Why StubHub Thinks It’s Uniquely Suited To Solve Local Music Discovery

The ticket vendor thinks there’s a long tail of local events hiding an untapped ticketing business. Here’s how they plan to unlock it.

Why StubHub Thinks It’s Uniquely Suited To Solve Local Music Discovery
[Image: Flickr user Bob Jagendorf]

Historically, small-venue local marketing doesn’t generate the kind of buzz (or money) many musical acts deserve. And unless you’re what StubHub’s head of social commerce Ray Elias calls a “Social Maven”–someone with an enormously ambitious social calendar–chances are you’ve missed out on more than one opportunity to support a local band you like.


StubHub has a new service called StubHub Music that the company thinks could finally help local music discovery–a problem that many a startup has tried and failed to conquer. Their strategy? Tailor experiences to their customers for big concerts, learn their tastes, and then drive some ticket sales to lesser-known events. “We’ve always known that our opportunity was to elevate to the top of our funnel, to be a place where fans come to discover things to do and who to do them with,” says Elias, “as opposed to just coming to us when they already know what tickets they need.”

To date, event discovery apps have been limited in their capacity not only to provide specifically tailored suggestions to customers, but also an easy way to purchase tickets–and they all lack one critical feature: a box office.

How StubHub Picked An Adjacent Business

Most people don’t need to filter through a list of everything happening in their neighborhood on a particular day; they know what they like. The problem is, they may not know how to find it. “If we present people with four options and two of them are attractive and they pick one, we’ve done a great job,” says Elias. “I don’t think you have to show people 50 things going on. The idea here is the right content, right people, right time, as opposed to overwhelming somebody with our huge list of stuff.”

Instead, Elias and his team intend to use their previously existing platform GoTogether and aggregate data compiled over years of dominating ticketing’s secondary marketplace to supply StubHub Music with the kind of information necessary to cater to people’s individual and group taste.

“The reason we’ve really started doing music is it’s a huge opportunity to drive a lot more traffic and interest to the smaller venues, to the smaller artist,” says Elias. “Typically, in our industry, marketing is terrible. Everybody in our industry focuses on the head events and the sellouts and there’s a lot of inventory and a lot of things that go unnoticed out there.”

The company isn’t guessing there’s an opportunity–it did its homework first. And while it’s currently only available in San Francisco, Music is expected in every StubHub market in less than six weeks. “Keep in mind, we see what people actually buy and we have a ton of data on that over many, many years, so that’s an advantage in terms of our ability to bring these things together and weave together a really nice rich personalized experience,” says Elias. “No one needs an app to know that Beyonce is in town.”


The Encore Is Not On Facebook

“I personally don’t find that stuff terribly useful,” says Elias of social media promotion–even though the word “social” appears in his title. He doesn’t think Facebook and Twitter are the key to local events’ popularity, even though that’s where most of the solutions have focused.

“One really interesting thing about our space is people are already ‘socially’ doing these things, so we’re not creating an inorganic experience here. Our average order size is two and a half, three tickets, so we’re talking about a small surface of people and posting that stuff out there on Facebook isn’t necessarily conducive to the experience. We’re doing a lot of testing around what kind of features would be integrated the right way, really see what’s easy to use if you say discover you want to go to this event down the road and you want to bring two of your friends into the mix, how can you easily just hit a button and fire that out.”

And there’s more to it than just tunes–local sports can also use the same model. It’s not hard to figure out where the home team is playing, it’s fairly obvious. But what about the finer points of tonight’s game? There are myriad details separating one game from another, and Elias thinks the ticket counter is the place to let you know what makes tonight’s game worth seeing.

“The pitching match up,” says Elias, citing an example. “That makes a tremendous difference in a ballgame. Are they a left handed? If you’re going to sit out in the bleachers, where are you more likely to catch a home run? Is it Bobblehead night?”

If StubHub has its way, you’ll know.