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Can Ticketfly take on Ticketmaster? Hello Canada

The Man burns during the Burning Man 2013 arts and music festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada.
Jim Urquhart | Reuters
The Man burns during the Burning Man 2013 arts and music festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada.

Ticketfly gained national exposure last year when it took over ticketing for the ginormous hippy love fest in the Nevada desert known as Burning Man, which attracted 66,000 attendees from across the globe.

The start-up's next target in its effort to take on industry giant Ticketmaster: Canada.

Ticketfly has just acquired Northern Tickets, a Vancouver-based ticket provider and owner of numerous Canadian venues. That makes Ticketfly the official ticketing partner of the legendary Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, a 1,300-seat venue that hosts more than 200 events a year, as well as the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and Adelaide Hall in Toronto.

The company now works with 120 venues and promoters in Canada.

Read MoreThe booming business behind Burning Man

"We love the ability to do deals like this," said Ticketlfly co-founder and Chief Executive Andrew Dreskin, who previously helped start online ticketing pioneer TicketWeb, which Ticketmaster acquired in 2000. "We buy Northern Tickets and pick up six fantastic venues in one fell swoop."

Formed in 2008, San Francisco-based Ticketfly is trying to unseat a massive incumbent in the same way that so many other upstarts are taking on every industry imaginable--with software.

In addition to handling online ticket sales for concerts and live events, when Ticketfly wins a deal it manages the venue's website, e-mail marketing campaigns and social media marketing. Northern Tickets marks the company's second acquisition in Canada and fourth overall. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

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Ticketfly has raised about $35 million from investors including Mohr Davidow Ventures, Northgate Capital and Sapphire Ventures, formerly SAP Ventures.

It's not the only emerging company playing in the ticketing space. Eventbrite has gained traction in the live music market and, according to its website, was used for 60,000 concerts and venues in 2013.

Among the venues Ticketfly serves are the Independent in San Francisco, Birdland in New York and the Hideout in Chicago. The company makes money by charging a fee on tickets sold, which Dreskin says is, on average, 30 percent to 40 percent lower than what Ticketmaster charges.

Last year, Ticketfly surpassed the $1 billion mark for total ticket transactions on the site, with half of that taking place in 2014 alone.The company has 140 employees and manages 500 live event websites.

That's still just a blip, though a growing one, on Ticketmaster's radar. The company, which merged with Live Nation Entertainment in 2010, generated a combined $6.9 billion in revenue last year. The concerts business, including promoting 22,800 events, operating and managing venues and producing music festivals, accounted for 69 percent of sales.

In ticketing, Ticketmaster's revenue increased 11 percent last year to $1.6 billion. The TicketWeb business, which serves independent venues, "has realized double-digit ticket sales volume growth in each of the past three years," according to a statement from a Live Nation spokesperson.

"Those venues and clubs that have recently joined TicketWeb's roster have in turn realized business growth through a dedicated solution focused on efficient event management tools, social expertise and mobile solutions as well as the unmatched marketing reach they get from the broader audience of Ticketmaster and it's distribution partners," the statement said.

Read MoreEventbrite: Ticketing in the digital age

Ticketfly's pitch, as it expands into more venues, is that it has a whole portfolio of services it can offer and new products on the way. The company has built and is rolling out a point of sale payment system that integrates with a concert hall's bar and restaurant, enabling consumers to pay and close out tabs from their phones. Other products in the works include tools to help promoters.

In August, Ticketfly acquired a small mobile developer called WillCall, which is at the center of a new smartphone experience that the company will be showcasing later this year.

"We're on the precipice of a reimagined live event industry," Dreskin said. "We have a big part in pushing that agenda forward."

Another recent milestone for Ticketfly occurred in February, when the company sold at least one million tickets in a month for the first time. While some of that is due to Ticketfly's continuing growth and addition of new venues, Dreskin did mention a particular event that had something to do with it.

Tickets for Burning Man 2015 went on sale.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Dreskin's name.