With $65m raised, can DICE satisfy its growth ambitions (even considering the colossal market power of Ticketmaster)?

MBW Reacts is a series of analytical commentaries from Music Business Worldwide written in response to major recent entertainment events or news stories. Only MBW+ subscribers have unlimited access to these articles.

As far as mission statements go, DICE‘s is a fun one. The mobile ticketing company says it wants to “get people out more” – to concerts and other live events.

Key to the UK-born tech startup’s growth and sustainability, obviously, is the fact that it wants people to use its app to buy their tickets – and it’s just raised USD $65 million in fresh capital to help it expand.

DICE’s app – with its up-front prices, discovery and personalization features, plus tickets locked to individuals’ phones to help prevent scalping – is the ticketing company’s USP in a market dominated by Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster.

Launched in London in 2014, DICE now claims to be “the world’s largest independent music ticketing platform” and says that “millions of fans” use its platform to discover and attend live events.

DICE also reports that over 55,000 artists and 10,000+ venues, festivals and promoters will use DICE to sell their tickets across 30 cities this year.

But can DICE now grow its global business yet more, fueled by that $65 million injection, and start to nibble into Ticketmaster’s vast global market share?

Understanding the market

To put Ticketmaster’s position in the global ticketing market into perspective, Live Nation reported at the end of Q2 that it expects 2023 to bring with it record sales for TM.

As of the end of June 2023, Ticketmaster had sold 151 million ‘fee-bearing’ tickets around the globe this year – up 22% YoY. That’s around 830,000 tickets sold… a day.

Indeed, in the first six months of this year, Live Nation’s ticketing business (i.e. Ticketmaster) generated USD $1.39 billion in revenues, up 32% YoY at constant currency.

Yet MBW readers will know that Ticketmaster’s dominant positioning in the market has come under fire in recent months from two outspoken and influential factions: music fans and lawmakers.

A duo of key events that have fueled this scrutiny:

  • In November 2022, Taylor Swift fans were locked out of Ticketmaster’s site after demand outstripped supply for the superstar’s Era’s Tour pre-sale. The debacle led to calls, including from members of Congress, for Live Nation and Ticketmaster to be broken up.
  • Meanwhile, Ticketmaster’s ‘Dynamic Pricing’ system – which adjusts prices in real-time based on demand – sparked controversy during the sale of tickets for Bruce Springsteen’s 2023 US tour, resulting in some tickets being priced as high as $5,000.

Following these two events and subsequent outcry from fans (as well as industry commentators), in May US Congressmen Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Frank Pallone, Jr. introduced a bill called the ‘Boss and Swift Act’ to address what they claimed to be the “badly corrupted” live events ticket market.

The proposed legislation followed the introduction of the ‘Taylor Swift bill’ in Massachusetts, which would require ticket-selling companies or resellers to disclose the complete cost of tickets, including all required and associated fees, before customers make a purchase.

Hidden fees, or so-called ‘junk fees’, were even addressed by US President Joe Biden at a press conference at the White House in June.

In attendance at that high-profile meeting were representatives from a number of ticketing companies, including Tom See – President of Live Nation Venues, Live Nation – and Phil Hutcheon, founder and CEO of DICE.

Such pressure from the upper reaches of the White House led Ticketmaster (and other players in the market) to commit to offering ‘all-in pricing’ to consumers, with the entire fee presented upfront at the point of purchase.

DICE’s big-dollar backers

DICE’s historically “transparent” approach to ticket selling, and its global expansion to date (the company launched in New York and LA in 2019, and in Germany in 2020), has caught the attention of deep-pocketed financial players and music industry heavyweights alike.

In 2021, DICE raised $122 million in a series C round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, with investments from Tony Fadell’s Future Shape, Blisce, French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, Mirabaud, Cassius, and Evolution.

And, as mentioned, earlier this month, DICE announced an additional $65 million in new funding, bringing the company’s total raised across these two rounds to $187 million.

The latest round was led by MUSIC, the investment company co-founded by Matt Pincus and LionTree.

The round also attracted investment from Ahdritz Holding LLC, the investment vehicle for Willard Ahdritz, founder and Chairman of Kobalt Music Group.

“The live sector is really exciting right now for a whole lot of reasons. It is also ripe for evolution in a lot of ways, and DICE are the best people to steward that change.”

Matt Pincus, MUSIC

Pincus, who now joins the DICE Board of Directors, tells MBW: “I look at DICE as my bet on what’s going on, most critically, in the live sector.”

He adds: “The live sector is really exciting right now for a whole lot of reasons. It is also ripe for evolution in a lot of ways. To me, Phil and his team at DICE are the best people to steward that change.

“[In Pincus’ investments] I look for great leaders and particularly people who are trying to pull off a caper, like, ‘How can we make ticket buying fun? How can we change what is historically a negative experience into an overwhelmingly positive one?’

“Those are pretty significant and somewhat audacious things to try to do.”

In recent months, MUSIC has invested in B2B music streaming service Soundtrack Your Brand and Atlanta-based music company LVRN (Love Renaissance); it’s also previously backed music-making platform Splice.

“DICE fits into my portfolio along the other with the companies I’ve taken significant positions in that all, in their own sectors, have a similar role,” says Pincus.

Prior to launching MUSIC in partnership with Liontree (plus investors JS Capital Management and Schusterman Family Investments), and raising $200 million in capital in May 2022, Pincus spent a long time in the music publishing business.

He founded SONGS in 2004 and sold the business to Kobalt Capital for a nine-figure fee in 2017.

Commenting on questions around potential regulation in the ticketing business today, and DICE’s market position amid that potential regulation, Pincus says: “I was, for a long time, in another [part] of the music industry that’s highly regulated – music publishing. Regulation matters, and government getting involved in business always changes the dynamic.

“But at the end of the day, SONGS was successful not because we handled the regulatory environment in a particular way, but because we simply did a good job for the people that were involved with our business over and over again.

“So regulated or unregulated, it’s important to provide value to the people that are constituents in your business’s success. [In DICE’s case], that’s venues, that’s artists, that’s fans.”

Are people starting to ‘lose trust’ in the ticketing system?

Speaking with MBW ahead of DICE’s $65 million funding round announcement, DICE CEO Phil Hutcheon addressed issues in the ticketing industry from hidden fees to excessive pricing – especially in the secondary market.

“You think something is one price and you get to the end it’s a different price, you just feel cheated. People start losing trust in the system,” said Hutcheon.

“And then when those tickets are resold for multiple amounts, it just pisses off everyone who’s involved. The artist is upset, their management is upset. And then, particularly, the fan is upset because it’s so expensive.”

“We believe the live market has huge growth potential by [DICE] being transparent and, as such, there’s plenty of room for our ambition.”

Phil Hutcheon

Commenting further about his predictions for the future of the ticketing business amid calls for regulation around pricing and the secondary market, Hutcheon added: “These are issues which have got to the top of the [US] government, and they’re really pushing for reform now.

“If you look at the practice [of ticket selling] in the UK, it’s a very different world today than when we started. We definitely helped to get people commercially to think about these issues – it has to change for consumers.”

With $65 million in fresh funding, and DICE’s expansion plans in the works, MBW asked Hutcheon if he believes there’s enough room in the global ticketing market – especially considering Ticketmasters’ continued dominance – to satisfy his company’s ambitions.

Hutcheon replied: “Our strategy is to get more fans out more often. Venues who work with DICE love that their shows are selling much better, and artists are happy to know that their tickets are safe.

“We believe the live market has huge growth potential by [DICE] being transparent and, as such, there’s plenty of room for our ambition.”Music Business Worldwide

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