Tickets Podcast: Building a global electronic music brand with Elrow’s Victor de la Serna

What do you get if you combine circus performance, immersive theatre, and electronic music? The answer is El row, a global events brand based in Barcelona.

The party started at a venue in the city in 2010, but this business goes back to the mid 19th century, staying in the same family for nearly 150 years.

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On the guest list today is Victor de la Serra, El Row’s global talent director, overseeing programming for events around the world.

In this highly entertaining conversation, we talk about the importance of thinking about the long game, how to stay ahead in a competitive market, and when mud and rain aren’t as bad as they seem.

 

Episode overview

04:00 The family business from 1870 to today

22:00 Why Barcelona is such a hotspot

24:30 The secret behind the ‘Tickets’ name

27:30 The tipping point for Elrow from local party to global brand

35:00 Elrow’s themes

46:00 Staying ahead in a competitive market, and maintaining work/life balance

51:00 Taking over one of London’s busiest shopping districts

Connecting different dots

I listened to a rather marvellous podcast last week. It featured Jerry Colonna, the founder of the coaching company Reboot, alongside legendary marketer, author and entrepreneur Seth Godin.

As I noted on Twitter, this conversation felt like listening to jazz after a long pop playlist.

It felt a little weird at first with an unusual time signature and rhythm – softly spoken, minor key not major.

After some time, you get into the groove and appreciate the subtle touches that most pop music doesn’t have because it’s been processed and compressed. This conversation was like a low-key neighbourhood jazz bar featuring the two resident players who just have this kind of music in their bones.

Anyway, amongst the various topics in the discussion, two came out at me, both of which were intertwined in the same part of the podcast.

First was the two types of work (I’m paraphrasing Seth & Jerry here in a slightly hacked together way, apologies):

  1. There’s the work where we know what to do and then there’s the work of ‘this might not work’. And the work of ‘I know what to do’ is the factory, it’s the assembly line, it’s the stopwatch. And we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that that’s safe work because it’s someone else’s responsibility
  2. Where a technology and innovation and culture make things better is when we’re confronting something that might not work, where we’re crossing a kind of abyss of unknownness, dancing with our fear.

Second was connecting dots vs collecting dots.

the collecting part’s not hard, it’s the connecting part that’s hard.

In this specific case, Seth was referring to the Ethiopian chicken story he told (worth checking out).

He wasn’t ‘friends’ with the story yet so was hesitant to tell it, but wanted to test it on people as collecting that story wasn’t particularly hard – connecting it was.

More broadly I believe he refers to collecting dots as badges of honour; things that work, where we know what to do and what to expect. They’re companies, projects, processes.

However, if you think about a different set of dots there’s something else to consider.

These dots are less polished, misshapen, or strange colours. Sometimes they’re so small we barely notice they’re even dots at all.

These dots can be stories. They can be ideas, data, postcards, diagrams. Almost anything really.

The week before I listened to the podcast I read this post by Matthew Sherret about anecdotes which in turn put me onto this by Giles Turnbull:

Excerpt:

Collect the things you think but never say. (This is what I call the “back pocket” strategy, after something I learned from Russell Davies back in the GDS days.) Sometimes, there are things your team or organisation would like to say, but for various reasons it cannot. Rather than just let those things fester somewhere then get forgotten, write them up as if they were being published. Put those things in a safe place. One day, even if they still cannot publish them, future-you might appreciate the memories they contain.

So while collecting dots may not be hard, perhaps there’s something valuable in collecting these different type of dots. The unsaid ideas, the out of date noticeboard notice.

If you’re collecting dots, it makes it easier to connect dots.

If you’ve got lots of different types of dots, there are more ways to connect them.

When you can both collect and connect, wonderful things can happen.

Maybe there are some different dots you can first collect, then connect.

Because that’s where the second type of work starts from.

Just like looking for the different dots, it’s hard.

But it’s worth it.

A bit like jazz I guess.

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How connected is your community?

I recently met someone running a daily newsletter focusing on news and trends in his industry.

It’s been going for a few months. He was understandably excited as he could see it starting to get some traction after a considerable time investment.

I asked him how he knew this. Was it sign ups, open rate, clicks, or something else?

He replied it was because people were opted in.

Here’s the thing – he wasn’t stating the obvious.

He didn’t mean what we normally think of as being opted in. Not just meeting GDPR requirements, or striving towards what Seth Godin refers to as ‘permission marketing’.

What he meant was going the next level beyond that.

