Saturday, January 28, 2012

Goodbye, Ticketmaster

I'm done.

I'm done standing in line in freezing weather with the hope that technology won't fail me.

I'm done worrying if I don't pay exorbitant prices for processing fees that I won't get to see the artists I want.

I am done with thievery and usury — and difficult times.

Last week, my husband David found out Bruce Springsteen tickets were going on sale today, and we plotted our purchase strategy.  I'm a huge fan, which makes me one in a million. Or so. I have seen more than a few performers through the years, but Bruce is the only one for whom the sky is the limit when it comes to tickets.

However, I do have a limit as to how much surcharge (or "processing fee") I'll pay.  The last time I checked computer or phone purchases through Ticketmaster/Live Nation (which the federal government swears is not a monopoly), the fee was double-digit per ticket in many cases. The ticket price for "cheap seats" to see Nickelback in Utah last year were reasonable, but the processing fees would have nearly doubled the cost of each seat.

As a result, David and I try to purchase our tickets at the venues. Here in DC, the processing fee could be as little as $3 a ticket.

Springsteen tickets went on sale this morning. David and I were up before dawn to get to the venue and join the ticket lottery. At 8 a.m., those in line received a number at random. It could be 1, it could be 150. However, if you were there, you earned that place in line.  It didn't guarantee you a ticket, but your position was better than it was for those who showed up "on time."

David got number 89.

I got 148.

The box office opened at 10 a.m., and within 20 minutes, only single tickets were available. We got probably one of the last pairs of tickets, then two singles.  Minutes after that, tickets were sold out.
I can tell you why: scalpers.

One man who purchased tickets walked past the line and asked us, "So, when is the concert?" He wasn't a fan buying them for himself and a couple of friends. He was buying them for profit.

From the conversations I heard from others in line, their onslaught would begin at 9:58 a.m. with multitasking. These folks with cell phones and handheld devices were purchasing tickets however they could. I joined them myself, and after 17 minutes, I gave up.

David had a companion in line whose wife at home purchased great seats through the computer before he arrived at the ticket window. Around me, everyone had friends doing the same thing. No one at my end of the line expected to get a ticket, or at least a desirable seat. They hit send, stop, then send, over and over.

Within the hour, news reports stated that analysis of computer and telephone sales indicated that many buyers were using sophisticated equipment to purchase large volumes of tickets.  I could have told them that.

I also could have told these analysts that the system has been corrupt for years. Every "protection" set up has only hindered legitimate personal purchases, and music fans find themselves resorting to jamming Ticketmaster phone and computer line until all hope is gone — while, within minutes of a sell-out, scalpers post their booty on scalping sites (which Ticketmaster is kind enough to refer you to in case you really want to go to the show at any price).

I am done getting my toes stepped on in this dance: I am going to step aside and let others, hopefully fans, make these required herculean efforts.  I enjoy live music, but not enough to endure the pressure and inevitable disappointment as tickets sell out from under my fingers, no matter how many times I hit "redial" or "refresh."

I know I live in an affluent area with few good venues for the larger, more popular acts. I know there are more people on the planet jamming the phone lines and computer connections. (One would think the absurdly high ticket prices would warn them off — though, to be fair, Bruce and Nickelback had the most reasonable prices for a large venue I have noticed in a long time). I know times change, life goes on and the world keeps getting more expensive, impersonal and inconvenient. However, I also know I can choose, to quote George Jetson, to "get off this crazy thing," and that is precisely what I am going to do.

No comments: