Ticketmaster product chief: ‘Half our company is now tech-oriented’

11 Aug 2017

Troy Suda, VP of product at Ticketmaster. Image: Ticketmaster

Troy Suda, VP of product at Ticketmaster, explains how open APIs are key to the future of global ticketing.

Troy Suda is Live Nation Entertainment company Ticketmaster’s international vice-president of product, responsible for defining and implementing the company’s product strategy and development across 15 countries, including Turkey, Australia and New Zealand.

He leads a team of more than 30 product and creative experts at Tech City, London.

‘Most developers don’t develop applications for a single market, they are developing global applications’

Future Human

Suda has held a number of senior roles in high-profile brands in Europe, including senior director of global retail e-commerce at Hotels.com (Expedia Inc), and global head of hotels and emerging online business at Lonely Planet. He also gained experience in various marketing, strategy and product development roles during a decade-long tenure at Australian retailer Coles Group & Myer.

Ticketmaster recently held a hackathon in Dublin where it opened up its latest APIs to local software developers.

How would you describe the future of Ticketmaster and what is your vision for the future of the brand and the product?

The reason we have sold such an enormous volume of tickets and events on our platform is because of the tools that we provide to event organisers and promoters and venues.

That’s the bit as a general customer you never see because of the business SaaS (software-as-a-service) tools that we provide. That is a very big area that we are investing heavily in because we want to have the best-in-class tools for event organisers to manage their pricing, inventory and the distribution channels they want to enable.

We believe that by having best-in-class B2B tools for our clients, that will enable us to get access to more tickets in the market, to then be able to sell through our consumer experience channels.

Ultimately, the goal for Ticketmaster is that we won’t always be the place where people come to buy tickets, but, if they do come to Ticketmaster, we want to have everything.

And so, having those B2B tools maximises our potential to get as much inventory as possible onto our platform, with APIs that distribute them everywhere.

Ultimately, the goal is to deal on the supply side from a B2B perspective, and that provides a one-stop-shop to enable consumers to get access to tickets.

What are the primary areas of IT investment at Ticketmaster?

I would say that the two primary areas for our investment are: firstly, world-class tools for event organisers and venues and, secondly, we are investing heavily in our consumer experience.

Both web and mobile are undergoing serious investment, mainly due to the fact that we see this huge opportunity for us to improve what we have.

If you look at the Ticketmaster mobile app in Ireland, it has been updated quite regularly over the last six months, and all of those improvements in the experience are all about trying to make it easier for customers to find events they may want to go to.

We are doing the same thing on the web as well. Over time, you will see significantly different experiences for Ticketmaster fans in Ireland.

It is really important that we continue that investment because if you look at Ticketmaster in the past, I think that sometimes we may have fallen short of what consumer expectations of the largest ticketing company in the world are.

And so, we are investing very heavily in making sure that we have not only the world’s biggest supply of content that you can buy, but also the best experience to buy it from.

What steps have you taken to simplify your own internal structures and legacy systems?

There is a huge amount of platform modernisation going on. Ticketmaster has also acquired a number of companies in different segments and what this has meant is, people like myself have the challenge of all the existing technology stack that we have, but also all the incremental stuff that we have acquired.

How do we integrate and modernise our platform, and select the best components from each of those platforms and build them together, so we don’t have five different systems trying to do the same task, but a best-in-breed tool that services all of the systems we have?

Platform modernisation, for us, is an ongoing journey, and if you talk to any technology company that has been around for 30 years or so, they will have similar efforts underway.

We have, I would say, made quite a remarkable amount of progress in the past two years, specifically on really modernising the internal platforms that we have. A lot of that effort isn’t necessarily immediately visible to an end consumer but, as we develop new features, a lot of them rely on the modernisation opportunities.

With our developer APIs that we used at the hackathon in Dublin, this a perfect example of where multiple ticketing systems from multiple countries – all of that content we have across the world – are all available in a single API.

Historically, we had different ticketing systems in different countries because we acquired businesses in those markets. But that shouldn’t be something that a developer should have to worry about and so, our open API has the events from all those ticketing systems across the world.

So it really is a one-stop shop for developers to get access to all our content without having to do multiple integrations with multiple APIs that are all to do with different structures.

This goes front and centre of our strategy whereby we need to be open, it’s not just a matter of turning on APIs. If you are a developer, you want the easiest way of integrating.

Most developers don’t develop applications for a single market, they are developing global applications.

What is the size of your innovation engine and how much of Ticketmaster today is technology-oriented?

More than half of our team all work on technology. That could be anything from engineers and tech ops people, through to product managers and designers and programme managers, who manage the complexity of these projects.

As a business, the fundamental view is, we get to capitalise on the diversity of being a global company, not just building stuff with one market in mind. We are trying to come up with strategies that meet the needs of every country we operate in and so, we are very deliberate about not having a single location where we develop our product.

We have quite large development centres here in London where I am based, but also in Sweden, Canada and in Belgrade as well.

For us, it is really important that we leverage the diversity of the talent within our company to work out what are the best innovations we can come up with that resonate globally.

We work very closely with our colleagues in Ticketmaster North America, who have significant development resources across multiple locations.

Most of the work we are doing is truly leveraging our global scale and collaborating across all of our offices to build best-of-breed solutions and modernise our tech as well.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years