With no live shows, ticketing company Ticket2Me innovates to survive pandemic

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Aug 08 2020 10:08 AM

The Ticket2Me team and their booth at the RISE tech conference in Hong Kong last year. Ticket2Me was the only Philippine ticketing startup who was invited to set up at the annual prestigious meet. Photo courtesy of Darwin Mariano 

MANILA -- Being the first Filipino-owned fully digital ticketing company, Ticket2Me has become a major player in a small but highly competitive industry. And to think, they are just two years in the business. 

“We noticed when we entered the arena, so to speak, the other legacy companies started to advertise their websites as well. For example, a major ticketing company would advertise their phone number lang, then we noticed slowly nagiging website na. The other one followed too,” Carlo Miguel Francia, chief communications and people officer of Ticket2Me told ABS-CBN News. 

It’s not an easy climb to where they are now. Francia said during their first few months of operation, they couldn’t get in the venues where their competitors “still flex exclusivity.”

But with hard work and perseverance, in a year’s time, they were able to penetrate a monopoly at a major performing arts center. 

“Ang feedback din ng theater show buyers is that they really want to use us also, but the other ticketing company would threaten them na they wouldn't be able to use them if they went with us. E kami naman we don't ask for exclusivity; it should be the organizer, producer, and show buyer's right to choose,” Francia said. 

Understanding the market and all sides of the business, this ticketing firm with the sing-song name grew bigger than Francia and his partner, Ticket2Me chief executive officer-president Darwin Mariano, could imagine. 

Now, with the stoppage of live shows and events, Ticket2Me has learned to adapt with the “new normal.” Going out of their comfort zones, they are partnering with various stakeholders.

“It’s been very challenging, really. Up until the start of the pandemic, live events were the lifeline of Ticket2Me. That all came to a sudden halt when COVID-19 restrictions were put into place. As stated, we’ve quickly pivoted by catering to clients and their online events. The response has been amazingly positive and we look forward to continue working with our loyal clients and start working with our new partners,” Mariano told ABS-CBN News in an online interview. 

LOVE FOR THEATER

Years before they started Ticket2Me, Mariano and Francia have been producing stage plays like “Orosman at Zafira” and “Maxie the Musical” with Bit by Bit Company, the older sister of Ticket2Me. “Maxie” was supposed to have its return to the stage last July at the Arete if not for the pandemic. It is now rescheduled in April 2021.

The Ticket2Me team members meet with 'Maxie the Musical' director Dexter Santos early this year. 'Maxie the Musical' has been postponed to April 2021. Photo courtesy of Darwin Mariano 

During the first few weeks of the lockdown, Ticket2Me had been involved in fund-raising events for displaced theater artists. 

“We spoke with our friends at Third World Improv and proposed a fundraising campaign for displaced theater artists. They then introduced us to people from Artists Welfare Project, Inc., PhilStage, and the Theater Actors Guild. The consolidated effort would then be known as the Open House Fundraiser,” Mariano said. 

“We also helped our close friend, Alemberg Ang, with Lockdown Cinema Club, a fundraiser for displaced film workers. I also helped my friend Marian Pastor Roces in the early days of Ryan Cayabyab’s ‘Bayanihan Musikahan’ but our platform was already swamped with other campaigns at that time so couldn’t host the fundraiser anymore. We also helped the Bleecker Music Group with Likha, a Facebook concert series fundraiser for artists and songwriters,” he added. 

This was followed by their partnership with Kaya Natin!, a non-profit and non-government organization that aims for good governance and ethical leadership in the Philippines. 

One may wonder, where do the tickets come in? How are tickets even related to something non-palpable as “ethical leadership”?

Darwin explained: “When the lockdown was implemented, my family members and friends who are doctors told me that they were ill-equipped to handle the onslaught of COVID-19 victims because of a shortage in supplies. I then reached out to my friend Harvey Keh, the lead convenor of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership. 

“Because we have worked together on several projects in the past, we quickly ironed out the details for the campaign. The fundraising campaign to equip our medical front liners with much-needed personal protective equipment and food packs was quickly launched two days after the lockdown was announced.”

The said fundraising campaign was in coordination with the office of Vice President Leni Robredo. 

“We helped raise P16,000,442.59 for our brave medical frontliners,” said Mariano. 

