The startup story for Oztix, Australia’s largest independent ticketing company, could be tracked to a boom in online ticket sales at the Big Day Out on the Gold Coast a little over 20 years ago.
But for managing director and co-founder Stuart Field, the spark that lit the fire came after he was tasked with overseeing an album launch for Brisbane-born hip-hop band Resin Dogs.
“Using an old-school credit card swipe machine to take the orders for their upcoming album launch via a webstore, I came up with the idea of selling a concert ticket with their album,” Field tells Business News Australia. “We ended up selling 150 tickets.”
Since then, the Brisbane-based Oztix has sold 28 million tickets for concerts and events across Australia and currently averages about two million ticket sales a year.
Field co-founded Oztix in 2003 with Brian ‘Smash’ Chladil after joining the seasoned music industry veteran on a work-experience basis. Chladil had years of experience managing bands and, at the time, he was event manager for the Big Day Out, one of the industry's most popular annual music festivals.
Field recalls that online sales for Big Day Out had experienced a massive spike from 5 per cent to 40 per cent in a year. With the Resin Dog ticketing coup under their belt, the entrepreneurs decided to establish Oztix with a view to positioning the startup in a niche that the big players were largely overlooking.
“At the time, Ticketmaser was among the big names in the industry but there weren’t many companies servicing the mid-tier events and that’s really where the idea for Oztix came from,” Field says.
“The big ticketing companies were mainly focused on stadium events and the top end of town.”
Last Friday, Oztix officially celebrated 20 years in business and for Field it provided time to reflect on how far the business has come and how much the partners, who are still hands on in the company, want to give back to the industry that has supported them over the past two decades.
While music festivals remain a focus, Oztix also works in the exhibition space with caravan and camping shows, the Sanctuary Cove and Sydney boat shows, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney among its clients.
“We’re not as well-known as some of the bigger companies because we sit behind and power a lot of websites with our technology,” Field says.
“But we do have a very high client retention rate. Last Friday, we celebrated 20 years in business at (live music venue) The Zoo in Brisbane which has been a client since we started.”
Before entering the events industry, Field, who is a self-confessed ‘metal head’ and a Metallica and Parkway Drive fan, spent his younger years working weekends at music festivals as an intern while studying leisure management at university.
“In the early years, we focused on small to medium music venues and festivals,” Field says.
“We were also first to the market with a white label concept where we figured bands themselves could drive traffic to their own websites rather than sending it to the ticketing company.
“We first ticketed Silverchair, Grinspoon and Spiderbait and a lot of those acts through their own website during the day. The idea was to empower those bands to build their own database and build their own traffic rather than the ticket companies.
“As the years went on people wanted us to be the ticketing company to drive sales to events.”
Field and Chladil have bootstrapped Oztix since foundation, although Field’s father Bruce backed the business early on with a $150,000 loan to secure an online merchant facility.
“I still thank dad to this day for backing us back then,” Field says.
“Dad lent us the money because we were knocked back by two of the major banks for a loan at the time as we were just starting out.
“We’ve reinvested everything back in the business over the years and managed to grow at a steady rate.”
Growth was aided earlier this year through the acquisition of Brisbane-based Local Tickets, a company that specialises in regional events in Queensland. The business has delivered synergies for Oztix in this space.
“We see that as a big area of growth for our business as governments look to drive the tourism economy in the regions,” Field says.
Oztix also continually upgrades its ticketing technology to keep pace with growth.
“We’re on about the fourth version of our ticketing system at the moment. It’s all done in-house and we spend over $2 million annually on innovation and developing our system. With technology changing rapidly, we need to be at the forefront of the industry.”
With the COVID downturn now well behind the events industry, Field says Oztix is positioned to continue growing.
“We are seeing a massive influx of venues and growth, particularly with international artists and events,” he says.
“We have been on a constant trajectory of growth since the early days and that’s been aided this year by the acquisition of Local Tickets.
“In the next couple of years, we’re really looking at how we can make a difference in the regional and Australian events space.
“We’ve been involved in establishing events over the years and we are looking at how we can use our success to help smaller events grow across the country.
“Basically, we want to support the industry that has supported us for so long.”
Get our daily business news
Sign up to our free email news updates.