In a corner of the desk of Dan Robinson, manager of the Juilliard box office, sits a multicolored stack of untouched performance tickets. They may well remain untouched—Juilliard’s now four-month-old online ticketing system is gradually phasing out the paper ticketing methods that have stood for decades.
Online ticketing is pretty common these days, but the fact that at Juilliard there are numerous productions that take place in many venues, as well as varying prices and levels of availability for faculty, students, alumni, and the general public, made overhauling the ticketing structure a challenging proposition. Conversations about doing so began about a year and a half ago.
“It’s the way things are headed, and we have to join the 21st century,” Robinson told The Journal in a recent interview. “As far as accounting goes, it’s great—before it was all manual: ledgers and spreadsheets.”
With the new system now in place, concertgoers can get tickets as soon as they become available, choose their preferred seats, and avoid box-office lines. According to Robinson, more tickets will be available thanks to new ways of working with the numbers afforded by the system. Something that hasn’t changed, though, is the good advice not to wait too long to get your tickets. “You have to really be proactive and go [online] early to get these tickets because things do sell out.” Robinson said. “The early bird gets the worm.”
The new ticketing system was launched in January. The School hopes it will not only make ticketing easier and less wasteful, but will change the relationship between the School and visitors to its performances. The new system aims to create a database of ticket buyers, so that Juilliard can better understand who is coming to concerts and other events—and also who is not. This information was impossible to reliably gather before, when the box office’s manual system collected only the numbers of seats occupied at a given performance.
“It’s a completely new way of handling our tickets,” Nicholas Saunders, director of the Juilliard Concert Office, told The Journal. “It’s a major, major sea change for what we do.”
To gather enough information to understand the makeup of Juilliard concertgoers while still providing the ability to get tickets, a single automated system was called for. Now, benefits like student allotments and alumni discounts are applied automatically when people order their tickets online.
Prior to the new system there had been a rudimentary online ticketing system, but it was limited both in function and scope, Robinson said. The new one was developed with Spektrix, a London-based online ticketing company that was founded in 2007 and has helped institute ticketing systems mostly in Europe. Among its clients are the Royal Court Theatre, Belgrade Theatre, and Bristol Old Vic.
In a recent phone interview, James Baggaley, the head of strategy and international for the company, told The Journal that Juilliard, one of Spektrix’s first U.S. customers, is a unique client. “A lot of our other clients are performing-arts organizations for whom selling tickets is their main raison d’être,” he said. “Whereas working with the School, performances are very much there to support the students and the academic and cultural life of the Juilliard community.”
As the system continues to roll out, features will be added and the interface will be smoothed out. A kiosk is slated to be installed near the existing box office, so that people can order and print out their tickets at Juilliard. Considering the estimated 50,000 tickets sold per year, for concertgoers, that adds up to a significant amount of time saved from having to stand in lines.
“The objectives,” Saunders said, “are to increase the number of people attending the performances, to increase what we know about the people attending the performances, and to make accomplishing these goals easier.”