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Cote’s Colorado: AEG launches ticketing service in Denver

If you really want to alienate your
customers, try selling them a service as "a convenience" that saves you money and takes dollars out of their pockets instead.

That was the rub when Ticketmaster began enabling customers to print tickets at home. For an extra $2.50, you could use your own printer, ink and paper - and thus save the company printing and mailing costs. For consumers already paying other fees that sometimes would eclipse the cost of a ticket at a club show, it was another insult.

The launch of AEG's axs ticketing service at least sets that charge aside. As a formidable rival arises, Ticketmaster recently eliminated its print-at-home fee. Ticketmaster's merger with Live Nation made it possible for AEG to get into the ticketing business. A U.S. Department of Justice ruling as a condition of the merger allows AEG to license Ticketmaster's ticketing software to establish its competing brand. Instead, AEG is partnering with Outbox Enterprises, a ticketing company headed by former Ticketmaster executive Fredric D. Rosen. AEG is both a client and an equity partner in the company.

AEG, a subsidiary of the Anschutz Co., is rolling out the axs brand to represent its new ticketing arm that will service its music, sports and entertainment venues. It's testing the service at the Bluebird and Ogden theaters in Denver before it launches the service nationwide. Among the features: no hidden costs or fees. Ticket prices will reflect the full cost consumers will pay.

"Our approach has been let's make sure the customer knows exactly what they're getting into with respect to the overall price of the ticket, so we made things very transparent, very up front," said Todd Sims, senior vice president for AEG. "Another aspect that we hear a lot about is extra fees for printing at home. We're committed to not charge for those fees."

Sims, who is based in Los Angeles, was in Denver recently to tout the new service. AEG's venture follows the lead of another local powerhouse. Three years ago, Kroenke Sports Enterprises launched TicketHorse to sell tickets at the Pepsi Center and other venues it operates. With axs, AEG venues will be able to have their own branded ticketing.

"You'll be able to see all shows at axs.com. But also for the venue brands, which are important brands to connect with the consumers, consumers will be able to buy tickets at those venue websites with that look and feel as well," Sims said. "That's the beauty of the white label system. It enables us as marketers to sell in lots of different ways under one core platform."

With the advent of electronic ticketing and integration with social media platforms like Facebook that allow consumers to send tickets to other people, paper tickets will eventually only exist as collectables.

"I think a lot of it will be the mobile delivery, so not only buying on your mobile device but actually using that as the ticket to get into the venue," Sims said. "We expect that 90 percent of our tickets sold on the system will be electronically delivered in some form or another; either you print at home or you bring it to the venue on your mobile device. That's not happening at launch. We'll roll that out in subsequent launches."

As the axs.com system is rolled out over the next two years, Outbox Enterprises could be selling as many as 12 million tickets a year through AEG, according to Billboard. But Ticketmaster remains the colossus, selling more than 400 million tickets, the trade magazine reported. AEG operates more than 130 venues worldwide, including the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

AEG plans to leverage axs for other ventures, which could include a cable TV channel and new mobile device products, Sims said.
"Ticketing is a logical first step for us, but we have much bigger plans for axs as a brand," he said.

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Mike Cote

Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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