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How Ticketmaster Uses User Data to Enhance the Overall Experience of a Customer

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Let me ask you a question. When you buy tickets to a big concert, or a professional sports event or, a hot Broadway play – on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the ticket-buying experience? Think about everything from the price to the availability of tickets to the transparency of the whole transaction. Okay, now say your number. Oof! That’s even worse than I thought you’d say

All right, now rate the experience of the last non-ticket purchase you made — clothing or groceries, maybe a piece of furniture. Now, how would you rate that experience? Yeah, that sounds about right. Most markets these days are pretty transparent and predictable and sensible. But the ticket market?

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An American ticket sales and distribution company with its headquarters in West Hollywood, Ticketmaster was the largest primary ticket outlet in the United States and worldwide. Founded in 1976, Ticketmaster grew to nearly 7,000 employees over three decades. Ticketmaster was dependent on signing exclusive contracts with venues and artists to sell the tickets made available. The venue or artist then handles all of the promotion itself or contracts that to another firm. Ticketmaster had many strengths at the time of the proposed merger due to its sustained competitive advantages. Ticketmaster had such superior online ticketing software over competitors that it was a major point of concern during the merger antitrust litigation. Furthermore, Ticketmaster had negotiated a number of exclusive contracts with venues, which made them the exclusive provider of tickets for the majority of US events. Most customers were forced to choose Ticketmaster because it was the only way to avoid waiting in line at the box office and assure an available ticket before the day of the event. Ticketmaster was able to charge high premiums and fees at every step of the buying process because their contracts excluded all competition. This system gave Ticketmaster all of the bargaining power over buyers because there was no primary ticketing alternative for those who wanted to attend the event. Ticketmaster’s reach was also not limited to the United States. Ticketmaster had a presence in all of North America as well as Australia and much of Europe

Ticketmaster was dominant in the marketplace but was not without weaknesses. Ticketmaster did not have a great reputation with many current and potential customers often very unclear how many additional charges and fees Ticketmaster would add before the transaction was complete. These charges included “convenience” charges, “building facility” charges, and even charges to print tickets at home. Customers became very discouraged when they eventually paid far more for a ticket than they had anticipated at the beginning of the purchase process.

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Generally speaking, from a team of two developers, we scaled to four and now eight. Choosing a Java based framework has been a boon as the only additional complexity that needed to be learned by the developers joining the team was the event driven nature of Vertx (i.e

the framework itself). Had we chosen Scala/Play it would have been much harder. Indeed, with the success of Vertx, our decision to standardise on the JVM as a platform and our embracing of the reactive approach, we have a couple of services being built using Scala and one using Scala/Play.

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