Monday, February 16, 2009

It's Not Fair: Ticket Sales in an Online World

I was browsing around Ticketmaster Canada today as I'm wont to do on a fairly regular basis to see if by some miracle a band I want to see is actually coming to Winnipeg. Lo and behold, I discover that Bloc Party is coming in May. I immediately attempt to buy a ticket. (The blood is buzzing in my ears at this point as it usually does when I try to get tickets online.) Already in my heart, I'm fairly certain that I won't get floor seats - it's the Burton Cummings Theatre, a vaudevillean venue that generally sells out its floor in seconds. I still remember what one of my friends and I will forever call the "Franz Ferdinand Debacle"; despite both of us being on the Ticketmaster Web site at the same time trying to get tickets for the gig, which happened to be a double headliner with Death Cab For Cutie, we both got locked out of the site and all of the tickets were gone in a minute. We still largely blame overzealous Death Cab For Cutie fans and their pre-sale passwords for this. I maintain that this is not the only reason I hate Death Cab so much. Back to my current Bloc Party situation... Sadly, I am correct, and I resignedly settle for a seat in the first balcony. It's Bloc Party - I need to go. I'm satisified enough just to be going at all, but when I look online for information about this concert announcement, I'm rankled by what I discover. The official announcement appears to have occurred on January 14, and there was a pre-sale password.

Now, I understand that the world of ticket-buying has irrevocably changed since the advent of online sales. I accept that. However, what I refuse to accept is the fact I have to have a coronary every time a decent band comes to this city. There shouldn't be such a thing as some elite pre-sale that only those in-the-know have access to. I'm not cool enough to be in-the-know. Or the loop. I'm already a lot more obsessive and crazy than regular music fans when it comes to monitoring things like this, but I realize that it would be physically and mentally impossible for me to keep tabs on every band I love to see when they might decide to brave the trek to Winnipeg. Perhaps teenagers are more adept at this because they have more time and energy to devote to such pursuits, or because they don't have hundreds of bands to worry about. At any rate, it's inevitable that every time a band has a pre-sale, there will be either no good seats left or no seats at all. Winnipeg is generally pretty starved for good gigs, so when they come, there's a rabid scramble.

I'm old enough to remember the times of pre-online ticket sales and pre-pre-sale ticket sales. When I was a teenager and barely twenty or so, I would dutifully line up outside ticket sellers and try for the best seats possible from the agent. This is how I procured third row tickets for David Bowie. I also remember being able to get tickets by phone. This is how I ended up on the floor for Muse (albeit after leaping over a couple rows of seating when the lights went out in order to evade security).

I would also like to point out that this isn't a rant against ticket touts, which seems to be a growing problem all over the world (though, I've heard most about it in Britain) because I'm fairly certain the majority of people who bought up the good tickets for Bloc Party genuinely wanted to go. In the end, this is probably more of a rant against pre-sales and annoying venues. What I mean by annoying venues is the aspect of assigned seating. I am most happy at a venue that has no seating at all. To me the democratic way of concert-going is rush seating. That guarantees that you don't have to have a grand mal trying to get tickets first, and it ensures that the more committed the fan, the better the position in relation to the stage. If you have the motivation to arrive at the venue's doors an hour or four in advance, then you surely deserve a prime spot by the stage. I have operated this way many times - in fact, I've gotten used to this manner of doing things over the past couple of years. Perhaps that's why I get so enraged at a place like Burton Cummings. Although, in the past, before this ticket frenzy nonsense, I recall being up against the stage at the Burt for The Arcade Fire and for Muse. But pre-sales have obviously changed that. I may never set foot on the floor of the Burton Cummings ever again.

Additionally, I seem to forget that most of the bands and artists I like are considered relatively obscure, thus when I've gone to their shows, I got to go to tiny venues that were automatically rush seating. This is why I wish bands would get out here before they get too big (this is how I managed to see The Killers with a couple hundred other people and nearly have Brandon Flowers step on my hand with his loafers). I can't compete with the army of indie fans that can finagle their way to the best spots for shows. At least not online. When it comes to physically competing for spots at the stage, I have sharp elbows and a stealthy nature, and I can stand outside a venue for half a day in sub-zero weather easily. My only small consolation is that the people at the Burt seem to be adamant that the Bloc Party show will have strictly assigned seating; however, having been in this position several times at other shows, I have witnessed the tide of fans leaving their assigned floor seats to press the stage regardless of security or rules. And I will be trapped like an obese pigeon up in the first balcony.

I feel sorry for those people who aren't techno-savvy and think they can actually purchase concert tickets by phone. Or by standing in line somewhere. Those days are long gone. My fear is that the days of online ticket purchases will soon be out of sight for me as well.

One Month Off - Bloc Party

Atonement - Bloc Party


Sarah said...

I prefer rushing in too, but it doesn't stop the grand mal aspect. I arrive several hours early for the bands I love, and spend the next however many hours with virtually every muscle tensing every time someone seems like they might be pushing ahead, or have found another way in etc. etc. I don't relax until I'm in and preferably at the front, slightly off-center (doesn't matter the band). Just occasionally, when I feel particularly old, I think it'd be nice to have a seat and not have to worry about this.

King Doug said...

I generally can't be bothered being near the front, due to the fact I usually can't see over people's heads, and that's where you get most of the discarded beer thrown onto you. So I don't suppose I'm too bothered by pre-sales tickets. It's helped me with Manics, NIN and Morrissey tickets in the past in fact.

But now some bands are making them available only to members of a paid fan club, which reeks of profiteering, and is only worth paying if you know for a fact that a band is going to play near you at some point.

It all stems from ticket touts creating a false demand. If tickets were abolished and you just paid to have your name down on a list, there'd be no tickets for touts to sell, and there'd be no need for pre-sales in the first place!

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