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A safe resale space: How viagogo’s Global MD is helping fans get into live events around the world

After the pandemic, people are realising the value of live entertainment, Cris Miller says.

By Rolling Stone UK

Viagogo's Cris Miller (Picture: Press)

We sat down with Cris Miller, the global MD of viagogo, to discuss how the company is forging a new path in the UK, and why work still needs to be done to assure consumers that the secondary market is a safe alternative when it comes to buying tickets for gigs, shows and sports events.

From Taylor Swift to SZA, Miller has seen some of the world’s stars perform in 2023 – and says that viagogo provides a strong alternative for people wanting to gain access to these in-demand shows.

Particularly after the pandemic, Miller believes that people are realising the value of live entertainment.

“When tours were put on hold I think people really recognised the value of live entertainment. Now, there’s always a real opportunity to be with other fans and witness something incredible together,” he says.

You can read our whole Q&A with Cris Miller below.

Hi Cris, you’re the global MD for viagogo. Can you tell us a bit about the place of secondary ticketing in 2023 and where it fits in the market?

When you look at the history of ticket resale, it has existed for as long as live entertainment has. It’s always been there, either on the streets or through friends or touts.

However, the business idea for a safe ticket marketplace was really created at the end of the nineties by our Founder and CEO Eric Baker. He was travelling to New York and wanted to take a date to see The Lion King, which was a really popular show on Broadway and a tough ticket to get hold of at the time. Someone suggested “you can try a ticket broker”. He calls a broker and finds the process to be opaque, the broker is rude, gives him a ridiculous price, and he just doesn’t feel like he can trust him. He thought, there must be a better way. And that’s where the idea really came from, to create a secure marketplace that’s efficient and accessible for both fans and sellers.

In the UK, some consumers are weary about the security of tickets being brought through secondary sites. What would you say to allay those fears?

I understand the hesitation and that’s exactly why viagogo exists, to bring order and safety to the resale space. Getting fans into live events is what we care about the most. The entire premise of our business is that you’re going to get what you paid for and see a great performance. Millions of people use our platform because they feel protected by the viagogo guarantee, which is that you will get through the door and in the rare instance an issue arises, we’ll step in with alternative tickets. If we can’t do that, we’ll offer a full refund – although we will try every avenue before doing so.

There’s also no incentive for anyone to sell an invalid ticket as they will not be paid unless the fan gets into the event successfully. 

We have teams in place to make sure the seller accurately lists the ticket, that it’s a valid ticket and it gets delivered in time to the fan. We have a customer service and operations team made up of 1500 staff, all making sure we’re solving any potential issues that arise.

That is the business, to ensure fans get into live events. Less than 0.2% of all transactions go wrong so it’s very rare, but we understand just how sensitive it is. That’s why our main focus is always on fulfillment.

2023 has felt like the first full year back of touring after Covid. Which artists have topped your sales charts. Taylor Swift must be up there right?

Absolutely, Taylor Swift has been on her own little sort of plateau. But I would say the data that was really interesting was the strength in female artists. In 2023, four female artists, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Adele and P!NK collectively more than tripled global ticket sales compared to the top ten artists in 2022. They dominated the scene. The other trend that we see is the enormous amount of traveling that’s taking place for events now. Acts like the Weeknd, Bruce Springsteen and Beyonce drew fans from all over the world to the UK. In fact, fans from 90 countries bought tickets on viagogo to see Beyonce perform here.

We’re really proud that our service allows this by giving fans greater access and more options that didn’t previously exist. 

Have you seen Taylor?

Yes!  I’ve been very fortunate to see Taylor Swift, she was really impressive. I do have to say that my favourite concert this year was SZA. I took my daughter to see her at Madison Square Garden and I was just blown away.

What would you say to convince someone who is considering using viagogo to buy tickets that your site is the place to do it?

You know, I think that it’s important for people to understand the purpose and the reality of what we do. The resale market may not be an avenue for everybody, but it’s a very strong alternative in certain circumstances. If you’re travelling and you don’t really know what’s on, it’s a great service to use for last-minute decisions.

Tickets are a hot commodity and often the box office is sold out. Often there’s thousands of fans in long virtual queues, and some simply don’t have the option to plan their day around securing tickets, think of the teacher working eight to five. viagogo gives you more options than you would traditionally have. That’s why it’s important we back it up with safety and security so you have the confidence we’re going to take care of it.

I would also say to any fan to know what your comfort zone of pricing is and stay there. If you’re uncomfortable with a particular price point or location, keep checking and keep looking. It’s a dynamically priced market and we’ve seen a lot of events that take place where tickets go well below face value. Beyonce was a great example where we saw many tickets go below the box office price, for as low as 21 pounds. 

In the UK, do you still think work is needed to rehabilitate viagogo’s image?

We still have a lot of educational work to do in the UK. 

I’ve been with viagogo from the beginning and helped launch the business in the UK, where I had the opportunity to live and start my family. 

When I first moved over to get viagogo started, we had a few operational people, but mostly built everything from scratch – it was exciting. It was still fairly early days of the internet and we were doing something we knew would help people, because many of us had seen first hand the benefit in having the option to buy tickets to events and sell if you’re no longer able to attend. 

We definitely made mistakes along the way and in the last sixteen years or so we’ve learnt a lot. There are things we would do differently and we’ve learned from every move and every market. It’s our responsibility now to connect with people so that fans know how the service works. It’s really important to us that fans know we’ve started this business because we love live events, packed venues – locals and arenas – and we want to get more people to events with less friction. 

What do you see the future of live entertainment looking like? The Sphere in Las Vegas opened up a world of possibility recently.

We’re blown away by the continued demand for tickets across all live events and in particular, the music scene. During covid when tours were put on hold I think people really recognised the value of live entertainment. Now, there’s always a real opportunity to be with other fans and witness something incredible together like The Sphere. MSG deserve a lot of credit for investing in the venue, it’s become a real bucket list spot  for a lot of people and artists. One of my favourite bands, Phish, are playing there next, and I can’t wait to see that.

We recently saw the closure of the venue Moles in Bath, which hosted early gigs from the likes of Radiohead and Oasis. Given that a pipeline of talent comes through those venues, would you ever consider doing a programme to support them?

It’s heartbreaking to see iconic venues close. This is something very much on our radar and we’re dedicated to finding ways to support the industry.

For over a decade, we’ve partnered with organisations that help underserved, emerging talent. Through social impact partnerships and donations we’re working with the wider live entertainment industry to help solve the systemic issues that prevent people from participating in live events. 

In the UK, this is the third year in a row that viagogo is supporting Limitless Live to offer tickets and transportation to 1000 fans from underserved communities. We’ve also partnered with Saffron Music to help fund their artist development programme and with TheWRD to develop educational courses for emerging talent that want to learn how to navigate the music industry focusing on live events, tour management and festivals.

And finally, what is 2024 looking like?

Well, Taylor Swift will likely continue to steal the headlines with her Eras Tour, which will begin its European leg in May, but 2024 is going to be massive across the whole live events sector. There are tours from the likes of P!nk, Foo Fighters, and Nicki Minaj, as well as a host of comedians and sporting events, including the UEFA EURO’s, that will bring people from all over the world.

Just finally, which artist, living or dead, would you buy a ticket for through viagogo?

Bob Marley, no question!