Ryan O'Connor '06: Changing the Game
Alumnus Ryan O’Connor graduated in 2006 with a degree in music business and a passion for gigging on the drums, and has harnessed those abilities as head of business development for WillCall. The company is an integrated point-of-sale system that hopes to revolutionize the live-concert experience. He likes to joke that he traded his drum sticks for a calculator, but his MBA in finance from the Zicklin School of Business at CUNY-Baruch has only bound him more tightly to the music industry.
While there, O’Connor made the acquaintance of Andrew Dreskin, who was pioneering an online ticketing platform. Dreskin had previously sold his first business to Ticketmaster and subsequently launched a company called Ticketfly to further develop the power and ease of online ticketing. After business school, O’Connor joined the fledgling Ticketfly as a salesman and worked his way up to head of business development.
His success at Ticketfly and his musical acumen attracted the attention of Donnie Dinch, who had visions of using mobile technology to change every aspect of live-music transactions.
“Current point-of-sale systems are good for most but great for no one,” says O’Connor, “and they fail to use available data that could improve the experience for everyone involved–the concert-goer, the venue, and the band.”
According to O’Connor, WillCall allows venues to accept payments by cash, credit card, and from within the app itself. “If [customers have] WillCall,” he says, “they can receive social notifications that their friends are going to a show and buy tickets using a credit card linked to their account. Then at the show, they can pay their bar tab through WillCall, which means no more fighting through the crowd to close out at the end of the night, which also frees the bartenders to focus on active customers. And if you’re a big fan, you can order a t-shirt right from the app instead of giving up your spot to work your way over to the merch table.”
Although many of the features of WillCall are geared towards streamlining transactions, O’Connor emphasizes that WillCall is not just about lightening concert-goers’ wallets. “It’s not just about making it easier to spend, he says, “it’s about improving the experience and expanding the pie. For example, a new feature we’re working on right now will allow you to tip the opening band. As it stands, opening acts get paid in beer, if at all. We want to bring them back into the [music] economy, so those first steps in a new band’s career can be more meaningful.”
Backed in part by industry-changers like Garrett Camp of Uber and Sam Shank of HotelTonight, WillCall is well-positioned to shake up the change-resistant live music market, and O’Connor is bringing all of his energy and experience to bear. “I’m excited to be working in an industry I’ve been passionate about for a long time,” he says. Based on the level of innovation happening at WillCall, the music industry seems likely to benefit from that passion.