The Ticketmaster Alternative

Such is the state of Ticketmaster nowadays that whenever my friends and I buy tickets, we arrange a little bet - whoever is charged the highest convenience fee wins. After buying Porcupine Tree tickets last week, I think I may have won; $10 is quite the fee for the sake of convenience.

So what's a disgruntled purveyor of events to do? If you're Adil Dhalla, you take matters into your own hands. The end result is a service called TicketTrunk, launched in 2007, with which the Toronto resident hopes fix some of Ticketmaster's most glaring flaws.

"We are simply a self service online box office, and it's intended to be affordable and easy for anyone, anywhere," explains Dhalla.

"The end result of what I think we'd like to do is the democratization of the online ticket industry."

Lofty goals you say? Perhaps. But instead of taking on our ticket overlords directly, Dhalla is catering to those least likely to fall into Ticketmaster's grasp. Local charities and local bands are just the sort of groups Ticketmaster won't touch, but TicketTrunk welcomes with open arms.

As Dhalla puts it, "They're not interested in the little guy, because they can't charge high service fees on a $10 ticket. So what's happened is the entire grassroots community has been completely underserved."

TicketTrunk's solution is simple - flat rate convenience charges of $1 per ticket, no matter the price, and paid for by event organizers. It's a smart move that means a $20 ticket really is a $20 ticket, sans the hidden fees and convenience charges.

But while the service is perfect for local events, don't expect to find big name acts on TicketTrunk's pages; the site lacks many of the bells and whistles a high-profile event organizer might expect, such as assigned seating, tiered pricing, and pre-sale capability. While the simplicity may turn some people off, Dhalla's own research has found that it's just the sort of approach TicketTrunk's audience is looking for.

"For us, I'm banking on people putting value in the fact that we are the most affordable hands down," remarks Dhalla, "and a site that your grandma could figure out how to use better than anyone."

To Dhalla's credit, creating an event is stupidly easy, requiring but one page of info, without much of the hassle and bureaucracy of the Ticketmaster empire. It's the sort of quick set-up that could prove useful for coffeehouse events, and cover for local bands, where entry is as simple as needing a ticket.

Yet, if there's one cue Dhalla could take from sites like Ticketmaster, it's the ease with which buyers can simply browse new and upcoming events. Searching for an event through TicketTrunk almost requires previous knowledge of existence, which makes the discovery of local events more difficult.

It's an expanded feature that could prove particularly beneficial, considering the site's success in local settings like Toronto's. Dhalla estimates that close to 90% of the site's traffic currently comes from the GTA, though that's beginning to change as well. In fact, the last two weeks alone have seen TicketTrunk's traffic spike by 1700%, thanks to a number of big-name events.

But not too big. Not yet, at least.

"We care about and cater to all the events going on around the city, whether it's the performance venues, galleries, community centers or people's houses," he remarks.

"We really try to maintain this idea that the main person is the proverbial little guy, by being fair and transparent and accessible as much as possible."

Full disclosure: TicketTrunk is currently an advertiser on blogTO. To prevent any potential for conflict of interest, this post was written by a contributor not involved with any of blogTO's advertising initiatives or programs.

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