Being opted in to the degree you’re invested.

Where you have a say in what’s delivered.

Where you’re a patron.

Being truly opted in.

People were replying to the newsletter unprompted to suggest improvements, new areas of the industry to explore, and making connections to other people he should speak with to get more feedback and ideas.

They were helping him craft the vision and roadmap of what he was doing.

It made his path clearer and his responsibility to his audience stronger. It made him more accountable.

You’ll see this trait in many strong communities and networks.

A good example is the successful Dutch newspaper De Correspondent.

After taking only 8 days to raise over 1 million euros in a crowdfunding campaign, last year they started a collaboration with NYU to better understand how communities and media companies can work more closely, with the public being at the heart of the publication’s work.

More broadly, the level of this deeper opt-in is a good heuristic for how powerful and connected a community is.

It could be a newsletter, a Slack group, or even a professional sports team.

 

What can you create where people are truly opted-in?

Tickets Podcast: What’s next in travel & tourism ticketing with Leith Stevens of Redeam

Think about the last trip you booked. You may have done it all from your mobile phone.

Flights – Kayak or SkyScanner.

Hotels? Expedia, Tablet, or maybe Hotel Tonight

Transfers – well, Uber and Lift make it easy

But what about a tour, an exhibition or an attraction at your destination? Even if the booking is online you may still need a paper ticket to gain entry. It’s a headache for both consumers & businesses alike.

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On the guest list today is Leith Stevens of Redeem, a Colorado based startup building digital ticket solutions for experiences around the globe.

In this conversation Leith gives us an insight into the inner workings of the tourism industry, the most interesting shifts in the ticketing business, and valuable advice for startups in all industries looking to go and build the right thing.

 

Episode Overview

04:00 How technology has impacted travel & tourism – from flights to hotels and tours

13:00 Lessons learned from startup 1 to startup 2

16:30 Disney’s Magic Band and the growth of multi-day passes for attractions

21:00 The fragmented tours & attractions market in 2018

23:30 A branding & digital marketing challenge

25:30 Starting Redeam – failed experiments and successful anchors

31:30 Trends in the ticketing business

35:30 Growth in the timeslot model

39:20 Resellers, distributors and secondary markets

41:30 Taking a trip to the Mexican cenotes

 

Tickets Podcast: The evolution of spaces to places with Bart Higgins, Partner at WhatIf Innovation

As the retail apocalypse looms large, the hospitality and entertainment industries are sitting up to take note, and the world of commercial office real estate is coming under threat like never before. The big question is what happens next.

On the guest list today is Bart Higgins, a partner at the international innovation consultancy WhatIf.

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Bart runs the firm’s 4D Experience practice, helping companies across retail, workspace, hospitality and entertainment identify new business models, create better experiences and build their internal capabilities.

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In this conversation Bart shares his insights into what other industries can learn from retail’s struggles, the future of the company town, and how real estate owners can reimagine the experiences they provide.

Episode overview
05:00 Lucky breaks and designing a workplace for Wired Magazine
13:00 Reimagining retail store design – people, place and technology
19:00 Lessons from Little Waitrose and Whole Foods
27:00 The new commercial opportunity in the world of work
30:00 The office apocalypse, the 3 models of real estate ownership, and 3 big shifts
37:00 The future of the company town
42:00 Advice for real estate developers
45:00 The emergence of an important new hybrid role
47:30 Managing tension between old and new working styles
52:00 Thinking human
55:00 Iron Maiden and supermarket shocks

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Tickets Podcast: Fusing music and technology with Sonar Festival’s Ventura Barba

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Make a list of the most respected international festivals and Sonar is bound to feature.

Starting in 1994 as a 3,000 capacity event in Barcelona, Sonar has grown to host over 120,000 attendees in the city each year and now has a presence in locations as diverse as Istanbul, Buenos Aires and Hong Kong.

On the guest list today is Ventura Barba, CEO of Sonar’s parent company Advanced Music. Having known the Sonar founders since that very first edition, he spent time at BMG and Yahoo Music before reconnecting with the founding team in 2009.

In this conversation we talk about how Sonar take their concept into new cities around the globe, the importance of featuring new technologies , and how brands are deepening their partnerships with festivals.

Episode overview

02:30 Sonar from 1994 to 2018

07:30 Expanding around the world and thinking about creative networks first

16:00 Sonar’s technology focus

26:00 Going out of your comfort zone to enable longevity

28:00 Brands as co-creators