Eventbrite has been one of the most successful event tech brands for years, but has recently experienced deep losses due to the pandemic. We spoke to CEO Julia Hartz about Eventbrite’s experience and what is on the horizon for the tech giant.
Credit: Stefan Wieland
Eventbrite’s most recent earnings indicated a significant decrease in year-over-year revenue, resulting in layoffs and cuts, but things could have been worse. Eventbrite is beginning to stabilize thanks to a combination of virtual event options, new formats, and the ingenuity of planners.
We spoke to founder and CEO Julia Hartz about how Eventbrite handled the second quarter and what the future has in store.
What has Q2 been like for Eventbrite?
Despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 that have brought shelter in place and social distancing restrictions, the human desire to connect with one another remains strong. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen resilience and ingenuity from our creators, not only as they’ve shifted their events online but as they’ve explored new forums for in-person gatherings that adhere to social distancing mandates, like drive-in events. In fact, despite the significant ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on live events, ticket sales on the Eventbrite platform improved in each successive month of the second quarter, illustrating the resilience of Eventbrite creators and attendees, and the value our platform provides them.
Are you seeing any positive signs of a comeback in your community of creators?
Our data tells us that people are still hungry to connect. Not only has paid ticket volume for online events specifically increased 30-fold from the second quarter of 2019, but paid ticket volume for both online and in-person events has grown 38 percent from May to June. Social distancing has challenged the live experience economy, but it hasn’t diminished the resilient nature of our creators, who are demonstrating flexibility and finding new, innovative ways to grow their businesses. For example, we’ve seen more than one thousand drive-in events on our platform this year, which is more than nine times as many drive-in events in each of the past two years on Eventbrite. We’re seeing these events happen all across the U.S. - and world - including in Australia, UK, Netherlands and Italy. One creator in particular, The Magic Beans, held a scaled-down, two-day version of their annual festival, rebranded as Beanstalk: At the Drive-In! in June where tickets sold out hours after they announced their revamped show. The festival went so well they hosted another drive-in festival in July.
How are virtual events impacting the use of the platform?
The constraints of the current environment are propelling smaller and more frequent events, a trend that plays to Eventbrite’s strengths. Our tools to create and manage online events provide our creators with a way to stay connected to their attendees and be responsive to their needs. Savvy small business owners like Haymarket Books quickly pivoted to online, donation-based events, and have seen a surge of attendees through this new format. A single event featuring Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How To Be An Anti-Racist” reached 17,000 registrations.
Online or hybrid event experiences allow creators to go far beyond the geographical boundaries of an in-person event and connect with global audiences. On the consumer side, we’re seeing that attendees are last-minute buyers when it comes to purchasing tickets to online events on Eventbrite. The percentage of tickets sold in the 24 hours leading up to an event is double that of in-person events, giving creators a longer window of marketing opportunities.
What virtual event features, if any, are you working on?
Through our research, we know consumers are enjoying online experiences and plan to keep attending them. We have plans to continue innovating in this space, and can share more soon.
Register to Vote is another public initiative after the support to the BLM protests, can you share more?
We have seen a spike in activism-related events on our platform this year, and believe this activity will continue leading into the election. In our commitment to break down barriers by amplifying social justice and civic engagement events, we’ve seen more than one thousand events in relation to Black Lives Matter published on our platform between May 2020 and looking into December 2020, and over 113K tickets issued to social justice events between May and July 2020. We’ve also signed Business for America’s Vote Safe letter to Congress in support of secure absentee ballots and safe in-person voting sites for the 2020 election because we agree that no one should be forced to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote.
Eventbrite owes their progress in part to investments in virtual event tech and in part to consumer adaptability. The events market is under pressure to produce smaller and local events, which plays to Eventbrite’s strengths, and Hartz cites Eventbrite’s virtual event management tools as a response to this new demand.
As with many event tech companies, the secret to survival seems to be a balance between ingenuity and the ability to pivot on the one hand, and an ability to make cuts and minimize cash burn. Still, the future seems bright for Eventbrite.