Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is This The Future of Ticketing for Small and Midsize Performing Arts Organizations?

Yesterday, I sat in on an all-day design workshop (in New York!) for a new product called AthenaTix, which is currently in development via the national service organization (formerly mostly know for its services to individuals) Fractured Atlas. The program, like Project Audience, which I wrote about earlier (and which I’ll be writing about again shortly), is funded in large part by the Mellon Foundation. AthenaTix, which is targeting to launch Version 1.0 about a year from now, will be an open-source, free ticketing software specifically designed for small and midsize arts organizations. V1.0 will allow for fairly mundane, but important, things like an easy sales path, robust show information, quick processing, printable tickets, etc. But, in later versions, it also has the potential for a lot more--notably shared attendance data across multiple companies (as more organizations start using the system), customizable logins, advanced customer tracking capability, and perhaps even (though likely not in V1.0) dynamic ticket pricing that would respond to set variables like percentage sold, length of time from performance, ticketing variations from night to night and seating area to seating area, and maybe even aggregate review response (via traditional media and social media) to maximize profits. And Athena (which is actually an extremely hard-working acronym for Advanced Technology Hub and Extensible Nexus for the Arts, but is also conveniently named after the goddess of wisdom) is actually envisioned as a modular system that will eventually cover everything a small organization would need in the way of technology, from constituent management to donor software to content management. The system, which, according to Fractured Atlas executive director Adam Huttler, will take up to 20 years (!) to complete, has the potential to revolutionize the way small companies interact with constituents and dramatically level the playing field between variably sized arts organizations.

To be clear, the product that comes out in a year will not be nearly as robust as that--it will probably function only for general admission houses of under 100 seats, with limited runs and a single price point for any given performance (i.e., no discounting). Given all that, perhaps it’s easy to see why what’s got me excited is what’s coming after V1.0--the high potential in V2.0 and onward for substantially benefiting small and midsize organizations (at little or no cost) is extremely appealing, even though V1.0, in the current formulation that they’re talking about (which may, I should point out, change as the design process continues), essentially replicates services that are already available with almost nothing new on the docket.

It seems, too, that when it rains it pours. PatronTechnology, the for-profit company behind PatronMail, is currently beta testing a similar product called PatronManager in Los Angeles. While I can't speak about specifics because the product is still very much in development, Theatre Bay Area staff and members of the Theatre Services Committee were recently presented with a half-hour demo of the product, and what we saw was very exciting.

In both of these cases, the goal is to create a low-to-no-cost solution for ticketing (and donor) management for small and midsize companies. Fractured Atlas, once AthenaTix is finished, will offer it as open source code to whoever wants it, but will also be launching a national ticket vending site built on the AthenaTix platform and collecting ticket processing fees as income. AthenaTix, and the entire Athena program, will be radically transparent--they're currently sharing everything at PatronManager is still in beta, and so is somewhat under wraps. If you're interested in learning more, email me and I'll connect you into the process.

All of this is very much still in process, but we’re really excited here at Theatre Bay Area to see not one but two fantastic products coming down the pipeline designed to directly address a major field-wide need.

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At December 11, 2009 at 12:18 PM , Blogger Caroline said...

I've just picked up this link from the Project Audience chat. I had a demo of Patron Manager earlier this week and was also very excited about what I saw. Having worked with small organizations for several years that are struggling with this need, it's very encouraging to see initiatives like these two that should lead to appropriate, practical solutions.


At December 16, 2009 at 1:09 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At December 16, 2009 at 1:37 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I happen to know there are Fantastic FREE software programs available NOW for the small to mid-sized venues offering all the features mentioned above. What makes this so different, if at all?
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At December 16, 2009 at 1:45 PM , Blogger Clay Lord said...

Hi Trudy,

AthenaTix and PatronManager are both attempting, I think, to target the packaging of services for small and midsize organizations -- which is not to say that there aren't services out there already that small and midsize companies can use to do certain of the things that AthenaTix and PatronManager are trying to do. What free software options are you talking about? It's always good to try and get the information on free alternatives out into the ether.
One other thing to note, as was recently pointed out to me -- while both of these systems (and most others) are low-cost from the point of view of the company, neither of them will be 'free.' In the case of AthenaTix, if you choose to take and adapt the open source code that is available, you'll end up spending money on the developer to shoehorn it into your system -- and if you end up using the website service that Fractured Atlas will be setting up, they'll take a percentage of your ticketing fee in the same way that PatronManager will.
I imagine that is true for most "free" alternatives -- there's a cost somewhere. But Trudy, please post some of the programs you know about so that we can share with our community.

At December 16, 2009 at 1:54 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I know there are Fantastic FREE box office software programs
available NOW offering the same features and more for the small to mid-size venues. What, if anything makes these two mentioned above any different?
I'll be happy to share this information with anyone interested.
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