Whether you’re a devoted theater goer, or simply one that hopped on the Hamilton bandwagon, you’ve certainly heard of TodayTix. Founded only a few years ago in 2013, TodayTix has already established itself as the go-to place for theater tickets through revolutionizing the ticketing process. As Seamless has become synonymous with food delivery and Uber for on-demand transportation, so too has TodayTix for performing arts tickets. The app’s founders, Brian M. Fenty and Merritt Baer combined their passion for the arts and inherent business savvy when launching this venture. Baer, who was awarded a Tony Award in 2012 for producing Death of a Salesman, sat down with TechDay to disclose the factors that drove TodayTix to become a raging success and consequently a household name.
Has appealing to millennials in particular been a driving factor in establishing the TodayTix brand?
Yes, TodayTix’s core mission was to broaden access to theater by providing convenience in a way that was particularly meaningful to millennials. Today, 70% of TodayTix’s 1 million+ users are millennials and our average ticket buyer is 30 years old – 14 years younger than the average Broadway ticket buyer. When Brian Fenty and I started the business together when we were in our 20s, we were both influenced by great mobile forward companies that were influencing our lives like Uber, Airbnb, Seamless, Opentable, etc. The way that those brands communicated particularly to the mobile forward millennial set was a major factor in the creation of TodayTix. We wanted to change the way in which people bought theater tickets by giving customers a convenient, cost effective solution via mobile - which sure beats standing in line at Times Square, or spending hours lining up outside a theater at 5 am.
Do you believe TodayTix inherently reframed the narrative of going to the theater as an activity similar to going to the movies or a concert, or was this something you had to actively try to establish?
We looked at the theater industry as an untouched market. By increasing convenience, we inherently increased demand. With a valued, curated way for users to discover the possibilities of theater, we exercised to disprove the notion that theater is something that had to be budgeted for or planned weeks in advance. By appealing to the millennial tendency of last minute purchasing, we saw an opportunity to apply it to entertainment and theater specifically. When TodayTix is next to your Fandango app, or Opentable app, I think it really puts the option of going to the theater back in the mind of Millennials where it may not have been in the first place.
As the process of attending the theater isn't something that's changed almost since its inception, what kind of pushback did you receive upon starting out?
When we first went to meet with theater houses in New York, before we even launched, they said, “go out and prove yourself” or “build a better mouse trap,” as one of them put it. And at the time in 2013 when we were about to start TodayTix, only .08% of Broadway tickets were sold mobilely. Now as we know in 2013, mobile commerce globally outpaced desktop and laptop commerce. But ticketing companies, theater owners and producers weren’t investing in great user experiences for mobile. They spent time, years and even decades building out a solid web user interface, but not creating an equally excellent mobile interface. So for many shows TodayTix has been able to increase their mobile conversions. For example, St. Ann’s Warehouse, one of our current partners, agreed to work with us on a production of “Let The Right One In.” The theater reported that every single customer using the TodayTix app to purchase a ticket had never bought a ticket to St. Ann’s Warehouse before. TodayTix brought in a 100% new audience for them.
Do you view the traditional theater ticketing process as a competitor or rather as a system you can work in tandem with?
We are partnered globally with well over 170 theaters and have learned that it really depends on the city and on the structure. They look at TodayTix as a platform to connect with millennials due to the ease of our mobile ticketing. It is our goal, certainly, both as theater producers and entrepreneurs at heart, to work with our partners and work with producers to help grow the pie. We want to increase the overall number of theater goers. Broadway on average sells 81% capacity, The West End sells between 65% and 70% of its capacity and beside those two markets the vast majority sells roughly 50% of its capacity so our goal is always, to sell more tickets to new customers and to engage customers in ways that they may have not been engaged through other channels.
What was TodayTix breakthrough moment and what do you believe were the key components that contributed to it?
We have partnerships with a number of the prominent institutions, but I think one of the moments that really clicked was in the midst of one of our major partnerships with The Public Theater. Our engagement together began two years ago with Free First Previews. With First Free Previews, TodayTix provides access to free first previews of every production at The Public Theater where users can enter the lottery for a chance to win two free tickets. TodayTix received 1.1M lottery entries and over 340,000 social shares through the engagement in 2015 alone. Most notably, TodayTix ran the lottery at The Public for Hamilton for a Hamilton ($10). Hamilton for a Hamilton, specifically, received 2,313 entries/day. For the first performance of Hamilton, the entire house was free and exclusively available at TodayTix. And now people are paying tens of thousands of dollars a ticket. It was amazing to be a part of an early drive of awareness for that show.
Any general advice you would give founders just starting out?
You can't do it alone. My co-founder, Brian and I have known eachother for 20 years, we actually met at theater camp as 12 year olds. We both have experience in the business world, and producing on Broadway, but I’ve learned that there is so much to do as an entrepreneur. Having two people has been extremely helpful when tackling big decisions.
What can we expect to see from TodayTix in the near future?
TodayTix is very focused on geographic expansion and product innovation. Over the last year or so alone, we’ve launched in London, the San Francisco Bay Area, L.A, Washington D.C, Chicago, and we’re currently in beta in Boston and Connecticut. We have a handful of additional cities coming out over the next 6 months or so including some international cities, which we are really excited about. Our tech team and product team are hard at work to ensure we continuously deliver the most user-friendly experience possible.