Many Taylor Swift fans were in for a rude awakening this week. The legend announced a concert tour for 2023, and Swifties were immediately breathless with anticipation. Swift’s concert tours have always been must-see events, and the upcoming “Eras Tour” will be her first stadium tour in five years. First up for fans though is the gauntlet that is getting concert tickets through Ticketmaster.
The anatomy of a concert ticket sale is always the same these days. Twitter and the rest of social media explode with vitriol aimed at Live Nation and Ticketmaster when people realize how impossible it can be to get tickets through their online platforms. Thousands of people and thousands more bots are all trying to grab the same tickets and, without fail, the same reaction happens after each ticket sale: angry fans upset that the concert seemingly sold out in mere nanoseconds, which it probably did.
There is a solution, and it has nothing to do with hoping and praying for technology fixes. It’s not about undoing the laws that have made scalping tickets legal over the last decade, either. No, the solution is much simpler. Go back to the old way of doing things. Sell the tickets in person to people waiting in line in the basement of a department store or one of the handful of record stores that still exist or even–gasp–the actual box office of the venue. That way worked for decades, and it can work again.
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It used to be that people had to show up early in the morning (or even the night before), get in line, and wait for the tickets to go on sale. My friends and I would game plan for days to get tickets for high-demand tickets. Some would try one outlet, while others would go to others. We would stand at the outer doors of the department store, usually with a couple of dozen other like-minded fans along with some sketchy-looking characters that were surely scalpers—the old-fashioned type of scalpers, think Demone from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
The doors would be opened by the staff and we’d power walk our way to the ticket outlet counter, usually in the basement somewhere, where we’d line up and wait for another staff member to hand out carnival tickets with numbers on them. A few minutes before the tickets were set to go on sale, they would draw a number from a hat and whoever had that ticket would be first in line and we’d all line up behind them in numerical order according to our carnival ticket.
Was it a pain in the ass? You bet. Did I ever get shut out of tickets for a concert I really wanted to see? Nope, never. A little bit of effort was always worth it and so long as you were willing to get up early on a Saturday and make that effort, you were virtually guaranteed to score tickets. U2, The Grateful Dead, Guns N’ Roses…it didn’t matter how popular the band was, getting tickets just meant trying. Now? That’s all different.
There are no more ticket outlets. Box offices only open on the day of shows to distribute will-call tickets. Effectively 100% of ticket sales are now online, and almost always through Live Nation and/or Ticketmaster (which are really just the same thing). You can’t even call a number anymore like you could in the ‘90s. Concert-goers are at the mercy of a system that is filled with scam accounts, bots, scalpers, and thousands of other fans all trying to do what you’re doing from the comfort of their couches. It’s too easy to try, while it’s too hard to actually get the tickets.
Make ticket buying an effort again and all this madness ends. Maybe they should sell bongs in record stores again too, just to calm everyone down.
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