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Inside SeatGeek’s Mission to Disrupt the $28 Billion Ticketing Business

Last Updated: June 30, 2023
Fans are flocking to concerts and sports events this summer at record rates. Amidst skyrocketing demand, SeatGeek’s Paula Segal highlights the ways the company seeks to improve the full fan experience.

SeatGeek is a sponsored partner of Boardroom.

This summer, sports and music enthusiasts are flocking far and wide to watch their favorites perform. However, the idea of creating lifelong memories through scream-singing every perfectly memorized lyric to a fight song or hit single is moot without one key component: an actual ticket to the show.

Right on cue, a spate of recent headlines captures major issues affecting the $28 billion ticketing industry that have been brought to the fore:

Across generations, fans’ experiences with ticketing have evolved from lining up at the box office to securing a spot in a mythical online queue and hoping for the best. Even then, several questions inevitably swirl about what actually goes into the admittedly complicated formula of determining ticket prices — but the reality is that securing a ticket is only one part of a robust formula for an unforgettable experience.

In this increasingly tech-driven world, how can sports teams, recording artists, and venues all keep up with skyrocketing demand for live experiences? How can ticketing companies ensure that fans not only have access to a venue, but a 360-experience that maximizes their enjoyment? Paula Segal, SeatGeek’s Head of Consumer Product, spoke to Boardroom about the ways in which the company has used the challenges it has faced to imagine a ticketing system that sucks less and endeavors to put fans first.

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The ticketing system we know all to well is broken. For years, the major players have put themselves — and their profits — first. However, after ignoring the issue for decades, even the President of the United States is stepping in.

Just this week, President Joe Biden issued an announcement acknowledging that several major ticketing vendors, including SeatGeek, were committing to offer new levels of transparency concerning “junk fees” and the total cost of a purchase.

While SeatGeek was fully on board, the reality is that they had been working on this issue for some time. One of the first products that Segal ever worked on was Deal Score, which shows fans the true, final value of their purchase before they hit “Buy.”

“We started as a fan-first company and then grew into a marketplace versus the other way around,” Segal recalls.

Segal and her team work to position the fans’ voices and perspectives first as the company builds new products. “I think historically, fans have thought about the actual live event as this great experience, but ticketing is this thing, this necessary evil,” Segal said. As a result, the issues that drive the Fan Experience team are sourced directly from the fans themselves.

Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

These days, transparency and transferability are two core tenets of their work. Collectively, Segal says the company is grounded by a central question: “What can we be doing to improve [fans’ ticket experience]?”

In order to make the necessary changes, SeatGeek is going to the fans to better understand what they both want and need. Segal and her team are constantly speaking to groups of users. “We are a company of fans and we’re at events all the time,” she told Boardroom. “We’re talking to fans out there. I’ll be looking at someone scanning in and asking them questions, just trying to observe how fans are using products.”

These seemingly simple conversations, paired with more traditional user experience research, have served as the backbone of a number of new products. For example, SeatGeek Rally helps simplify your live event experience from the minute you leave your home to the minute you get back. From a playlist to get you pumped up for the evening to driving directions, food, and merch purchases to getting a Lyft home, the feature aims to put every key moment at your fingertips.

Photo by Scott Legato/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Inspired by the insecurity that plagued fans coming back to venues as COVID-19 shutdowns abated, the company also introduced SeatGeek Swaps. As fans yearned for the flexibility to be able to offload tickets simply if something came up that impacted their plans, the company responded with an industry-first product that simplified the exchange.

As she looks towards the future, Segal envisions much of the same for her and her team; they will continue to put the experiences of fans at the forefront. She’s excited about what the rapidly changing world of emerging technologies may have in store for fans.

While the days of pinning a ticket stub to a bulletin board may be over, Segal sees potential in the blockchain to fill the nostalgia gap. Additionally, she looks to other industries for inspiration:

“Imagine if you were going to a concert and when you got in, you got a push notification alerting you of a free upgrade, like on a flight?”

For Segal and her team, their North Star is clear: “What can we do to allow fans to spend more time either sitting in their seats and less time with BS?”

The way she sees it, the possibilities are endless.

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About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.