Photo by Blake Guthrie.
TicketBiscuit Chief Marketing Officer Eric Housh and his daughter, Zibby, sit with employee Angela Tulascz.
1550 Woods of Riverchase Dr. #330
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. • Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. • Sunday 1-6 p.m.
The phone lines light up the day before Christmas Eve. “Thank you for calling Track 29. My name is Withrow. How may I help you today?” answers one of the customer service representatives.
Track 29 is a music hall in Chattanooga, but Withrow Newell is sitting in a call center in an office building tucked away in the woods off Riverchase Parkway in Hoover. He’s an employee of TicketBiscuit, a Hoover-based business that provides ticketing options for smaller-to-mid-sized music halls, comedy clubs and other entertainment venues across the country. Along with online and mobile options for venues to handle their ticketing needs, the call center is an important part of TicketBiscuit’s day-to-day operations.
“It’s still a pretty popular method,” said Eric Housh, chief marketing officer of TicketBiscuit, about the action in the call center. “A lot of people prefer to buy tickets over the phone with a real person at the other end of the line.”
It’s a branded call center, meaning incoming calls are tailored to the specific venue the caller is asking about. If someone calls to buy tickets to a show at the Stardome Comedy Club, a special Stardome-only number is dialed and the representative answers using Stardome’s name, not TicketBiscuit’s.
“We don’t outsource that part of the business,” Housh said. “It’s something that kind of makes us unique. We’ve got a full [frequently asked questions] database specific to each venue we serve. It’s a very customized experience with a high level of service.”
Founded in 2001 by Hoover native Jeff Gale, TicketBiscuit was a one-man operation at first. Gale was working full time in the banking industry and designing websites on the side. WorkPlay Theatre in Birmingham, one of Gale’s clients, asked him to come up with a way to help the club sell tickets on its website. The result was Gale’s proprietary software that became the first incarnation of TicketBiscuit.
Gale began to sell his services to other clubs around the Southeast. In 2005, he brought on a small team to help out as the company began to grow. Today, TicketBiscuit employs 32 people, occupies two floors of the three-story office building it calls home and provides services to some 1,500 venues nationwide, including such legendary clubs as the Exit/In in Nashville and the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Ga.
Last June the Birmingham Business Journal named TicketBiscuit one of “Birmingham’s Best Places to Work” in the small business category. This is the type of office where it’s OK to bring your dog or your child to work if you can’t find a sitter. The space is open: open doors, open ceiling spaces, glass walls in the offices and a central kitchen and bar area that looks as if it might serve as a party space after the day’s work is done.
In recent years the company has successfully expanded its focus beyond music halls and comedy clubs to include tourist railroads and special event ticketing ranging from mixed martial arts sessions to dance studio recitals.
Staying true to its music-based roots, however, TicketBiscuit has also launched the Music Liberation Fund. The project aims to help independent entertainment venues and promoters wishing to operate outside the umbrella of larger companies.
“We want this space to be really reflective of the fact that there aren’t really any boundaries in what you can and can’t do,” Housh said. “It’s the spirit of accountability and empowerment. We’re small enough where if anyone sees a problem, they just go after it and fix it, and there’s a certain energy that comes with that.”