Metallica recently announced their only U.S. show for 2016. In the soon to be opened latest example of the sports equivalent of a Golden Calf soon to be known as U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Which means what exactly? Witness if you will the following:
Super excited his favorite band is coming to town, Billy (We’ll call him Billy) settles down in front of his laptop and logs into Ticketmaster and waits for Metallica tickets to go on sale. Hitting refresh until he is taken to a screen listing his ticket options. The adrenaline flows as he works his way to discover his first choice of seats had already sold out. No matter. Billy is open to almost any seat. Billy wants to take his recently turned teenage son to see his old man’s favorite band. Billy just wants to be there. Shortly after transcribing the fuzzy and distorted CAPTCHA image of numbers and letters (is this case sensitive?) Billy is required to enter to prove to Ticketmaster that he is indeed a human, he is told there are in fact zero tickets left. A dejected Billy lifts his head. Not even ten minutes have passed.
The good news is at that exact moment a large number of the 50,000 seats that sold in under 10 minutes were now available to Billy, and anyone else, at a slight markup. If you consider three times face value slight. Odds are if you’re reading this, you’ve found yourself in Billy’s shoes at least once.
The first time I bought tickets to a rock concert was in late summer 1987 to see KISS on their Crazy Nights Tour. Hearing the stories growing up of camping for days or getting in line hours early, I had my own visions of 9th grade me running a warrior dash through Dayton’s department store. Charging up the escalator hoping to secure one of those precious few front row seats to see my favorite band. I may have been just as excited to buy the tickets as I was to go to the show. So me and my buddy Wilson made my dad get up at 6:00 in the morning and drive us to Dayton’s in Rochester. Our arousal only grew when were the third and fourth person in line. Front row for sure! When the doors opened approx three hours later, tickets in hand, I was metaphorically punched in the gut as I learned the term “General Admission”.
By the mid-nineties, as you stood in the same line, you could also try calling Ticketmaster on your cell phone in an effort to get the best seats before you make it to the ticket window. Today, all you need is an internet connection. And a six-figure annual income. But we’ll get to that.
Over the years, my interest in seeing a band in an arena has waned in equal proportion to the list of fees that you are suddenly faced with after going through the whole process and of course just before clicking on that “purchase” icon. And judging by the lack of shows in an arena environment, I’m not the only one. Late 2014 the Foo Fighters announced tickets for all of their upcoming tour initially would only be available at the box office of each concerts arena. Online sales would commence after that. I hadn’t stood in a ticket line in years and the prospect of doing it now had the personal appeal of having my picture taken with Justin Bieber. Or his cut out. But I did it. And once again I got that feeling. That I was doing something. By the second hour in line, I had become friendly with my temporary BFF’s. We were united in our quest to slowly walk around the arena in a single file line. When I finally got my tickets and turned to leave I saw one of my temporary BFF’s looking at his prized tickets as well. Our eyes caught as he looked up, and for one moment I felt both happy we got tickets that WE wanted and a little sad because I was never going to see my new buddy again.
This standing in line for tickets had the feel of an event itself. It was even dubbed Beat The Bots by the Foo Fighters. If you’re not familiar with the term “Bots” when talking about purchasing tickets, it refers to ticket buying programs that can purchase hundreds of tickets to an event in less time than it takes you to get your Visa out of your wallet. And they are the reason you are more likely to purchase your tickets for peak demand shows from pure evil secondary ticket sellers like StubHub. And for the most part, it’s legal.
What a fuck face business. I could at least respect the guy standing outside the arena yelling “Tickets here!” That was at least a fair fight. These so-called “Ticket Brokers” buying off politicians, making deals with promoters. The fees places like Ticketmaster and LiveNation toss on at the last minute wasn’t bad enough? Now I have to give some dickhead corporation an additional 100% because… why exactly?
To break it down.
You = someone who wants the tickets because you want to see the show.
StubHub (or any other shit fuck fan raper) = Someone who has no interest in the ticket or the show. They just want to buy what you want before you and then sell it to you at an outrageous markup.
And it’s not a fair fight. This is like me fighting Brock Lesnar in a UFC match. And Lesnar refusing to fight me unless my hands are tied to my ankles. And make no mistake this is not free market. It may be supply and demand but it is supplying the haves at the expense of the have-nots. The bands don’t benefit. Ticketmaster claims it doesn’t benefit. And people, who actually want to go to the show, are now are faced with getting punched in the gut or giving StubHub their lunch money. It gets sleazier.
In a January Forbes article, we hear the story of Los Angeles Lakers fan Jesse Sandler. Just like Billy, Jesse’s a big fan. (Unlike Billy he’s not a fabricated portrayal of a jilted Metallica fan who happens to be a writer for Decibel Geek). Jesse purchased tickets to the Lakers last home game of the 2015/2016 season. Shortly after making this purchase Kobe Bryant announced he would be retiring at the end of the season. Meaning Jesse had just purchased a ticket to the last home game Kobe Bryant would play for the Lakers. The value of that ticket just went up. 1000% as Jesse would soon find out. StubHub canceled the sale so that they could resell it at its new inflated price.
There is a special place in hell for that company.
When is it enough? How far up does the hot poker have to go before we yell stop? I don’t care for giant pretzels but that doesn’t mean they should cost 12 bucks? My point being it really does affect us all. And any solution has to be absolute. There has to be a way to give the people who actually plan on attending first crack. It’s not like these things are cheap to begin with. The fees companies like Ticketmaster and LiveNation toss on at the end are criminal. And ridiculous. If the final price of a ticket is going to be $95 then that’s the price of the ticket. Not $50 plus an array insultingly named fees.
There has to be a way to ensure the fan gets the first crack. Sure some of the people who stood in line for Foo Fighter tickets went on to sell on Craigslist. I can live with that. It wasn’t a computer algorithm that beat me to the front of the ticket window. It’s like the difference between being in a fantasy football league with guys at work, and playing daily fantasy. They may seem the same but they aren’t. One guy selling 4 tickets on eBay, even if there are hundreds of them, is not the same as one company having 10,000 tickets available, on their own website, faster than you could find out the show has sold out. While smaller minds have opined it was a failure, the method the Foo Fighters used is the closest we’ve come to giving the people who want the tickets first crack at them. Have a period of time at the start of ticket sales where only on site, in person ticket sales can take place. After that. It’s the wild west. Besides we could all get out of the house a little more often.
Until such time join me in my personal pledge to never purchase above face value tickets from a secondary online seller.
Beat the bots.