When it comes to the ticketing industry and box office careers, there is more than meets the eye.
According to Maureen Andersen, president and CEO of the International Ticketing Association (INTIX), many people think of a position in the box office as a lackluster job. But she said she would never call ticket work a boring career—instead, she would probably rattle off a dozen adjectives that perfectly describe the often misunderstood industry: chaotic, surprising, rewarding, fast-paced, challenging, enchanting.
She’d tell you that her business— “show business,” as she calls it—is the product of pure magic and that she’s the illusionist who is pulling the strings behind the curtain.
This week, Andersen was recognized as the College of Hospitality Management’s 61st Distinguished Visiting Professor during an event on the Johnson & Wales University campus in Providence. Andersen, a 35-plus-year veteran of the entertainment industry and a self-proclaimed “ticket gypsy,” spoke to students about the behind-the-scenes pieces of the ticket office that people often fail to see.
A Spell is Cast
According to Andersen, she started her journey in the complicated and thriving world of ticket sales as a performing arts student in college. She always wanted to be on the stage, but it was during an internship—when she was tasked with choosing an additional job—that she discovered that she didn’t have any other talents that could support the production of a show. She didn’t know much about sewing, so costume design was out. She didn’t have much experience with electrical applications or technology, so sound, lighting, and display were definitely out. Finally, they asked her if she could type.
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “I can type!”
And so she landed herself a role in the ticket office. Quickly, she learned that the office was the nucleus of the entire theatre operation, giving life to each show and audience through the open ticket window. Without the box office, there would be no audience, no records, no control, and no show.
“The ticket office is the barometer, heartbeat, and pulse of the whole production,” she said. “We reinvent ourselves in seconds—we’re controlling and we like it.”
While she loved being on the stage and performing for a crowd, Andersen discovered that she was far better at the business side of theatre because she was passionate and willing to do anything to help the show go on.
For 23 years, she served as the Director of Ticketing Services for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. After that, she worked as the Vice President of Arts & Entertainment at Audience View, before ending up at the forefront of INTIX.
“The love of show business is in my blood,” she said. “I could never do a ‘normal’ job.”
It’s Not Just Smoke and Mirrors
Throughout her career, she’s learned countless things about ticketing, the entertainment industry, and herself. In addition to learning about the specific roles in a ticket office, she learned how to write a press release, tame a media circus, juggle several tasks at once, and even how to spot the qualities that make for a great ticketing employee. (She said the best employee she ever had was a cardiothoracic surgeon, who just really needed a break from the chaos of the ER because he was calm and really great under pressure!)
As far as giving advice to those entering the industry, Andersen says there’s one major thing she wants students to know these days: data is king.
“The event experience starts far before the audience enters. The data is yours—mine it,” she said. “Use it to provide content that will be relevant to your patrons. Communicate with them in ways that they want to communicate.”
Behind The Curtain
If you ask Andersen what a ticket salesperson actually does, you might be surprised at the answer she gives you.
“We’re marketers, accounting professionals, customer service individuals, teachers, and fundraisers,” she said. “We’re a well-oiled machine that is collectively working together. We get to create the magic.”
And she’d tell you that the misconceptions surrounding ticketing are just a bunch of hocus pocus.