The Birth of Ticketmaster Online
By 1994, I has already launched a Broadway BBS (in 1989) and touring shows websites. I then went on to create the first Broadway show website for my forthcoming production of Victor/Victoria to open on Broadway in October 1995 — this was the first Broadway show website, and contained postage stamp sized video of Julie Andrews performing “Le Jazz Hot” from the movie version courtesy of my strong relationships within the Microsoft executives, using NetShow (which later became Windows Media Player), but we could not sell tickets at the time.
Julie Andrews, our star in the upcoming Victor/Victoria had a huge following in Japan, but Japanese could could not purchase Broadway tickets in advance, since Ticketmaster only sold tickets over the phone, through outlets, or at the box office. Further, Ticketmaster did not accept foreign credit cards.
I wanted to change that.
Adding to our producing teams problem, was that the Marriott Marquis theatre on Broadway, operated by the Nederlander Organization had an exclusive arrangement with Ticketmaster.
The year or so before, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen had just left Microsoft and acquired an 80% stake in Ticketmaster, so I leveraged my Microsoft relationships to get a high level meeting at Ticketmaster. Despite the push by Paul Allen to seek new forms of distribution (including the internet), Ticketmaster remained a traditional ‘bricks ‘n mortar’ business. At the time, the dominant ticketing company was selling in excess of 55 million tickets a year through traditional methods.
I met with Ticketmaster’s CEO Fred Rosen in Los Angeles with the idea for online ticketing, but was quickly met with an arrogant lawyerly hard no: “we are a service company, the human interaction of venues we serve, no one will trust buying tickets via the World Wide Web“. Ticketmaster’s exclusive agreements with venues were complicated. Perhaps he was frightened by the scrutiny by the USA Justice Department for possible antitrust violations made public by the rock group Pearl Jam at the time.
Realizing the dead end, my Vancouver based business parter and I then approached Peter Jackson, the visionary and brilliant GM of Ticketmaster Canada who loved the idea, and called a meeting with brothers Ron & Gerry Barre who were joint CEO’s and owned the Canadian rights of Ticketmaster. They immediately jumped and engaged a software programmer to work with me on the interface and purchasing process to integrate with Peter Gadwa & Albert Lefler’s original Ticketmaster box office software system.
A couple of months later we sold our first ticket online to a Vancouver Canucks game, and the industry instantly took notice.
Ticketmaster USA backtracked and immediately developed and enhanced our online ticketing launching a few months later, which became an instant success, quickly grossing $3 million a month in revenues within the first year, accepting all international credit cards, with box office pickup.
The Japanese were happy. Julie Andrews was happy. The Producing team were happy. Even Ticketmaster was happy.