Eventbrite | Customer Story

Why Two Iconic Chicago Venues Ditched Their In-House Ticketing System

If you’re a music fan living in Chicago, you’ve been to either Lincoln Hall or Schubas Tavern — most likely both. Schubas Tavern is 27 years old, and is housed in a repurposed tied house. Lincoln Hall is its newer counterpart, hosting larger crowds in a gorgeous theater that was built in 1912. Run by the same owner, the rooms are two of Chicago’s most iconic venues, selling more than 137,000 combined tickets to 600 shows last year.

The venues booked bands like Foster the People and Mumford & Sons before they became household names. But despite being on the cutting edge of live music, they were seriously outdated when it came to technology.

“Schubas was the local watering hole we’d go to for a beer,” says Adam Thurston, the Director of Operations at Audiotree, who took ownership of both Lincoln Hall and Schubas Tavern less than two years ago. “We loved seeing shows there. Our goal as owners was to keep things as they were as much as possible.”

But Thurston soon discovered that not every part of the venues was so charming. Namely, their in-house ticketing system was painfully outdated. It took the team hours to manage simple tasks, and it took fans five frustrating minutes to buy tickets to a show online. It was hurting their brand, their fans, and their business.

“In a major market like Chicago, there’s tons of great music venues in town, with one or two new opening each year,” Thurston says. “We’re also in competition with everything else that’s going on in this city.” With stakes that high, he knew they couldn’t let anything hold them back.

By the numbers

2

venues

600+

shows a year

27

years of history

137k

tickets sold in 2015

The challenge: A ticketing system that cost time — and sales

“Our old ticketing platform made it very cumbersome and tedious just to check ticket counts or add shows,” Thurston says. “A team of six manages booking, confirming, scheduling, and building out 600 shows a year. Every hour they have is important.”

Unfortunately, the busy team was wasting hours each week on repetitive, manual processes. And every hour they wasted was an hour they didn’t spend on creative strategies to market shows and reach new fans.

Their outdated ticketing system wasn't just wasting their time — it was also costing them ticket sales. The backend of their ticketing website was cobbled together, and fans of the rooms struggled to buy tickets online. A process that should take less than thirty seconds often took people five minutes to complete — and was even worse on mobile. “People started that process, then got distracted and gave up,” Thurston says.

Thurston wasn’t willing to lose ticket sales — and fans — any longer. He decided it was time to find a ticketing system as respected as their rooms were. With that in mind, he started the search for a ticketing partner who could help him achieve four key goals:

> Attract new fans

> Save staff precious time

> Make ticket purchasing easy

> Unify their off- and online brands

Choosing a ticketing partner

Thurston was already familiar with Eventbrite, as the ticketing partner of a one-day festival Audiotree hosts in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “Right from the beginning, Eventbrite was easy to use,” Thurston says. “We were very impressed with not only the platform, but also with the music team that’s been assembled from top to bottom."

Reaching beyond their existing audience to find new fans

One major factor in Thurston’s evaluation of ticketing platforms was their ability to reach entirely new fans.

"Other ticketing companies touted that they do nothing but music,” Thurston says. “As two established venues, we already know we have a massive following of music fans. But since Eventbrite tickets more than just music, that can introduce us to other locals who might not have found us somewhere else. Because they’ve been ticketed through Eventbrite, they’ll find out about us, and we can gain new fans and new regulars.”

Audiotree now has access to the 50 million active ticket buyers who use Eventbrite each year. And event-goers in Chicago will find out about Lincoln Hall and Schubas Tavern shows through Eventbrite’s targeted newsletters and personalized discovery platform. With the marketing potential to reach thousands of new fans, their choice was clear.

“From day one with Eventbrite, we were treated as a second-to-none priority. We were very impressed with the caliber of people on the team, with backgrounds from every big ticketing and music company out there.”

Adam Thurston, Director of Operations, Audiotree

Saving hours each week on ticketing, booking, and marketing

For a small team managing more than 600 shows a year, every hour is precious. Their homemade system didn’t just slow their booking and ticketing process, it also resulted in numerous customer service inquiries. “Every hour they spend on tedious processes — like ticket counts or customer service inquiries — takes up time that could be used to improve our marketing,” Thurston said.

