shared and communal, I mean, that is a human characteristic. And then if you extend it to the tribe of Intix is that regardless of what vertical you work for or what company you work for or who you used to work for,  is one of the things we do is that we embrace each other because we share something and we share something very profound. And when we gather in 2021 in Anaheim, which we will do, it may be different, but we will gather.

We will have shared even more through this process and we will need to embrace one another, with that understanding is what we have lived through what we have accomplished and what we are doing now. And when you think about it, what's isolation and not being able to touch people. And you know, when we started with the bumping of elbows and people not shaking hands, I mean, those are second nature things to us. But for an Intix member and for an industry like ours, I mean, some people think hugging is a little weird, but we hug. And it doesn't matter if you work for a baseball team, for a festival, for a performing arts group, we hug each other, and we hug in groups and it's an intimacy because we share something.


Mike Evenson: Absolutely.


Maureen Anderson: And all tribes have, you share things because tribes share their histories, they share their moments, and collectively we all will need it desperately. We need it now.


Mike Evenson: Yes, and now more than ever absolutely. And I think that just on behalf of someone from the industry, I just want to thank you Maureen and Intix for what you guys are doing. I know a lot of organizations are coming together and providing kind of as many resources as possible. I know you guys have a forum you're running specific to Covid 19, and the things that you're aggregating that are happening in the industry and you truly are a resource for all of us to kind of get through this time together. So, I just wanted to thank you for one spending some time with us on this podcast, talking about a challenging subject that'll change our industry forever. But some great things we can look forward to coming out of this, once the curtain goes up again. So again, thank you so much, Maureen. We look forward to being there in Anaheim, in 2021, and I'll try my hardest not to stay six feet apart.


Maureen Anderson: Thank you Mike so much. You know, we've known each other a long time. We've been colleagues and we're, and like you said, we are friends and we're all in this together. And that's how often in the world do you get that? I think there's two things that are, I kind of will leave you with that I see happening is prior to all of this, who in any part of our industry had a budget line item for reverse logistics. And we're going to be creating budgets for reverse logistics.

Thank you to software companies like yours and all the industry level support that comes from you all supporting your clients and how exciting to see what's going to come out of you all with this time to do upgrades and fix software and write those reports you always wanted to do and find beta clients and all that stuff that you guys are going to be able to do. I look forward to seeing what you're going to do. And then one other thing is that the genie is truly out of the bottle on one thing. We used to always, you know there's two adages in show business one, the first thing you learn is the show must go on. Well, we figured out that sometimes that doesn't happen now.  But the second thing we always learned is no exchanges, no refunds, all sales are finals. And we have now proven that that is not the case either. And I look forward to what's going to happen to the interpersonal relationship between organizations, venues, and their customers when the answer becomes much more about yes, because we are learning that yes, is what's going to build brand loyalty.

And they're going to come back to you and they're going to remember who their partner and their community and their brand of safety and joyfulness and accommodation and accessibility. And they're going to come back to us. They're just going to come back, and donations will go up and ticket sales will be great. And you know, it's going to be an amazing time, I think when we have gotten through this tunnel.


Mike Evenson: Yes, no question, the human component in these organizations, it's such a good opportunity for it to come out. And like you said that ability to be flexible, that ability to work with your patrons and your consumers, that isn't forgotten in this challenging time. So that's a really good point. Maureen, I would say I'll let you get back to your cat colleagues and you can get back to work. But thank you again so much for taking the time to talk to us on The Unobstructed. Everyone out there stay safe and stay inside and together we'll beat this thing. Thanks again for joining us.


Announcer: Thanks for listening to Unobstructed, your view on the live events industry. Subscribe today wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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