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April 26, 2019  •  by Jane Carter

With Deidra Sibila on Event Ticketing

A lot of people have been asking about tips and tricks from event ticketing professionals. So we have started a podcast to share interviews with fellow event organizers who can share their  experiences. Our first podcast is with Deidra Sibila.

Deidra Sibila has run ticketing for everything from Beyonce stadium tours, local festivals and the hometown rock venue. In the introductory episode of Ticketbud Tidbits, we sit down with her to discuss best practices, challenges, and what it means to be a ticketing professional today.

So without further ado, here is Episode 1 of Ticketbud Tidbits. Below the episode is a written transcript.

Interviewee Information


ayhan: Welcome to Exchanges at Ticketbud. Today we have Deidra Sibila, Director of Ticketing at 3Can Events. Today, we are talking about behind the scenes stories, and best practices and advice from event professionals.  Today we have myself Kayhan Ahmadi, CEO of Ticketbud as well as Sean Burke, Director of Marketing.

Kayhan: So Deidra, you built your career in the Ticketing and Events Industry. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your career, where you started out, and what attracted you to this career path?

Deidra: Sure, Well, I am a musician since I’ve been 6 years old. I played the Oboe and the clarinet and I went to college and knew I wanted to do something in music, but I didn’t want to perform because I wanted to play [Music] because I wanted to, and not because I wanted a paycheck. So I did the next best thing and doubled in music and business in college and got a music management degree, actually arts management with a music emphasis just from my background. And I when to school in Ohio, I’m from Cleveland, C-TOWN! And -laughing-, I had an internship at a 1000 seat capacity venue in downtown Cleveland in the flats called the Odeon, super rad place. It’s not there any more, well I think it is but they changed it, umm it was a great venue because we saw a lot of bands on the way up and we saw a lot of bands on the way down. Coldplay played there, we had Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, everybody. Maroon 5, I remember we had a bomb threat that day.

Sean: Well I mean, it is Maroon 5.

Deidra: -laughing- It was good because you had a lot of bands that came through that venue and then some other bands as they weren’t doing so, so well or later in their career.  But anyway, I got into the box office there and just kept down that slippery slope of ticketing and worked at the amphitheater across the river in Cleveland, which is about a five to six thousand capacity amphitheater. From Cleveland I moved to Phoenix and was the box office manager at the amphitheater in Phoenix, a twenty two thousand seat amphitheater outside. And then from there I went to Los Angeles and was there for seven years as the senior national director of ticketing for Live Nation Touring. So I was responsible for all the ticketing for any tour in North America. So if Jay-Z went out on tour I worked with them and the artist and with the management company, coordinated all the ticketing with all the different arenas rather than Jay’s people going to fifty different places they came to me. I went to fifty different places and went back. So that was great! And then from there I left Live Nation in 2013 and came to Austin to work with C3 Presents to do festivals – which is Lollapalooza in both North and South America. It’s in Chile, Argentina and Brazil and Chicago, now they have a couple other markets: Austin City Limits, the NFL draft, partnering with the NFL. and so I recently left C3 to do some freelance independant contract work with landed me this opportunity with 3Can Events and the Austin Trail of Lights.

Kayhan: Very cool, very cool. So when an organization hires you, or contracts with you, what are they getting? What are you bringing to the table in terms of expertise that sets you apart from anyone else?

Deidra: Well, aside from my wit and personality?

Kayhan: Lovely personality.

Deidra: -laughing- So I like to provide a couple different things. I think ticketing gives us a unique opportunity to work with a lot of variety of events. I’m a huge production nerd. That’s why I loved working on the tours with Live Nation, primarily focused on arenas and stadiums with the production and the different stage configuration. That’s what led me to the festivals and the other special events. I like the variety and getting into some of that technical production. So thats an area of expertise. I can work well with the Production Team on gate operations, setting up your fence. You’re selling this many tickets so I need a tent this big, then that means you need this many tables and this many chairs, so using some deductive reasoning and just special event planning in general no matter what the event is. It can be anything from a conference to a festival to a bake sale. You still still need some of those general event setup requirements. Also, working with the ticketing provider on building the events. I have a lot of extensive knowledge on a variety of ticketing softwares. I’m glad I got the opportunity to work with Ticketbud because that wasn’t one in my wheelhouse but it is now.

Kayhan: Shoutout!

Deidra: Yeah! So then the customer facing portion, making sure that’s easy for guests to purchase tickets. Assisting with customer service questions. Working with marketing making sure that the FAQ’s are in place on the website. Any brand messaging is consistent to what’s on the website. Sponsorship, helping with any sponsorship contractual obligations or media partner obligations as well as those all important VIP and industry guests.

Sean: AHHH Yes! I do marketing [For Ticketbud] especially when it comes to those large term events, how do you help drive growth every year, and what do you think about growth: helping to drive it. How do you work with marketing and other departments as a ticketing professional.