Ticket2Me Founder and CEO Darwin Mariano facilitates delivery of donated PPEs to St. Jude Hospital at the height of the ECQ last March. Photo courtesy of Darwin Mariano 

Not only that but as of June 2020, Ticket2Me has hosted more than 20 fundraising campaigns and raised more than P18 million collectively. This amount has given aid to displaced workers in the film and performing arts industries and the construction of emergency quarantine facilities throughout Metro Manila.

And there’s more. 

Mariano enumerated: “We have the campaign with Kaya Natin, Open House Fundraiser, #Healing Hearts and Project RICE Up for GMA Network, Emergency Quarantine Facilities by WTA Architecture and Design Studio, Mabuhay ang Wrestling! Mabuhay ang Pilipino! by the Philippine Wrestling Revolution, KALingain ang Kapwa Fund by the UP College of Arts and Letters, Team as One! Food for Fighters, a food relief effort for health liners organized by Otacute PH, Basta Ikaw! organized by Yuppie Days with the Lord, and Health Emergency Response by Health Vision.”

Ticket2Me is also part of the Open House campaign, a fundraising project for the benefit of the performing arts community. The other groups involved are the Artist Welfare Project Inc (AWPI), PhilStage, SPIT MNL, Third World Improv and the Theater Actor’s Guild. 

“AWPI has been leading the effort to distribute the assistance to beneficiaries. The campaign I understand is preparing for a possible Act II. The beneficiary of Open House is AWPI led by the amazing Jenny Bonto. There are certain eligibility requirements in place and after a beneficiary is deemed eligible, AWPI disburses P2,000 to them in financial aid,” said Mariano. 

Ticket2Me Founder and CEO Darwin Mariano facilitates delivery of donated PPEs to St. Jude Hospital at the height of the ECQ last March. Photo courtesy of Darwin Mariano 

Beyond theater and the performing arts, Ticket2Me has ventured into online medical consultations. They call it Dok2Me, a patient scheduling system that facilitates online consultations with doctors of all specializations. 

“We use Ticket2Me technology to conveniently confirm appointments and to collect payments from the patients. Doctors are free to choose whatever video platform they’re comfortable with using, our system works well with their system of choice,” Mariano explained. 

BOYS LOVE

Everyone at home is into binge-watching and the company sees it perfect time to come up with the local version of boys’ love (BL) drama, a popular series in Thailand. Mariano and Francia called their series, “Boys Lockdown,” which is being directed by the award-winning filmmaker-playwright Jade Castro. 

Mariano explained: “The boys’ love (BL) genre kept us sane during the lockdown. My partner and I would watch ‘2gether:The Series,’ ‘Dark Blue Kiss,’ ‘Sotus’ and ‘Sotus S,’ ‘Theory of Love,’ and the other prominent BL shows on YouTube. This inspired us to produce our own contribution to the burgeoning BL universe in the country.”

The series was originally set to debut in September this year but due to the recent MECQ status of Metro Manila, all production work has been postponed. The premiere is now pushed to October 2020. “Boys Lockdown” will air from the Ticket2Me YouTube channel.

“We’ve already released show-related videos. We encourage everyone to please subscribe to our YouTube channel for more exciting content,” said Mariano. 

Ticket2Me Founder and CEO Darwin Mariano on the Millennium bridge in London during his UK trip last November. Photo courtesy of Darwin Mariano


 
Another innovation that makes Ticket2Me a wise choice for its clients has something to do with security and safety of content. It has incorporated a pay-gated video platform with a multi-level security feature to deter online pirates from illegally distributing organizers’ intellectual property. How’s that?

Mariano explained: “Videos loaded on the video platform cannot be downloaded by illegal downloading software which online pirates use. Another level of security deters pirates from video recording, as the video contains embedded information about the ticket buyer. 

“When we see an illegally uploaded copy of the video on YouTube or Vimeo, we can refer to the embedded buyer information and report the violation to the organizer/owner of the video for them to take appropriate legal action.”

When Mariano and Francia embraced the term “digital,” they mean it to the core. 

“We remain committed to serve clients by offering organizers a secure, convenient, and most importantly in the light of this pandemic, a safe way for them to make money from their online events through selling tickets,” said Mariano.

“Even as COVID-19 related restrictions ease up, the old system of using paper tickets and physical money exchanging hands can no longer be a viable option as this is a health risk and a possible way of transmitting the virus,” said Francia.