November 5, 2010 By Sarah Rich
The phrase “time is money” is a worn lyric, but in Fresno, Calif., that cliché rang true for city workers who were in charge of collecting fees from promoters who used city-owned venues for their concerts and sporting events.
Sometimes it took longer than it should have to collect that money — no small matter for a local government that like most across the country is starved for revenue. So in August city officials began requiring that the events begin using a Web-based ticket purchasing solution that automatically sends Fresno’s cut of the money into city coffers.
The hosted solution is called ShoWare, made by VisionOne. Patrons interested in attending an event can go to that event’s venue website or physical box office to purchase a ticket. A ShoWare application is installed either online or at the box office so revenue from ticket sales can be sent directly to a municipality’s account, according to Joe Wettstead, vice president of sales and marketing for the product.
According to the vendor, municipalities that contract through ShoWare have lower ticket convenience fees than some of the big ticket-purchasing websites, such as Ticketmaster. This savings can make tickets cheaper for the public.
William Broomfield, Fresno’s events manager, said the city sponsors three venues in Fresno. In Fresno’s arrangement, promoters for the venues decide the ticket prices while the city receives revenue from event ticket convenience fees.
Before Fresno initiated its three-year contract with ShoWare, all ticketing was handled and controlled by the promoter. This made it difficult for the city to receive its per-ticket revenue, Broomfield said.
“We didn’t have the people power or the staff to follow up and chase people down to make sure they paid the fees that they needed to,” Broomfield said.
Wettstead said the Web-based application provides everything municipalities would get from Web portal ticketing, but at lower cost. Typically portal ticketing vendors charge anywhere from $10 to $15 per ticket as a convenience fee, but with ShoWare, convenience fees are much lower — ranging from $1 to $2 per ticket.
ShoWare gives venues, municipalities or event promoters the power to set ticket prices, track tickets, do accounting, create packages and do access control for an event. Recording event information and making any changes to that information can be done in real time by logging into the software, Wettstead said.
Some of the big vendors that sell tickets through popular websites hold a municipality’s ticket revenue for 90 days before that event occurs, Wettstead said. After the event, the vendor will often hold the revenue for an additional 30 days. Instead of a municipality waiting 120 days to receive their ticket revenue, ShoWare can create a constant stream of revenue that goes to the municipality’s account.
“A lot of times, hundreds of thousands of dollars are sitting [with the portal vendor], so not only is this traditional portal vendor making an exorbitant fee, they’re also reaping interest on that money during that time period,” Wettstead said. “We just think it’s a little backward.”
There are no start-up costs for using ShoWare and contract conditions can vary depending on what’s negotiated. Average contracts last about three years, while most contracts are a minimum of one year, Wettstead said.
ShoWare requires a computer with Internet hookup and a ticket printer. Municipalities can provide their own equipment to save money or ShoWare can provide the necessary equipment but for an additional cost, Wettstead said.
Wettstead admitted that municipalities will submit requests for proposals for ShoWare, but don’t end up choosing the software, Wettstead said. “Changing the whole mindset of how these municipalities have done business for the last 25 years — that’s the biggest challenge.”
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