January 16, 2014: 7:26 AM ET
Detail from the Goldstar app for Apple’s iPhone.
FORTUNE — It is getting harder and harder to leave the house. There is literally a lifetime’s worth of digital content available at home through services like Netflix, Hulu, and regular cable TV. Once you have finished viewing a show or movie, you are immediately pulled into the next program. “You may also like…” is an algorithmic addiction unto itself.
But people still like to get out, socialize, and enjoy the thrills of a live event. Music concerts, comedy shows, Broadway musicals and sports matches — they all offer distinctly different experiences from the living room. What they don’t have is a “You may also like…” to bring you back as easily as their digital counterparts.
That is especially troublesome when success rides on the number of filled seats in a room, theater, or stadium. Sure, the NFL’s Super Bowl will always sell out. But what about the very long tail of events that aren’t quite as blockbuster? How do entertainment companies match people with events they know you’ll like?
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Ticketing companies like Pasadena, Calif.-based Goldstar and San Francisco-based Eventbrite are using increasingly sophisticated means — often digital — to match event and audience.
“Thirty to forty percent of events are not sold out,” said Mike Janes, a former StubHub CMO who also founded FanSnap. “[Venues] are always looking for new marketing channels to raise awareness of events.”
The gap exists even as interest continues to rise for live entertainment, owing to a cultural shift that values the experiential over the physical,” Janes said. “It’s like the old saying: ‘You can’t take it with you,’ ” he said. “You can take pictures and tell people you were there. That’s bragging rights for the rest of your life. Events are inherently social. It’s a shared experience.”
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Goldstar is working to address the issue with a focus on mobile devices. Of the roughly 10 million tickets it has sold, one million were processed through its mobile app. The company is also trying to differentiate itself through event curation; it works with venues in major cities to find an array of live experiences, from a concert or game to a cruise or pub crawl. It will also discount tickets in an effort to fill empty seats.
Goldstar CEO Jim McCarthy started the company in the midst of the dot-com crash. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, he was worried that people wouldn’t want to publicly gather in large groups anymore. Instead, he found the opposite. “People needed to be someplace where they felt connected to other people,” McCarthy said.
At Eventbrite, the focus is on self-service event ticketing. Its customers can create an event — from a thousand-person concert to a discussion to a thirteen-strong yoga class — and sell tickets to it online. The event can also be shared over social media channels, where discovery is on the rise, allowing people to see when their friends buy tickets to an event. The idea? Speed or scale attendance for an event that may otherwise only spread through word of mouth.
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“People can find really niche personal things,” said Terra Carmichael, head of global communications at Eventbrite. She added that the company also has a sales team to reach out to venues for larger events. “It’s a two-sided marketplace. We help organizers create, promote, and sell tickets. That density has made people come to our site [first] to find things to do.”
Both ticketing companies are taking advantage of a fragmenting customer base that is gravitating to social (and often mobile) platforms to find and discover things of interest, often on the go. If they succeed, more people will opt to go to more live events — say, from pub crawl to movie night in the same trip — rather than ride home for a Netflix binge born out of boredom.Tags: concert, movie, music, tv