Joel Martin remembers the moment he knew there had to be a better way to purchase tickets. Martin was attempting to buy tickets for a Radiohead concert in Seattle, and like many eager fans he kept refreshing his webpage until 10 a.m. when the tickets went on sale. At 10:01 a.m., the show was sold out.
“I went to StubHub and saw there were already hundreds of tickets for that show,” Martin said. “Literally seconds after I tried buying them. I was super frustrated. People bought these tickets for the purpose of reselling them. For people who are huge fans, it’s unfair.”
This instance (along with several others) spurred Martin and his partner, Henry Vinson, to the creation of their version for a better ticketing platform called Sellout.
A Better Way to Ticket
Sellout is a platform that was designed to combat issues like scalping and fraud. Martin said the genesis of the idea came from a desire to improve upon what felt like an “archaic” experience for buying tickets. The two business partners, who graduated from Montana State University, realized they ran into a common issue after purchasing tickets for a show.
“We were buying lots of tickets to shows and finding out months later that we wouldn’t be able to go to the show,” Martin said. “We wanted an easier way to resell tickets so people could fill the seats. … Tickets are a finite resource. When they’re gone, they’re gone.”
So one of the features in Sellout is a waiting list.
“We wanted an easier way to resell tickets so people could fill the seats.”
If a show sells out, users can put their name on a waiting list and still have a shot at attending a show. If a ticket holder can’t make the show, the next person in line can buy their ticket. Martin said this system alleviates awkward in-person meetups and attempts to sell tickets on other social media platforms.
Another feature of the app is capping the tickets at face value. Martin said scalpers figured out how to bypass the captcha online system early on and will always find a way to bypass systems. But through Sellout, scalpers are disincentivised because they can’t resell tickets above face value and they can’t resell the tickets on another platform.
There are several other features built into Sellout. Each ticket has an obscured QR code that isn’t revealed until the show to cut back on counterfeit tickets. Tickets also can be upgraded on the fly and shared directly with a friend or colleague. And should your phone break, a physical ticket is at will call.
The app is also a tool for concert promoters. When a ticket is bought on the secondary market, Martin said, promoters don’t have contact information for attendees. With Sellout, they can track what shows attendees go to and target their efforts at the right people.
Martin and Vinson recently participated in Early Stage MT, a showcase program in Montana where the winner of the competition can be awarded up to $50,000 in investment capital.
During the three regional showcases across Montana, Martin and Vinson participated in the Bozeman event. In late May, Sellout was one of six companies to present to a panel of five judges. Sellout was selected along with Alosant to participate in the statewide competition later this year.
“It’s a nice reminder of how tight-knit the Montana entrepreneur community is.”
This summer, Martin and Vinson will participate in a hyper-accelerator program.
“It was just really awesome to be selected and to be seen as one of the companies in Montana that’s starting up right now and caught the eye of people,” Martin said. “The panel of judges were all super celebrated. … It’s a nice reminder of how tight-knit the Montana entrepreneur community is.”
Currently, Martin said Sellout is in the middle of fundraising. He said the app is “a very early version” and they want to complete a beta version soon. Martin said there are more venues ready to jump on board when the software is ready.
In February, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance also named Sellout as a Montana Startup to Watch in 2018.
Sellout Comes to “Live From the Divide”
It was an easy decision for Jason Wickens to get onboard with Sellout.
“It fixed a problem,” said Wickens, the promoter and co-founder of Live From the Divide in Bozeman. “I had looked around for something comparable for a lot of years actually. So when Joel and Henry approached me, it just clicked. It made sense for me.”
The problems that Wickens has faced over the past eight years were the same issues that Sellout wanted to correct. Wickens said Sellout gives him more control over his ticket sales and offers accessibility to patrons. This spring, all of the shows at Live From the Divide moved to the Sellout platform.
“[Sellout] could be anywhere in the country and I would be just as excited. It’s that good of an idea.”
While Wickens doesn’t have access to all the features, having the ticket waiting list will solve a problem for his 50 seat venue that sells out in minutes.
“A lot of times I’ve had shows that sell out in three minutes, and when that happens people forget they have a wedding to attend or their babysitter cancels,” Wickens said. “There isn’t an easy solution for that. Most venues or ticketing platforms have a non-refundable position. That always made me uncomfortable because I like to give people options.”
Throughout the year, Live From the Divide hosts around 88 shows. Wickens said his demographic is a little bit older, so this leads to unexpected changes in patrons schedules. But with Sellout, knowing there is flexibility makes it easier to say yes.
“We’re excited about the partnership and think it’s going to be just really good for patrons and for people that are wanting to come see more shows,” Wickens said. “I think the overall experience will add to it. They (Sellout) could be anywhere in the country and I would be just as excited. It’s that good of an idea.”