Deidra: Sure! I think it is a combination of your organization [event producer] and also the ticketing provider. ‘Cause if… you’ll get natural growth and word of mouth if it’s easy. If someone [Customer] is like,  “This was such a hassle to purchase a ticket. I was confused. I didn’t know what I was doing,” that could hinder your growth. But if it’s an easy process, “Oh I went ot trail of lights. I went to this. I went to that. It was so great. I bought a ticket badaboom badabing. It was great. Had a good time at the event.” It really starts from that first click on your website, or the first time that someone is going to purchase a ticket to when they walk out of your venue that night. Just creating that experience the whole way. And working with marketing like I said on the brand messaging. That it’s easy [ to purchase a ticket]. That your gate operations are easy. Working with security. You know if someone is standing in line forever, how did you help [alleviate] that. Making sure that it is an overall successful experience for the guest will [drive] some organic growth. With the trends of the industry and having the right product, something unique for your market, it’s a combination. Team effort.

Kayhan: As a professional you have a long history dealing with these large scale events. We are talking about attendance in the hundreds of thousands. How do your skills, or how do your bag tools scale to handle such large volumes.

Deidra: I don’t know, you’ve stumped me.

Kayhan: It’s “gotcha” journalism.

Deidra: -laughing-

Kayhan: We practice gotcha journalism

Deidra: -Thinking-. I don’t know. I just. Honestly I treat, like I said I treat all the events the same. It could be anything from 100 people to 100 thousand. I think if you have those same principals and fundamentals and some operational policies in place and give every event your all and care, that comes out organically depending on what the capacity is. If the planning is right in advance then it doesn’t matter how many people are there.

Kayhan: Interesting.

Sean: In terms of planning in advance, in addition to helping drive growth year over year, what are your main initiatives? What do you look at? Furthermore how do you implement those improvements for ticketing year over year?

Deidra: I think looking at some of the data and the metrics that are presented year over year with the ticketing reports provided, sales trends. When are people buying? Are they buying right away or are they waiting also, in that middle, that sales trough period where you have a little bit of a lull. You do well when when you first announce and you do well when when you ramp up. What can you do in the meantime to keep interest. I think that’s a great way for social media to come into play and continues with some fan engagement, running special promotions, random VIP upgrades and get the fans talking about it.  So that’s a good way to create some growth is a little bit of self promotion from the fan’s perspective because they’re excited to come to your event and they are the best marketers that you have.

Sean: Yep

Deidra: Looking at the data. Ticket price analization. Did we see any price resistance? Factoring in your out the door costs when you have service charges, fulfilment fees also the fulfillment experience comes into it as well. Back to what you what you asked about the overall just general customer service.

Kayhan: As you prepare for a major event, I’m sure your priorities change as you get closer and closer. What are you thinking 90, 60, 30 days out from your event. What changes?

Deidra: Well my lack of sleep doesn’t change. I’m a big worry wart. I want it all to be top to bottom the first day we go on sale. I think as a ticketing professional, your focus shifts a little bit from the administrative side to the operational side as you get closer. It’s definitely an ebb and flow and that’s what attracts me to the position. There is no day that is the same and no day that is predictable. I think I’m still working off of a checklist from 1998 of things to do today that you just never get to because it changes every day. Planning for the on sale, again working with your respective departments on messaging. Making sure your ticket header has the right date on it. Things of that nature. You get into that intense system level before you go on sale with all the event building and coordinating with your ticketing provider. Then once you’re on-sale you crack a beer and then when you finish that ahah you go into the on-sale maintenance. Depending if your event sells out or not you could kinda taylor what your activities are. But then as you get close again keeping that social integration. Working on any fulfillment opportunities. Staffing comes into it. Making sure your staff is adequately prepared, trained, right amount of people for the event.  Shifting into those operations. Ordering your tents and windows and ticket stock and all those fun things.

Kayhan: So the night before, what are you thinking about what’s keeping you awake the day before the gate opens? Any real stories or experiences you would like to share?

Deidra: Oh man! Honestly the night before I usually feel great cuz you have done what you should. You’re like, “Let’s do this. Let’s do it! Do that damn thing.”

Kayhan: What about 30 minutes before start time?

Deidra: Eye of the tiger.

Sean: I was gonna say….

Kayhan: -laughing-

Sean: I was gonna say, we were gonna ask you if you have any pre show traditions but you kinda spoiled it. You said you crack a beer before hand?

Deidra: No that’s when you are on sale. You’re like “Hallelujah!” I like listening to the Eye of the Tiger. -laughing-
Sean: You know, that’s a good one. That’s probably the best… I’ve always said that Rocky IV is the best parable for the Cold War.

Deidra: No, it’s good it’s exciting. Pre show meetings with your staff, security make sure everybody is ready to go. Like I said if you’ve done all your legwork then it’s more excitement than nervous. You’re excited to have people come to the show and see what you’ve been working on.

Kayhan: So you’ve talked about your bag of tools, specifically trying to get sponsors involved and this is, can be a big pain point for event organizers especially new event organizers. What difficulties do you encounter or can you help resolve when getting sponsors involved?

Deidra: Oh man, am I allowed to say this?

Kayhan: You don’t have to name names.

