Ant Taylor, the Savior of Concert Ticketing — Future 25
This story appears in Rolling Stone‘s 2021 Future of Music issue, a special project delving into the next era of the multibillion-dollar hitmaking business. Read the other stories here.
Ant Taylor was at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London when he realized that he wanted to revolutionize the ticketing business. Attending the beach volleyball games at Horse Guards Parade, Taylor waded through crowds to get in, only to find near empty sections and rows as with scalpers hawking tickets outside.
“We’re in the middle of London, and this is the goddamn Olympics, and we’re talking about an arena of maybe 7,000 people,” he recalls. “Meanwhile, outside the stadium, there are all these people who want to be there — and only scalpers to serve them. That’s when it hit me at a visceral level: This is not OK.”
In 2014, Taylor founded Lyte, a ticketing system that’s designed to empower fans while weakening scalping. The concept is straightforward. Fans put down their credit card information in advance when an artist, festival, or venue announces shows on the horizon, guaranteeing them a ticket for later. Fans won’t be charged for that ticket until the organizer confirms dates, at which point fans can decide if they can still attend the show and actually buy the ticket. Lyte’s ticket reservations aren’t the whole of its business, but the company keen to explore similarly fresh projects.
“The entire ticket buying process, despite coming online 20 years ago, hasn’t really been revised, edited or innovated upon,” Taylor says.
One of Lyte’s early clients is Coachella; more recently, the firm secured nearly $40 million in funding from investors like Quincy Jones, alongside several VC firms. In the past year, Lyte has also forged ticketing partnerships with musicians like Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jacob Collier to pre-ticket Collier’s tour. The company will be doing the same for 30 artists on Mint Talent Group’s roster.
Along with limiting scalping, Taylor says Lyte brings a strong data service that helps artists or venues determine demand for a show. Rather than relying on listener data on Spotify or previous tour sales data, artists’ teams can see how many fans have put down credit card information for specific markets, which could in turn affect where they play based on demand. In Collier’s case, it led to adding show dates in countries he and the team hadn’t previously planned for.
Taylor’s main drive, however, remains reshaping the ticketing marketplace for fans. “My foundational principle was, why does this thing exist at all?” Taylor says. “Secondary market pricing is the gnarled, awful version of pricing that happens when a few middlemen get in the middle, create artificial scarcity, and then abuse that artificial scarcity to drive inefficient, really high prices.”
Still, despite his own objections, he acknowledges there’s still room for it in a healthy ticket ecosystem if it’s run primarily by artists and fans instead of those opportunists who upcharge costs. A proper secondary market, he says, functions more like a technological feature rather than a market of its own.
“It’s ultimately controlled by the primary market, controlled by the content, controlled by the artist, controlled by the fan. Not something that exists adjacent and outside of that,” he says. “Allowing somebody to return a ticket, as simple as that is, leads to a complex sort of product architecture problem, which I think we solved very well. If people can return tickets and other people can get access to those tickets, you actually eliminate the need for 80 percent or 90 percent of a secondary market.”
Taylor says he expects to partner with more artists and agencies in the coming months and is also focusing on other platforms like ecommerce, which faces similar challenges for consumers from high demand and scarcity. Those markets operate similarly to ticketing, Taylor says, and he’s banking on his tech causing a shift. “Sitting in front of the on-sale, and allowing fans to show up early gives them a better chance of getting a ticket. And showing up with their credit card, what that allows the promoters to do, that’s the key piece,” he says.
Adds Taylor: “We want to change the entire nature of how people think about the ticket-buying process to make it more intuitive, [like] other e-commerce experiences. Ultimately, we’d like the experience to be as good as the event.”