State Farm Gets Music-Buzz Smarts from SeatGeek Data

Ticket Search Engine Thinks It Has a Formula for Finding the Next Big Band

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UK band, Disclosure
UK band, Disclosure

When indie music tastemaker Pitchfork Media and others posted about Disclosure on Twitter and Tumblr recently, lots of social media users shared praise for the British House band's new album, "Settle." However, while social media posts about musical acts might indicate appreciation, they don't necessarily show intent to buy live show tickets. Entertainment ticket search engine SeatGeek thinks its data could be a better signal of popularity, and aims to help brands like insurer State Farm spot the next up-and-coming band.

By watching ticket sales and prices across the web, looking at the size of the ticket resale market for musical acts and the average ticket price, as well as measuring purchase intent, SeatGeek believes it can identify bands on the verge of popularity among the younger crowds that brands want to reach.

"We do care a lot about sports and music because those are the things that our customers are passionate about," said Matt Johnson, digital media manager at State Farm. The company often sponsors live streams on Pandora, and has sponsored MTV's revived Unplugged music series online.

"We can say, 'What is the artist with the most click-outs to the secondary ticket markets in venues of 1,000 people or less?" said Will Flaherty, director of communications at SeatGeek. "For us it's an early warning system."

SeatGeek has pinpointed acts such as California alternative band The Neighbourhood and Icona Pop, a female DJ act from Sweden, along with Disclosure, as bands with relatively strong recent resale market interest.

That type of information could be valuable to a company like State Farm, which is attempting to transform its brand from stodgy old insurer to the choice of with-it 20-somethings. As part of that effort, it's already inked tie-ins with bands such as OK Go and Blink-182.

State Farm hasn't used SeatGeek's data to influence sponsorship decisions or the tunes it uses in TV spots, but the insurance firm sponsored an email newsletter SeatGeek launched recently that goes out to its 400,000 registrants. The data on bands bubbling to the surface is an "ancillary part" of the offering, said Mr. Flaherty.

"Every time you can bring SeatGeek's data into the mix…you take out a lot of the risk," said Mr. Johnson, noting "there's a high risk-reward" with lesser-known artists. The data will help State Farm "identify which artists are the safest bets…who's hot and really feels like us."

The ticket search site thinks the data has widespread potential for marketers. "We've definitely reached out to brands and agencies about the opportunities that are coming," said Ben Kind, director of digital ad sales at SeatGeek.

For now SeatGeek might use the email newsletter to highlight acts percolating on its roster. The Firefly Music Festival -- a 3-day extravaganza this weekend in Dover, Delaware featuring smaller bands such as The Neighbourhood as well as legends like Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and The Red Hot Chili Peppers -- sponsored the inaugural issue of the newsletter. The show producer, Red Frog Events, hopes to sell more single-day tickets, which go for $98 a pop.

"They're trying to move some last minute [one-day ticket] inventory to their festival," said Mr. Kind, who said Red Frog has sold out of its three-day tickets.

The system tracks ticket sales across a variety of online sellers including eBay, StubHub, TicketsNow, Ticket Exchange, Empire Tickets, and others, and uses its historical data dating back to 2010 to determine which seat prices are the "best" deals versus "awful" ones.

Because it's tracking actual ticket sales, the company suggests its data is a better indicator of bands that are generating real interest in the form of purchases than social media buzz.

"This is not confined to a small chatterbox of folks online," said Mr. Flaherty. "The demographics of Twitter don't mirror the demographics of music fans writ large by any stretch."

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