When Bruce Morrison was a much younger man, he never thought that he would end up in the ticketing business. Even though he had graduated from Carleton University with a commerce degree, his passion was sound and light design.
But his life took a turn after being hired at Centrepointe Theatre in Ottawa, which had purchased a new computerized ticketing system.
"Because I had some familiarity with computers—this is back in the late '80s—instead of becoming a stagehand, I became a box office manager and it sort of went from there," Morrison told the Georgia Straight by phone from Toronto.
Today, he's the general manager of Ticketfly Canada, which is trying to become his industry's equivalent of the ride-sharing app Uber. Both companies are using technology to disrupt their sectors in search of a larger market share.
"He said, 'You know what you do with a fly? You squish it.' That was the quote," Morrison said. "Yeah, it was disruptive and it continues to be disruptive."
Like Uber, Ticketfly emerged in the technology hothouse of the San Francisco Bay Area. Ticketfly is privately held and Morrison wouldn't reveal its revenues. The company claimed to have sold more than $1 billion worth of tickets, with $500 million processed in the last year alone.
Morrison said that Ticketfly, which is led by cofounder Andrew Dreskin, uses computer analytics to gather information on consumers.
According to Morrison, this helps promoters and venues "increase their yield on the consumer side".
"So if a consumer is coming into a live show, how much do you know about that consumer?" he explained. "Can you upgrade them? Can you offer them merchandise via a mobile experience? Can you interact with them?"
With its technology, he said that Ticketfly could look at the impact of a person who buys two tickets to a show. The company could see that this consumer has 600 Facebook friends. And if he posted on Facebook that he was going to the concert, Ticketfly could determine that 20 of his Facebook friends also attended.
Therefore, Morrison emphasized, that particular consumer isn't just worth two tickets—he's possibly influenced 22 people to attend. This information might persuade the owner of the venue to meet this influential consumer at the door and possibly buy him a free drink to retain his loyalty.
"Quite frankly, to people of a certain age—and I count myself in that—it's a little creepy Big Brotherish, but it really is the way things are going," Morrison said.
This type of data mining is already being used by political parties and corporations to give them an edge over competitors. And Morrison insisted that everything Ticketfly is doing in Canada is in accordance with federal and provincial privacy legislation.
Ticketfly will oversee ticketing for Vogue and jazz festival
Earlier this month, Ticketfly bought Northern Tickets, which has been the in-house ticketing system of the MRG Group. It operates the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver. This transaction also means that Ticketfly will be the ticketing vendor for the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival and Toronto's new Adelaide Hall.
"This is a merger of two great teams that will benefit immensely from one another," MRG president Matt Gibbons said in a March 20 news release.
Meanwhile, Morrison said that this deal will enable the MRG group to "focus more on providing great experiences to people who are coming to their venues or their events". Ticketfly, he added, will worry about ensuring ticketing technology is kept up to date and that there's sufficient service for the customer before and after the show.
Ticketfly has stated that its Canadian arm has partnerships with 120 venues and promoters, and that the company registered a 70 percent increase in tickets sold last year.
"It continues to show that Ticketfly is growing in Canada," Morrison said. "People are taking notice of what we're doing."
This is just the latest chapter in his life. He also spent time working for Michael Cohl, a former Live Nation chairman who was promoter of record for the Rolling Stones and the Who. Morrison said that people sometimes ask him if he ever hung out with Mick Jagger.
In fact, he never met any band members, even after working on five Canadian shows and some concerts in Europe.
"I met a lot of accountants and a lot of productions guys," Morrison quipped. "At that level, it's pretty stratified."