In honour of Women’s History Month, we had the privilege of interviewing Julie Carson, Head of Ticketing at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC). Throughout Julie’s career, she has gained a wealth of experience and knowledge, working her way up from a part-time ticket seller in high school to the Head of Ticketing for Europe’s busiest arena (Pollstar 2023 rankings).

In this interview, Julie provides valuable insights on her journey in the ticketing industry, shares advice for aspiring professionals, highlights key qualities of effective leaders in ticketing, discusses her biggest mentor, and reflects on a successful project she was a part of. Through this interview, our aim is to inspire and empower women who want to make their mark in the industry. We hope that the insights and experiences shared by Julie serve as a valuable resource for those seeking to take steps towards achieving their career goals in this field.

Could you tell us about how you got started in the ticketing industry, including when and where your career in ticketing began?

My career in ticketing spans back almost 30 years which is quite hard to believe! I actually started working in ticketing as a part-time job when I was still in high school, with a company that sold for all venues in Glasgow and surrounding areas, I was asked to pop down to the SEC to help out for a couple of hours, that was in 1995 and I’m still here!  It was definitely a different time then – as a lot of Promoters would use ‘souvenir tickets’ meaning that we would manually tear tickets from a book. The team was also a lot smaller in those days, and now we’ve got a 3-venue offering with dedicated department and 100% digital ticketing.”

As someone with a long and successful career in ticketing, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in the industry?

I know it is cliché, but always be willing to get your hands dirty, if someone needs help, be willing to jump in and help. It’s a moto that we have always had from the days in the Box Office, and still is to this day. You don’t have to be the person shouting the loudest, if you work hard and always give your all it pays off, people will naturally notice and you will gain the respect from your peers. Have a ‘can do’ attitude!

Also, be nice! We work in an industry which moves at a very fast pace, and at times, this can be undoubtably stressful, but with so many different stakeholders in the mix, a calm demeanour in one person has a ripple effect on others.”

In your opinion, what are the key qualities that make a great leader in the ticketing industry?

I think I’ve loosely covered a few of them above, but I’d say the number one quality of making a great leader is to lead by example. I’ve been so fortunate to have some incredible leaders in my career, and through their brilliant work ethic, processes, and attitudes, it really has shaped me and my career. The job can get frantic at points, but if I was running about like a headless chicken, this would have a very negative domino effect! I always try to bring an air of calmness to the role, and I think this is something the team really appreciates, especially when the going gets tough.

Another thing that makes a great leader is a positive attitude. There is a reason I’ve been in ticketing for almost 30 years, and that is because I love my job – both the day to day, but also the incredible people and opportunities that it has brought into my life. Enjoying what you do is so, so important, and I want my team to want to come to work – there are not many jobs that you get to see the fruits of your labour from start to finish that then in turn results in seeing 14k people enjoying themselves and making memories that will live with them forever.  My boss once made me go into see an event that I had worked on that I didn’t have a great experience working on, and she made me go into the hall and said to me to look around, at what I helped make happen, and that is something that I try to instil in my team. Music is such an emotive subject, we have to remember what we are working towards, people have spent their hard earned money to come to this event, and it is important that we make it as easy as possible for them to make it a night to remember, and the job satisfaction in that is what makes it all worth it.”

Who has been your biggest mentor in your career and what were some of the most valuable lessons you learned from them?

Debbie McWilliams, who was there on my very first day at the box office and is now the Director of Live Entertainment, has, and always will be the biggest mentor in my career.

Debbie has been integral to the development of the SEC’s growth, and success of OVO Hydro. She has always been ambitious and visionary in her approach, always striving to make the venues the best in the world – be that a place to work, or a place to see your favourite act, and this has created a shared ambition campus wide to always innovate, challenge, and ultimately succeed.  The drive that she instils in her teams is recognised across the industry.”

Could you describe a particularly successful project or initiative that you were involved in during your career, and what made it successful?

Although there has been a lot of highlights over the years, two things spring to mind. Firstly, being part of the campus’ growth from one venue to a 3-venue powerhouse, with the launch of OVO Hydro as career defining moment. This was the most ambitious project we’d taken on yet, and from it came a whole new department, and ultimately where I became Head of Ticketing. The development of the venue was a whirlwind adventure, there were highs and there were lows, but opening the doors on the 30th September 2013 was a moment I’ll never forget! And even now, it makes me so proud to have been part of the core team of Scotland’s home of live entertainment, and Europe’s busiest arena (Pollstar 2023 rankings). The success of the launch, and the last 10 years have ultimately been down to the incredible team at the venue who all work seamlessly together, and of course – the venue goers, who are called the best fans in the world for a reason!

Another project, which has really stood out is the launch of 100% digital ticketing in partnership with Ticketmaster, and the benchmark this has set for the global entertainment industry. As a world-class venue we are always prioritising better outcomes for our clients, community, and environment, and this of course includes ticketing.

In 2021, all ticketing across the SEC was 100% digital, and since then has removed over 1 million paper tickets per year. The introduction of the digital ticketing was a supporting factor in us being the first venue in the world to be awarded ‘A Greener Arena’ status, which is a comprehensive assessment of social and environmental criteria including energy, travel, waste, recycling, community impacts, as well as equality, diversity and inclusion.

In becoming the world’s first ‘A Greener Arena’ we have set a precedent for the global live entertainment industry to implement initiatives to become greener venues and come together as an industry in fighting against the climate crisis. The award also benefits our venue visitors, as they get to easily make sustainable choices whilst having a great night out!” 

It was truly inspiring to catch up with Julie and learn about her journey in the ticketing industry. With almost 30 years of experience, she has seen many changes in the industry and has valuable advice for those just starting out. Her dedication, hard work, and positive attitude have undoubtedly contributed to her success over the years. As we honour Women’s History Month, let us honour trailblazers like Julie who are paving the way for generations of women to come.

To find out more about the Scottish Event Campus visit their website here.

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