This Queer-Owned Ticketing Platform is Taking On Ticketmaster and Eventbrite

Niche event ticketing platforms, like LGBTQ-owned Sickening Events, have risen to fill in the gaps left by the shortcomings of the industry’s behemoths.

This Queer-Owned Ticketing Platform is Taking On Ticketmaster and Eventbrite
Photo by Aditya Chinchure / Unsplash

(This article was originally published on Forbes)

The live event ticketing industry is overdue for an overhaul.

In the six months since Ticketmaster’s Taylor Swift Eras Tour debacle, the ticketing titan has been lambasted by artists, panned by fans, and investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged antitrust violations.

While many Ticketmaster critics would argue that the mega platform deserves the flak that it receives, the problems that have plagued the company are representative of larger, industry-wide issues. From exorbitant ticket prices and limited availability to fraudulent resale practices and technological hurdles, Ticketmaster, with its more than 70% market share, is simultaneously a macrocosm and microcosm of the event ticketing sector’s woes.

But niche ticketing platforms may offer a small solution to the industry’s big problems.

In recent years, small event ticketing companies have risen to fill in the gaps left by the shortcomings of the industry’s behemoths. Some, like Humanitix, have a charitable mission. Others, like Midwestix, focus on specific geographic areas. Still others specialize in meeting the needs of underserved niche demographics.

One such company is Sickening Events, a queer-owned event ticketing and fundraising platform that derives its name from the drag culture slang word “sickening,” a positive term that means “amazing” or “excellent.” Founded in 2015 as a video production business that documented drag performances, the company expanded its offerings in 2021 to include ticketing, event management, and fundraising services.

Bolstered by its large social media presence—the company has amassed an audience of more than 130,000 followers and 35 million views across its social channels—Sickening Events has supported more than 8,300 events since 2021.

Event organizers ranging from local party promoters to large companies have turned to Sickening Event’s SAAS platform to provide ticketing and event management for their gatherings. Notable organizations and events include the Austin International Drag Festival, the Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) Proud Festival, and Tapestry Collection by Hilton.

While the platform offers much of the same functionality as larger companies in the space, like Eventbrite, Sickening Events founder and COO Reid Lawrence says that it has several differentiators, starting with its mission.

“Consumers are getting smarter about their purchase decisions,” Lawrence says. “They're actively looking for businesses and vendors, in the events industry and in general, that are minority-owned or that support [sustainable] or charitable causes. I think that is where the business future lies.”

But Lawrence explains that being queer-owned is not enough—the product itself has to be good. “When I introduce myself and my company to other people I usually say, ‘We're not just gay. We're also a useful, competitive platform,’” he says.

That mattered to one of Lawrence’s largest clients, Edwin Martinez, the Director of Operations for leading LGBTQ+ events company Circuit MOM Productions. “I had been approached by other platforms that are queer-based, however, their technology and capabilities weren't as up to date as that of [Sickening Events],” Martinez says.

Martinez also cites Sickening Events’ pricing model as a reason that Circuit MOM decided to partner with the platform. “[Sickening Events] also helps me lower my costs and pass that on to my customer base,” Martinez explains. “[When other ticketing platforms] add $60-$100 dollars of taxes and fees on top of a regular ticket price, that just scares away some people. So not having to transfer those fees to my client base makes it more accessible for everybody.”

That accessibility is not only important when it comes to Sickening Events as a ticketing platform, but also in relation to the very events that the company supports. In an era of unprecedented attacks against LGBTQ+ people and businesses, queer safe spaces are needed more than ever. Lawrence believes that Sickening Events can help provide those safe havens.

“I wanted to make [an event ticketing platform] that would be an overall net positive for the LGBTQ community and something that can maybe take some market share away from companies that don’t really give back to the queer community politically or financially,” he says.