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Paying extra to book your gig or a theatre show tickets online is more and more common these days; but research shows that many of us aren’t happy about it. In fact, the results of a recent Which? Survey showed that eight in ten people buying tickets online feel that booking fees are unfair.

As Wales’ leading music charity, Community Music Wales recognises that relationships between audiences, performers and event organisers are becoming increasingly intertwined.

While researching the economic value of the live music industry, they looked to explore audience attitudes around booking fees. In doing so, they saw an opportunity to use the ticket buying process to connect audiences, artists and communities together, developing relationships and adding value.

Community Music Wales worked with technological partner ZEQUS - a free crowdfunding platform - to develop Tocyn; an online box office built around a community interest model. Together, the partners explored how the platform might hold its own in a fast-emerging market, and play a key and innovative role in the future of online ticketing.

The project

The partners set out to create a web-based ticketing system that could redefine the purpose of booking fees and champion the potential of crowdfunding at a socially inclusive, community level.

Tocyn would sell tickets and list a number of crowdfunded arts campaigns, with customers donating a percentage of their booking fees in the form of tokens to a campaign of choice, as well as donating directly if they wished to further their support.

While generating funds, Tocyn would also connect ticket buyers with their local communities, developing relationships and a sense of social value.

ZEQUS created a basic product for early user testing in order to adapt and develop a system with high quality user experience at its core. Initial tests with a small group of trusted peers and professionals generated useful feedback that allowed the development of the system ready for live testing.

Given the vast range of on and offline box office systems used across the arts and live music sector, it was recognised that making Tocyn stand out as a key competitor would be a challenge, particularly to venues with already established ticketing systems.

A marketing campaign was developed to build profile and trust in Tocyn’s validity as a ticketing and audience data management system with the added USP of meaningful community engagement and social outcomes.

Targeting audiences including venues, promotors, artists, and charities and organisers, seven crowdfunding surgeries were held across Wales, providing a valuable opportunity to identify levels of awareness around crowdfunding. These surgeries also offered the opportunity to promote crowdfunding’s value as an audience engagement tool and fundraising source.

Results

Tocyn was live tested across a diverse set of performances (both paid and non-paid) and localities in Wales engaging with a broad audience dataset. Six crowdfunding campaigns were listed on the site during this phase as well as the Tocyn Fund, a generic pot for ticket buyers to allocate tokens to rather than a specific campaign.

Over a six week testing phase Tocyn sold 58 tickets across seven events at six venues with a total

revenue of £484.15, generating £41.81 in token value. These small figures can be attributed to a number of factors. While it’s generally recognised that advance sales for independent arts events in Wales tend to be slow, for many of the listed performances Tocyn was not the exclusive booking system, and tickets were being sold elsewhere.

As well as this, the perception of Tocyn as a new and unknown system functioning within a test phase would almost certainly have hindered ticket buyers’ confidence in handing over money online.

Three of the six crowdfunding campaigns listed on the site hit their targets during the test phase. 70% of the token donations were made to a specific campaign rather than through the Tocyn pot; an encouraging sign that customers had directly engaged with specific campaigns, making a purposeful choice to support them.

In a short timeframe, Tocyn has established itself as a functional branded online ticketing and fundraising platform building momentum and growing in profile.

Further funding is now needed to develop and hold its own against a number of commercial competitors, and make the essential investment in brand development, to build trust and recognition for future users and ticket buyers.

Insights

Key insights from the process include:

  • Ticket sales can be used to support crowdfunding campaigns: Audiences want to increase the value of their arts and cultural experiences and will support cultural fundraising through booking fees.
  • Crowdfunding can provide more than just a fundraising function: An initial financial transaction can develop into an engaged long-term relationship with supporters.
  • Crowdfunding is not well understood: Many people have heard of crowdfunding, but there is a gap in understanding about its benefits. Tocyn can establish itself as a champion of crowdfunding as an engagement and social empowerment tool.
  • Audiences buy-in to the vision: with more than 70% of the generated tokens donated to a specific cause, Tocyn shows booking fees are not an issue if social or cultural value is clearly defined.
  • Trust is fundamental: Tocyn’s growth and development depends on trust and validation of its customers and the continued promotion of the community interest ethos that sits at its heart.