In much the same way as mobile phones today pack more processing power than the room-sized computers that got men to the moon, today’s free online ticketing, event registration and box office management apps offer more functionality than the most expensive subscription software packages did only a few years ago.
The early adopters of free ticketing apps were mainly smaller events and venues who didn’t have the budget for the established box office systems to start with, but increasingly, larger professional outfits are also realizing that they can have everything they need to run their box office and manage their visitors for free.
Among the most established of these booking-fee-funded SaaS platforms competing for the UK market are Eventbrite (USA), TicketScript (Holland), TicketSolve (UK) TicketTailor (UK) WeGotTickets (UK) and TicketSource (UK).
Eventbrite was catapulted firmly into our awareness as soon as it hit our shores. With a springboard of $50 million in Silicon Valley venture capital and extensive music industry connections, they were chosen by a number of high profile UK events, quickly making them the best known of the SaaS ticketing platforms (…even though not necessarily the best solution in all circumstances).
So in the spirit of finding hidden gems for our readers, we decided to look for other systems that might offer advantages over Eventbrite in terms of technology, value or range of services.
We started by eliminating any that do not offer all of the following:
- embedded social media ticketing;
- social marketing support;
- choice of e-tickets, mobile tickets and thermal printed tickets;
- on-the-door card payment facilities,
- barcode scanning for ticket validation,
- automated discounts,
- multiple administrators with tiered permissions;
- outsourced telephone bookings;
- Mailchimp integration,
- DPI compliant customer data management;
- extensive accounts, reporting and sales analysis functions;
- choice of general admission, or allocated seating self-selected by the customer from an onscreen seating plan.
We then dismissed any with higher booking fees than Eventbrite overall, or without an option to plug your own merchant account to get immediate payment of ticket sales revenues.
This process of elimination brought us to TicketSource… and that’s who we are profiling today.
TicketSource was launched in Cardiff in 2004 – two years before Eventbrite’s SanFrancisco debut – and since then, has grown to serve over 12,000 event organisers and venues, selling 8.3 million tickets for over 173,000 events.
They rose to prominence gradually in grass roots live music venues, theatres, concert halls and smaller festivals, and conferences, their popularity largely due to ease of use and the lowest booking fees for the average ticket
We spoke to TicketSource founder and CEO, Simon Wilsher who was in little doubt that their booking fee advantage has been crucial to their success.
“We have always prioritized maintaining lower customer booking fees than all our major competitors and actively look for opportunities to reduce our charges as and when the economics of business growth has allowed.
Having no external investors setting profit targets, we have been able to keep our primary goal as ‘just enough profit’ to be a viable business sustaining top notch customer service, ongoing system development and best practice security measures.
“When we started, we definitely suffered from the ‘too good to be true’ syndrome. Professionals assumed a free system couldn’t possibly match the paid-for platforms they were used to. That has completely changed. Word of mouth referral by other event organisers is by far our biggest source of new users and happily, our growth rate has never fallen below 80% year on year.”
Resources to help you choose a ticketing system
This booking fee calculator is maintained by TicketSource to monitor their competitive environment, but anyone can enter their ticket prices to compare the booking fees charged by the different systems. It also compares system features.
Our top tip with Capterra is to be aware that the top list positions are auctioned off, so ignore the “ranking” order and look at the number of user reviews and the overall star rating. (TicketSource has a 5 star overall rating and the highest number of individual reviews in category).