Sean: Just like anything, just in general about trying to get sponsors. Are there any tips you suggest when you are trying to get a sponsor?

Deidra: Well I don’t get the sponsors I leave that to the sponsorship people that are the most important people on earth. We all, we couldn’t do some of the things without sponsors. I think part of the challenge is maintaining the expectations of what has been communicated to outside parties and what you can actually do.

Sean: Yeah that makes sense.

Deidra: And working on finding that sweet spot that helps fulfill those promises and is a great partnership for everybody.

Sean: What advice, again a lot of our listeners are newer to the event industry, do you have any advice for people out there who really want to start out in the event industry. Start doing what you do?

Deidra: Sure! You have to like to get yelled at by guests. And…. -laughing-

Deidra: We joked about this at lunch, but you like to be a behind the scenes player because it’s definitely a thankless position. And think…I’m modest, and my family always says, “Oh you’re so modest.” They think it’s really cool when you’re like, “I’m just doing my thing.” Ya know, I don’t really think of it that way. If you are here to get all the glitz and glamour, then be a booker. Because you’re not going to do it by being a ticketer. We are the lifeline of events in the organization. And it’s cool, it’s a little bit of a silent partner. We are always last to the table but we all know what we put forth in it. So it is a little bit of an unspoken cult I think.
Kayhan: So for these big annual events, how soon after the event ends do you start planning for the next year?

Deidra: I thought you were going to say,  “Start Drinking!”

All: -Laughing-

Deidra: Bottle of Fireball on hand, at all times. Umm, a lot of people like to strike while the iron is hot. You’ve had a fantastic experience, you’re coming off a high, you saw your favorite band, you had a great time with your friends, you flew in with your family or whatever the case may be. For some of the larger events that are more annual I think it could be anywhere from the next week to, say, the next month. For tours it’s a little different because that’s more on a cycle. You can’t put something on sale right away because now [the artist] are going to Europe or the artist is pregnant, or something is changing. The only exception I will say to that is One Direction. One year when the first came on the scene, and we did like a 50 date North American tour and went on sale on Friday, blew out immediately…that was for 2014?…. And we were on sale for 2015 by the following Friday.

Kayhan and Sean: Wow!

Deidra: So that was definitely an exception in terms of a tour where I’ve done that but with festivals or other events it is immediate. Those One-D girls love…

Sean: One other thing that we were discussing earlier, especially in regards to gun laws and bathroom laws, if you want to elaborate more on that, just like, the new challenges in ticketing that you haven’t seen in years past but now are very important, things you have to be cognizant of as you plan and do ticketed events in 2017 and beyond.

Deidra: Yeah definitely! I think that ticketing has evolved so much. You are not just some crabby lady behind a glass window anymore just selling tickets and pulling a shade down that says, “SOLD OUT.”  You are the face of the event, you are at the heart of the venue. Whether it’s a field or festival, or a theatre, museum, anything. People are coming through your front door first, so you are the face of the event. You have to be prepared in today’s climate, it’s sad, but to deal with…issues. You see someone looking suspicious outside of your venue, what is your plan to thwart that activity? Gun laws, especially here in Texas is something that’s new to me and something that I’ve been more cognizant of. You know, [Texas] has an open carry policy, but you can’t bring it to our events. How do you work with our security team, with your Guest Services and Crowd Control, and your Staff to help explain that to somebody that has a gun, so that they don’t get mad and pull it out and pop it off, ya know. That’s extreme obviously, but it’s something that we have to think about. So, it’s related to ticketing because it’s a customer service area, and as ticketing professionals we deal and a lot of what we do is customer service. A lot of it is Excel and numbers and analytics, but a lot of customer facing as well: Developing policies with your event organizers and your security and your staff on how to handle situations that come up in today’s climate.  And with Social Media: Facebook Live and things like that, how do you work on keeping bad things off, OR conversely using [social media] to your advantage. Like the active shooter situation in Ohio State last year. They used Facebook to help make students aware of what was happening. Can you use [Social Media] with your event organizers so that they can notify the rest of the guests.  If you are at the main stage you might not know something is going on at the main entrance, BUT if it gets real, you could know, and we have to take some serious action.

Kayhan: What are your parting words of wisdom for us?

Deidra: Parting words of wisdom? It’s a great industry. I love being a ticketing professional. I’ve made friends all over the country through it. You get to work with a lot of ticketing software. You, like I said earlier you are the hub of the organization and that’s cool. So you inherently learn marketing elements and sponsorship pieces, the production that I mentioned, the operations. It’s a super cool and unique position to be in and the sky’s the limit. You can get hooked up with an Artist, you can do a festival, you can be a ticket provider, or you can be down with the Ticketbud, or… -laughing- I mean, you can, you can do anything. And it’s not just typing a command and spitting out a ticket anymore. You are in the technology space with digital ticketing and dynamic pricing and a lot of different trends that are in the industry. It’s I think a lot more of an elaborate field than people realize…. Was that Wisdom?

Sean: I’d say that’s definitely wisdom.

Kayhan: I’d say so. Thank you very much Deidra

Deidra: Thank you! Happy Ticketing!

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