One Small Voice: Kenneth Tan

Published on 19 January 2015

Singapore’s show-going culture has not reached a “habitual” stage, says Sistic boss Kenneth Tan.

INTERVIEW BY PAMELA HO

Production costs and popularity affect ticket pricing. Some local theatre shows here have higher production costs and feature more popular actors than other Asian cities, hence ticket prices can be higher.

In the case of Singapore, I’d say we have more seats to sell than audiences who are willing to pay. We can’t say people ‘cannot afford to pay’ because when a popular Hong Kong singer like G.E.M. comes to town, many are willing to pay — even though prices are not cheap! And I know of several pop concerts touring Asia that priced tickets higher than Singapore. One of them was Taylor Swift’s Red Tour concert, where audiences in Indonesia and the Philippines paid more.

The way I see it, Singapore’s show-going culture has not reached a point where it’s ‘habitual’. Tourists to Singapore also don’t yet see us as a destination for live entertainment — unlike London or New York, where tourists make it a point to catch a musical at the West End or Broadway.

But having said that, I think our local theatre is holding its own against their international counterparts, so that’s a good sign. Since Sistic branched out from being a department of the Singapore Indoor Stadium (Sistic is an abbreviation for Singapore Indoor Stadium Computerised Ticketing) to serving the community, we’ve always supported local arts. We give selected local arts groups discounts off the ‘per ticket’ inside charges. Sometimes they may pay as low as 10 cents per ticket.

When smaller arts groups say they can’t afford to use Sistic, they are likely referring to our one-time administrative fee, which starts from S$700. This fee covers a range of services from dedicated account servicing to managing hotline enquiries to the preparation of event information for various platforms reaching our 500,000-strong base, regardless of whether we sell any tickets.

The server and bandwidth capacities we have invested in are significant. For example, a popular Western concert may require 50MB of bandwidth whereas a very hot Korean concert will need up to 200MB. We bought up to 300MB, just to be safe! We also protect against hackers and have many security measures, including a 24/7 website monitoring service.

Protecting ticket buyers’ money is another top priority. Ticket proceeds are not passed to the show promoter until we are sure the show is happening. For promoters we are not familiar with, we have a personal liability clause in our contract.

Our system is tailored for the Asian market and has been exported to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and two major casinos in Macau. The next thing we’re working on is connecting all our regional clients, their ticketing channels and sponsors together into one common platform.

We envisage a day where, if you go to Raffles City to buy a ticket for a Jay Chou concert and it’s sold out, you can book his next show in Indonesia and pay in Singapore dollars at the same counter. With that connectivity, we hope to turn the regional market — with a flight time of three-to-four hours — into one big domestic market. Phase One of this should roll out by end-2015.

Kenneth Tan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sistic Pte Ltd, is responsible for the operational management and long-term strategic outlook of the company. He joined Sistic in 1998 as Business Development Manager, progressing to other roles, including Chief Operating Officer, before being appointed CEO in 2009. His visionary leadership has led to Sistic becoming a household brand, providing ticketing services for most arts and entertainment events in Singapore.

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