Long before Ticketmaster’s merger with Live Nation was proposed last February, Iain Bluett was a stocky, lilting Brit hawking Polo at Lenox in 1992. “The Buckhead women would come in for their boyfriends, and I’d end up taking them out. The accent, you know,” he laughs. Now in his “mid-to-late thirties,” Bluett operates Midtown-based Ticket Alternative, a company that provides tickets for 400 venues nationwide. Most clients are music-related (though minor league baseball and college basketball have lately joined the roster), and three-quarters of them are based in Atlanta. First came Vinyl, then the Loft. Dozens followed.
Founded in 2004, Ticket Alternative did $6 million in revenue last year with a staff of about twenty employees. Bluett’s David slings rocks at the Ticketmaster Goliath—widely despised for its 40 percent surcharge and for controlling ticket sales for roughly 80 percent of U.S. entertainment venues. Where Ticketmaster or Live Nation can make about $5 off a $10 ticket, Ticket Alternative earns around $2.75. “It’s not hard to be cheaper than Ticketmaster,” Bluett says. “But we also have an in-house call center that does real client support. You can call and ask about parking or bringing booze.”
Bluett is also a former keyboardist for Atlanta band Film (originally fronted by Michael Johns of American Idol fame), whose taste tends toward pop and British rock. It was his love of the music industry—coupled with a distaste for Ticketmaster—that provided the impetus for the company. Also, Bluett’s online Atlanta Music Guide (with album reviews and concert updates) now gets some 70,000 page views per month. “Iain isn’t some CEO in a penthouse that can’t be reached,” says Patrick Hill, a concert promoter at the Earl who’s used Ticket Alternative since 2006. “I can actually call and talk to him. Ticketing services are often the first interaction a customer has with a venue, and we like the interaction Iain offers.”
Photograph by Josh Meister