If you're an organization that sells tickets to events, you'd probably think that a box office operation that includes online ticket sales, bar-coded tickets for admission control and quick ticket printing with a thermal ticket printer is well outside your budget and really just for the big guys. But not so. These days, the cost of ticketing software that lets you select and sell tickets directly off an interactive seating chart, records all customer details and transactions in a dedicated database, prints tickets via a low cost thermal printer and enables you to easily set up online ticket sales, is extremely affordable.
Firstly, the software. Typically, most software ticketing companies licence the use of the software, so you won't have any major up front purchase cost – just a nominal usage fee either set at a fixed amount per ticket or a percentage of the ticket price, which can be as low as a couple of percent of the ticket price. Some companies may charge for creating a seating chart if you sell reserved seating, or others may apply an initial charge for setting up your system, so it pays to shop around a bit.
As for hardware, since most box office software suppliers host the software on their own servers, you shouldn't need any high powered computers, or any other fancy hardware – just a regular PC with a high speed internet connection will normally suffice.
For ticket printing, you've probably discovered that specialist thermal ticket printers can cost well over $1000 – probably well beyond your budget if you only sell a few thousand tickets per year. But again, you don't need to spend this sort of money to get a perfectly acceptable thermal ticket printer which will print tickets at a surprisingly fast speed. Some ticketing software systems, such as HandyTix can print tickets with just a commonly available Dymo LabelWriter 450 which you can typically pick up for around $100 or so. For ticket stock, there are specialist suppliers who can supply stock for these Dymo printers either blank or printed to your specific requirements. Alternatively, many of the ticketing software systems will let you print tickets using just a standard laser or inkjet printer. Again there are a number of sources of pre-perforated paper or ticket blanks that you can use to print multiple tickets per page with such printers. Perhaps not so convenient as a single ticket thermal ticket printer, but quite acceptable if you are on a tight budget.
And if you want the extra security of bar-coded tickets, that's no problem either. These days you can pick up a handheld laser scanner for well under $100. Just make sure your selected ticketing software supplier can print bar codes on tickets. You'll also need to have a computer and internet connection at your venue to access your live database, although in some cases you may be able to cut off ticket sales and download the barcode data before your event for offline validation.
And if your box office takes walk-up credit card sales, consider investing in a card swipe reader which can make processing credit card transactions so much easier. Such devices can cost as little as $60 and will automatically enter customer names into your database and process the transaction at the same time. But check again that your selected ticketing software can support this type of equipment.
So there you have it. For little more than $200 you can have your own sophisticated box office set up with thermal ticket printer, scanner and online ticketing, saving you a stack of time, effort and money.