The science of selling tickets may appear simple, but ticketing giant Ticketmaster is sitting on a treasure trove of unexplored transaction data, and even social data, it can use to better understand its customers and sell more tickets. To lead the expedition, the company has hired data guru John Carnahan.

Carnahan, a veteran of the online advertising industry, most recently CTO with the Rubicon Project and the former CTO of Fox Audience Network, brings 13 years of engineering, machine learning, data science, computational advertising and even genetics experience to the table. He’ll be heading up Ticketmaster’s new Data Science group as the executive vice president of data science and engineering.

“We know how much an impression is worth to various advertisers out there, but we don’t know what the value of a seat means to a user,” Carnahan said, in an exclusive interview with VentureBeat, on how he hopes to apply the science of advertising, audience segmentation and forecasting to the practice of selling tickets.

His goal for the Data Science group is to dig through Ticketmaster transaction data to understand the value of a ticket, nail down the recommendation piece with scientific rigor and show users related tickets that they’re likely to buy, and figure out how social factors into the puzzle.

“Using a website isn’t going to be the be-all-end-all of how people purchase tickets,” he said. “We’ll be exploring other channels where tickets can be sold.”

Data science could be the key to the company’s continued dominance in the highly competitive ticketing industry. Parent company Live Nation Entertainment — the ticketing, promotions and agency conglomerate comprised of Ticketmaster, Live Nation and Front Line Management — purchased BigChampagne last week to help it analyze customer transaction data.

Understanding the mountain of data in the company’s possession — Ticketmaster is a top five e-commerce site and sees 26 million monthly unique visitors — is a challenge that Carnahan is salivating to undertake. “We’re sitting on a relatively untapped dataset of fan interest,” he said. “It’s very exciting from a science perspective.”

Carnahan holds advanced degrees in Population Genetics from UCLA.

[Treasure chest image via Shutterstock]