It’s so much more convenient to buy a concert ticket nowadays than it was when I was in high school back in the deep, dark, 1980’s. I remember that I’d lie to my mom and say I was staying over at a friend’s house, and then we would all head over to the mall and camp out in the parking lot in front of the Diamond’s Box Office. (Goldwater’s turned into Diamond’s, and is now Dillard’s. Thank you for playing.) Spending the night in the mall parking lot involved a boombox, lots of cassettes, a deck of cards, board games, Mad Libs and blankets. Usually, we didn’t bring food or water, because we were stupid teenagers.
Every Saturday at 10am, the tickets for that week would go on sale. Every event went on sale at the same time, so if there was more than one big show, you might find yourself in line behind Van Halen fans when you wanted a ticket to see Thompson Twins. This could be a huge problem because by the time your turn came to get a ticket, it might be sold out, or all the floor seats might be gone. My friends and I solved this problem by finding the most remote box office locations we could. When a-ha tickets went on sale, we went two hours of of town to the Prescott mall so we could get good seats. (THIRD ROW, BITCHES!)
While this was a thrilling adventure, it led to heartbreak more often than not. For every time I got a seat in the first five rows, there were ten times I either got no ticket or had to sit on the lawn or in the balcony.
Nowadays, tickets go on sale at all sorts of times of the day and days of the week. (I still think that is really weird, don’t you? OK I am old, I get it.) Instead of camping out in front of a box office location, I press “refresh” over and over until the tickets go on sale. I made sure to get on as many presale lists as I could, so that I get first pick of the seats, because old habits die hard.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you plan, shows sell out quickly and you are screwed. The most infamous and recent controversy that occurred over scalpers was the New York LCD Soundsystem farewell show at Madison Square Gardens. James Murphy posted up a “fuck you, scalpers” blog and made sure to add more shows once he found out what happened. The only way to get into these shows was to show your ID. You couldn’t sell your ticket to anyone else. The person who bought the ticket was the only one who could enter the venue. I thought this was a great idea, and was glad that some real fans got to see the shows.
Because of the prevalence of scalpers scooping up tickets and selling them for much more than the original price, the music industry is considering going paperless. This would mean that from now on, the only way to get into a show would be to show your ID or have your credit card swiped. I am of two minds in regards to this practice.
First of all, it would be great to get rid of the price gouging from scalpers. For example, I wanted to buy a ticket to see the sold-out Adele show at Stubb’s next month, but the only way to get one was to pay almost $200 on stubhub.com. Obviously, I don’t have the money for this, so I can’t go to the show. (Should have bought one when they went on sale, I know, I know.)
On the other hand, sometimes I like to sell my tickets. In the past year I have sold tickets twice. In both instances, I had every intention of going to the show when I bought the ticket, but ended up being unable to go. I was able to recoup my money and break even. I never sell my tickets for more than what I paid for them. Because I’m broke, I was thinking of buying a 3-day pass to Austin City Limits and selling it for a profit, but that makes me feel pretty skeevy. (Even though I’d make a nice chunk of change on it.)
What is the recourse for people like me, who just want to give their ticket to a deserving fan, and break even? There is nothing you can do if you have to claim the ticket yourself. In that case, you’d just be out the money. It would make me feel more cautious about buying a ticket to a show months in advance.
That’s another problem. Why are tickets sold six months in advance in some cases? Who knows what I will be doing in six months? It’s a long time to plan an evening out. I’m not a spontaneous person, but even I think that’s ridiculous.
I’m not sure if paperless ticketing will solve the scalping problem, anyway. There will surely be some way to work around the obstacles, and then we will all be in the same boat.
Do you agree with me that tickets should remain transferable? If not, why? I’d love to hear some thoughts on this topic, and some scalper horror stories.