How We Came To Be: the CultureSuite Brand Story
April 22, 2024

How We Came To Be: the CultureSuite Brand Story

It’s no secret that arts and culture face a challenging economic landscape. That's why CultureSuite is on a mission to make digital more sustainable for the sector; to bring together the collective knowledge of our team and partners so that arts and culture can thrive. Here's our story.
Matt Yau

There’s a thrilling romanticism to rocking up at a venue, gazing up at the illuminated listings for the day, then queuing at the box office for your ticket. Indeed, box offices were often the brightest and shiniest buildings on the street.

The digital equivalent has had much less time to develop and optimise. It also has to achieve much more than a traditional box office, and in an environment where best practices can change quickly.

Not only do websites need to excite new visitors, they also need to be accessible to everyone, help people find shows that interest them, while also being efficient to manage and administer. This is just a small sample of jobs that live event websites must handle. All within budget constraints in a sector where funding is often under pressure and with teams that are often quite small.

Traditionally, this was realised with bespoke website builds every three to five years facilitated by arts funding that came in the same cadence. This is what After Digital and Peppered offered and delivered to venues.

Based out of Rotterdam, Peppered started building websites from the ground up in 2000 for a range of industry sectors before specialising in the arts and culture sector thanks to the team’s proficiency at integrating websites with ticketing and event management platforms – an essential feature for live event venues. In that time, Peppered amassed over 80 clients in Europe. Many of them have been using Peppered for over 20 years, receiving multiple iterations of their website.

Across the North Sea in Glasgow, After Digital was doing similar work for UK and US venues. With a focus on providing strategic digital consultancy, digital marketing, design and development services, as well as being specialists in integrations, the award-winning agency worked with high-profile venues from the Honolulu Museum of Arts to the Southbank Centre in London.

Between the teams, there’s a wealth of experience building websites and providing strategic digital consultancy for arts, culture and entertainment venues. With experience, comes wisdom. 

Over the years, both Peppered and After Digital noticed recurring themes and challenges for arts and culture venues; something that David Johnstone, founder of After Digital, and Coen van der Poll, founder of Peppered, bonded over when they first met at the Ticketing Professionals Conference in 2019. 

The question is, is it sustainable for arts and culture venues to pay a lump sum upfront, every three to five years, to build a bespoke website equipped with features that we know venues need to manage their website? Especially when the cost of the build may not include ongoing maintenance, support and provisions for new features that help venues grow. The answer they both came to was ‘no’.

This is what we learnt. Many website platforms, CMSs and tech stacks simply aren’t made to handle the processes required for running a website for arts and culture venues. Onsales season brought unique challenges where ticket numbers move quickly, and sometimes event details can change last minute. It’s not sustainable for teams to reactively update websites based on these changes, which is why their websites need to be synced with event management systems to ensure ticketing information is always up-to-date.

But why set up these processes every time a new website is built? It only adds extra cost and burden to the digital operation of venues. You wouldn’t develop a new ticketing system for every new website, so why should each website be painstakingly built from scratch?

Peppered came to this conclusion in 2015. The result? Peppered developed into a software as a service (SaaS) website platform designed specifically for arts, culture and entertainment venues. Straight out of the box, it handles recurring needs in the industry, such as integration with third-party platforms, automation based on the latest ticketing data, accessibility requirements, and personalisation to optimise ticket sales. These features are made to address the challenges that venues face in a continually challenging economic landscape.

While After Digital was still developing bespoke websites, an opportunity came up to work with Peppered on de Doelen’s website. The Glasgow-based team were looking to make digital more suitable too, and in Peppered, they saw how the industry could benefit from an industry-specific website builder that already has all the necessary tools for venues to thrive.

Bringing together After Digital’s strategic and design expertise with Peppered technical brilliance, the collaboration was a major success. It also gave space for the two brands to ponder together about the future of arts and culture.

