You know that a Web 2.0 company is likely in trouble when their new and improved monetization scheme is to nuke their free basic accounts without notice, holding their users’ data hostage pending a signup to a paid premium account. That’s exactly what happened today with Eventbrite, an event registration service that I’ve used in the past and heavily endorsed.
Eventbrite’s original line, like most Web 2.0 companies, was that they would always offer a free basic service and a paid premium service, with some nice features on the premium versions. Features that, unfortunately, now include logging on.
Until quite recently, I managed the website and event registration for a not-for-profit club (as a volunteer). A couple of years ago, I convinced the board that we really needed to accept credit cards, and eventually moved event registration and membership renewals to Eventbrite with PayPal for credit card payments. I stepped down from the board this summer, and had a call a few weeks ago from the person who is now managing the event registrations to say that she could no longer add more than one type of ticket to an event — the club had always used a member price and non-member price for tickets. I checked it out, and sure enough, they had actually retracted functionality that had been part of the basic service all along.
The real kicker came today, when she called me again to say that Eventbrite had cut off all access to the wine club’s account unless they upgraded to a premium membership, because of a new rule that says that you can’t collect more than $1000 in ticket sales (in total? per month? per event? unknown) with a basic account, but have to upgrade to a premium account. No advance notice about this so that the club could prepare alternatives, just the inability to login as of today. That means that the two events that they have in progress right now have been hijacked by Eventbrite: the club is unable to access the list of attendees that have signed up to date, or even to shut down the event altogether if they no longer wish to use Eventbrite — which I’m pretty sure that they don’t, given the completely unacceptable behaviour of Eventbrite so far. The event still shows up for people to buy tickets, but the club can’t access it in any way.
In their help section, pictured above, they state “we have shifted Eventbrite to a one level service that offers these new features to all accounts at a low fee. With that initiative in mind, we are phasing out our Basic (Free) service”. So much for a perpetual free basic service. Furthermore, this likely prices them out of range of most small not-for-profit clubs (like the one that I used to volunteer for) because that extra 2.5% on top of the ticket price — in addition to the 2.9% charged by PayPal for credit card processing — does make a difference for the little guys. What’s really needed is an event registration service at a lower cost, or maybe a good open source solution that can be run on a small organization’s hosted website directly.
Eventbrite appears to be offering a “free” upgrade to the premium service for events that are already in your account, so the club could sign up and presumably get access to the data that’s trapped in there for the current events, but would you really trust these people with your credit card information?