I am a big fan of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO). The SSO's transition from a 'small town orchestra' based at Victoria Concert Hall to today's world class entity at the Esplanade is very much a personal journey for me.
Victoria Concert Hall is not quite a school auditorium but it is close. The concerts were cheap and tickets easily available. One could generally buy tickets for a show performed the same evening.
Today I have to book weeks in advance and I may not get my preferred seats.
The Esplanade - the new home of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra
I guess the Esplanade experience is a special one. The auditorium exudes the feel of a real classical concert. Many members of the audience are dressed in formal attire. Late-comers are not entertained.
The SSO is not an 'in training' outfit anymore. It hosts international musicians and has a few critically acclaimed recordings to its name.
However, one constant is the role of SISTIC in the ticketing process. I marvel at SISTIC's business model. SISTIC has a license to print money.
Founded in 1991, SISTIC is Singapore's largest ticket selling agency. Its website states that it sells 90% of tickets for all cultural, arts and sports events held in Singapore.
Of course that is not surprising given that there is normally no other way to buy tickets for most events!
There seems to be an unwritten rule that all events at government linked facilities are exclusively sold through SISTIC. Just being the sole distributor for all events at the Esplanade gives SISTIC a big slice of the pie.
How did SISTIC get its business? Why are there no competitors? I have no answers.
I can state that there is little chance to avoid paying SISTIC booking fees (SGD one per ticket) or collection charges (SGD 0.20 – 8.00 depending on method of collection).
All the facts fit right in with what I refer to as 'the Singapore Paradox.' Despite being one of the most open and liberal economies in the world, the Singaporean state remains the biggest owner of businesses and assets in the domestic economy. Typically, the state enjoys a monopoly position in the businesses where it operates.
SISTIC is a private limited company. (I don't know what the acronym stands for.) I could not find any information on SISTIC's ownership or financial status on its website.
Although I could be wrong, I will wager decent money that SISTIC is directly or indirectly owned by the government.
There is no doubt that the government plays a critical role in encouraging the arts and culture scene in Singapore. It cost serious money to build the Esplanade and host the annual Formula-One race. The government spends lots of money to brand Singapore and promote the city as a regional arts hub.
I am sure the SISTIC revenue aids these efforts but the various government ministries' budgets are healthy enough for the purpose.
Now that a large part of the branding journey has been completed, maybe event organizers can encourage the development of new ticketing agencies by allowing newcomers to sell tickets for major events.
In other words, make SISTIC a non-exclusive agent for ticket sales. A monopoly is no longer necessary. The consumer may see benefits through lower (or zero) booking fees.
SISTIC's mission is to "... connect people to entertainment through the provision of innovative systems and best practice services." For the patron of, well pretty much any high profile event in Singapore, SISTIC is the only way to connect.
Presently, all roads lead to SISTIC. There are no detours.
PS - If someone can point me in the direction of financial and ownership information about SISTIC I will greatly appreciate it.