How Dave Newton made a fortune from selling tickets

Dave Newton was determined to turn his love of music into a money spinner. And after several attempts, he finally struck gold.

Growing up, Dave Newton had two passions: maths and music. The former earned the grammar school boy a place at Oxford, but it was the latter that would make him his fortune.

After graduating with a 2:1 from Oxford in 1986, Newton turned down a job at computer giant IBM, opting instead to stay in Oxford and work in his local music shop. He began writing a magazine featuring reviews of local bands. After a year, the magazine hadn't made any money but Newton was now a well-known fixture in the Oxford music world.

Next he started a tiny record label and began selling local bands' music. "We'd press 1,000 copies and maybe sell a few hundred it wasn't a great business." So he began promoting nights, using the magazine to pull in the punters. "It started off with just a few events, but eventually we started doing one every Friday night."

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Unfortunately, this was no money-spinner. Undeterred, in late 1989 Newton began managing bands. After helping out a few low-profile bands, he struck gold. A band formed by his ex-music shop workmate began to attract attention. After one year the group, Ride, were signed to a US record label.

It was the start of a hectic five-year period that saw Newton tour the world with the band. "They went from a small venue in Oxford to playing in front of 50,000 people at Reading Festival in the space of a few short years." The band split up in 1997. "Growing so quickly put strains on relationships."

Newton went back to Oxford. With a bit more money in his pocket he set up another small record agency, but his second attempt was no more successful than his first. "We released around 30 albums but only about four of them made any profit." However, the determined music entrepreneur finally got his breakthrough in 2001.

He was promoting a music gig in London "for once we had a hot gig on our hands and there was a lot of interest" and fans wanted to buy tickets online. His partner, who handled the programming, quickly adjusted the site to sell basic virtual tickets.

Encouraged by the site's success, the pair agreed an online sales deal with a local nightclub. By 2002 the emerging ticket business "was taking up more and more of our time but wasn't making lots of money". Newton and his partner told the nightclub that they were considering closing the business. "They said, you can't do that you're selling most of our tickets'."

The nightclub agreed to invest in the business, which was renamed We Got Tickets. With extra funds the new team began approaching promoters who had "never considered using e-tickets before". Gradually, they expanded their network of small and medium-sized promoters and made money by charging a £1 booking fee for each ticket sold.

The firm also benefited from a following wind from "the shift from dial-up connection to broadband" and the growth of e-commerce. Last year, We Got Tickets handled more than 51,000 events and has branched out to festivals and comedy clubs. The firm now employs 16 people and sells £12m worth of tickets each year.

Newton, now 47, is optimistic about the future. "We've got a massive database of loyal, happy customers, so it's time we started to look for opportunities outside of tickets."

James graduated from Keele University with a BA (Hons) in English literature and history, and has a NCTJ certificate in journalism.


After working as a freelance journalist in various Latin American countries, and a spell at ITV, James wrote for Television Business International and covered the European equity markets for the London bureau. 


James has travelled extensively in emerging markets, reporting for international energy magazines such as Oil and Gas Investor, and institutional publications such as the Commonwealth Business Environment Report. 


He is currently the managing editor of LatAm INVESTOR, the UK's only Latin American finance magazine.