Albuquerque started seeing the virtuous.com tag on the Launchpad's calendar about three years ago. Working primarily with independent promoters, the advance ticketing service gets props for donating 10 percent of its profits to charities in the communities where the tickets are being sold. In Burque's case, that's Roadrunner Food Bank.
Boston band Throwing Muses created the online service in 1999 to help fans avoid inflated ticket prices for their shows. Billy O'Connell joined Throwing Muses in getting the website off the ground and watched as venues around the country started to catch on.
With slow and steady growth, Virtuous' focus has always been sustainability, O'Connell says. It's not flashy. The website is fairly plain. But with other services' fees and prices hiking to ever higher altitudes, the Virtuous mission of fair prices and just causes seems rare and worthy of praise.
What's your position over there?
I am a founding partner of Virtuous.
Is that what they call you around the office?
(laughs) They call me founding partner—FP for short.
What did you do before this?
I was a label executive. I worked in record companies for years and I managed artists. I managed Throwing Muses and Kristin Hersh.
Did they come to you with this idea?
It was a customer service problem for them. They would hear lots of complaints about high fees. One of the main complaints was that bands didn't share in those fees. "So why take the money from us," the fans used to ask, "if you're not going to see it?" They just didn't like paying money to some stranger who insinuated himself into the transaction. The band [Throwing Muses] really felt they could address the needs of the fans by giving them an alternative.
Your site makes a point of noting that your business practices are just. How are they just?
By being sustainable. We don't take advantage of anyone. Our fees are very low, because they can be low. We're not trying to unjustly gain at the expense of the consumer.
How have you expanded over the years?
Our growth has been slow and steady and generally by word of mouth. When people look into advance ticketing, they don't have many options. They have the well-known big options and they have some smaller, alternative options. When they come across us, whether it's through searches or asking other promoters, we seem compelling to a certain promoter for the fact that our fees are so attractive, and we do tend to keep things pretty real.
Why did you decide to include that charitable component?
It started because this business was started by artists. They wanted to provide ticketing but not get rich off of it ... the responsibility of an artist is to give back to a community. Artists can't exist in a void, really. The community feeds the artist. The artist should feed the community.
I can only say in 2007, Virtuous is getting ready to undergo some changes and do some things to make business and life better for small and independent promoters.
What kind of changes?
I don't know if I can get into it right now.
Top-secret changes coming to Virtuous?
(laughs) I don't mean to be cryptic, but if there's a final thought, it's just that Virtuous isn't everything it's going to be right now. We're trying to evolve and stay competitive and bring value to the people that work with us. And we hope to be able to innovate in that way.
With top-secret projects.
With top-secret projects! That's right.