With Eventbrite’s straightforward ticketing backend, the team can save hours each week setting up shows. They can efficiently set up shows in bulk with scheduled onsale times, and they have instant access to real-time sales data for settlement and analysis across shows.

But the time savings begin even before tickets go on sale. The team can use Queue by Eventbrite, a booking calendar that streamlines holds, to quickly and efficiently communicate with countless artist managers each month.

The team is also able to simplify their current marketing efforts. They used to manage their Mailchimp account with a tedious copy-and-paste process. But now, the system will integrate with their ticketing platform to sync attendee data. “The MailChimp Eventbrite integration will definitely save time,” says Thurston.

Making ticket purchases easy

Thurston and his team are focused on creating a premium experience for fans. “So many fans are used to going to venues where they only have crap beer for $9, security guards that treat you like an inconvenience, and a dingy, dark atmosphere,” Thurston says. “We want to be a really nice place with a fantastic beer program, and welcoming staff. We put a lot of effort into making a great experience, because that sets us apart.”

Thurston knows that the attendee experience begins long before fans show up at the door. But before switching to Eventbrite, fans trying to buy tickets online had to soldier through six to eight steps to add tickets to their cart.

The situation was even worse on mobile. “Once you clicked ‘Buy Ticket,’ it took you to an old online cart with all these buttons, and five different lines of address and billing info. It took five minutes to make a purchase,” Thurston says. “So how many people actually finished that?”

Thurston knew this was unacceptably slow. For Thurston and his team, choosing Eventbrite meant they could create a premium experience for fans from the moment they bought a ticket. “Everything Eventbrite’s doing on mobile makes it as easy as possible for fans to buy tickets,” Thurston says. “We have returning fans who go to multiple shows, and with their saved account, it’s a two-click process to buy tickets. That will increase sales, and up the number of people who come through the doors.”

With a two-step, mobile-friendly purchase process, people buying tickets on Eventbrite are four times more likely to complete their purchase than people on an average ecommerce site. And with the ability to sell tickets directly on Facebook and the venues’ website, Thurston can turn even more fans into ticket buyers.

“Eventbrite is focused on being on the cutting edge, to make the best experience for everybody. They're more of a tech company than a ticketing company, and that set Eventbrite apart for us.”

Adam Thurston, Director of Operations, Audiotree

Photo Credits: Erica McKeehen (1,3,4,5), Zach Spinnern (2), Victoria Sanders (6).

Bringing their online brand to life

The Lincoln Hall and Schubas Tavern website was desperately in need of an upgrade. Patched together with their ticketing system, the result was an inferior experience that didn’t reflect the venues’ brand.

“We’re building a new website with both venues side by side,” Thurston says. “It’s a custom site built by Spacecraft, with a backend that’s fully powered by Eventbrite.” Thanks to an integration between Spacecraft and Eventbrite, their professionally designed, custom website now automatically updates show information like start time, lineup, or the feature image as it’s changed in Eventbrite.

Upgrading their website was especially important to Thurston, since they’re focused on building Lincoln Hall and Schubas Taverns’ audience through online streaming.

“As a music club owner, once you sell out a show, you can’t sell any more tickets,” Thurston says. “Using new partners and sponsors, we’re working to bring those shows to life through streaming.” And it’s working — Audiotree has a YouTube channel with 180,000 subscribers, which Thurston says is climbing by about 5,000 each month. In the process, Thurston has been able to attract sponsors like Lyft and Lagunitas for their streams.

“It’s a great way for us to share their brand recognition,” Thurston says. “People are consuming this media, which is allowing us to get the word out and build a worldwide fan base. The venues and the streaming feed off of each other.”

Ultimately, their new online presence has helped bring the atmosphere in the room to life online. Not only does it create a better brand experience for fans, but it’s opened entirely untapped revenue potential for the classic venues.

“From the first moment of buying a ticket to walking out the doors, we set ourselves apart. That’s what’s going to keep us in business for a long time.”

Adam Thuston, Director of Operations, Audiotree

Looking for new ways to save time and attract new fans?

Get in touch with Audiotree's ticketing team by contacting us here or calling (866) 902-2531.

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