It’s no secret that arts and culture face a challenging economic landscape. Even in the last few years, many venues have received funding cuts which threaten their existence and therefore the spread of culture which splashes colours onto our lives.

That’s why the people behind After Digital and Peppered wanted to give more to the sector than software and strategy. By merging the brands to form CultureSuite, we’re collaborating with cultural institutions that share our vision of helping the sector thrive. Using our collective expertise, we’re unlocking learnings across the globe, meeting to discuss innovative ideas and inspiring each other to play a role in collective cooperation.

One way we’re currently enabling this collaboration is through our community platform, CultureHub, where venues and institutions around the world can reflect on and share their learnings.

Together, we can advocate for arts and culture; declare its significance in our lives; bring together an abundance of expertise and help venues thrive in an increasingly challenging landscape.

At CultureSuite, we're not just in the business of building websites; we're a group of thinkers, designers, and tech experts pushing boundaries for the arts, culture and entertainment sector. The mission is simple – make digital more sustainable for live event venues.

We understand that a venue's online platform is more than just a virtual storefront – it's a dynamic hub for engagement, ticket sales, and community interaction. But managing a venue comes with unique challenges. 

That’s why our suite of marketing tools is designed with event management in mind. 

CultureSuite currently covers three key products:

  • Website
  • Digital signage
  • Mailing
The Peppered Suite includes website, digital signage and mailings

All three products integrate with third-party platforms so data can be synced across your software, empowering your team to work efficiently and proactively. To help do that, CultureSuite’s platform includes:

  • Automation based on data from your event management system, ticketing system, CRM and any other software where you might store data.
  • Accessibility compliance in line with WCAG 2.1 Level AA so that you can reach a wider audience while also helping to secure funding.
  • Personalisation tools based on our centralised data centre which helps you to engage more effectively with your audience.
  • Flexible building blocks that are fully configurable, and can even be scheduled so that your team can work more proactively.
  • A centralised data centre which can distribute content to external feeds via the Peppered API. This can send content to Google, Meta, UiTdatabank and many others.
  • Access to a community platform that includes venues from around the world, where we encourage knowledge sharing about how to get the most out of Peppered and venues can inspire each other with ideas for maximising ticket sales. We want to nurture a community that lifts each other up.
  • The licence to contribute to the development roadmap, where updates are released every three weeks. You can even sponsor updates if you need something developed quickly, but if it’s something that all venues could benefit from, we might simply build it out of the roadmap budget.
  • Access to round-the-clock, multi-lingual support with fast SLAs.

All of this is available right out of the box. This means you get access to these powerful tools quicker for a monthly licence fee that makes the investment much smoother and no surprise costs such as added billable hours. Along with the support team and the agency to help enhance the platform with new feature ideas, Peppered’s digital sustainability gives arts and culture organisations a stage to perform their best.

Next steps

No matter what stage you're at in your search for the perfect web platform or digital marketing tool for your venue, we'll help you get the information you need to make the right decision.

  1. Join our community of venues and get insider insights.
    Learn how to get the most out of Peppered, gain insights from other venues, and add new features to the Peppered development roadmap. Sign up to CultureHub.
  2. Want to see how Peppered works?
    We’re proud of how easy we make it for venues to manage their website. That’s why live event venues around the world trust Peppered. Book a personalised demo.
  3. Looking to partner with us?
    If you’re a technology provider, design agency or supplier for the arts and culture sector, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us here.
  4. Want to learn more about digital tools for venues?
    Explore our industry insights and expert advice by heading over to our resources page, YouTube channel or subscribing to our newsletter.

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“We’re absolutely thrilled with the transformation of our website, thanks to the fantastic work by CultureSuite and the power of Peppered! We've now got a distinct digital identity, that captures the vibrant spirit of our business. The seamless integration with Spektrix has simplified our event management, automating many tasks that used to be manual.”

Rhys McKinnell
CEO, Pub Culture (The Fire Station)