Ticket Madness

I recently became aware that Flight of the Conchords will be playing at Madison’s Overture Center in late April. I excitedly took note of the date and time at which ticket sales would begin, as listed on the Center’s web site: Saturday, February 7 at 11 a.m. On the appointed morning, I visited the web site early, set up an account, and feverishly waited for 11 o’clock to roll around. As soon as my computer’s clock ticked to 11, I began the purchasing process. After I’d made all the relevant selections, I received the somewhat cryptic message “Unable to secure seats in this price level.” I made a few more unsuccessful attempts, and then decided to try calling the ticket office. The woman who answered (after I’d been on hold for quite awhile) cheerfully told me that the show was already sold out. The time was 11:20am, and I expressed my disbelief that every one of Overture Hall’s 2,251 seats had been sold in such a brief time. The ticket agent then told me that there had been two pre-sales, and that the tickets had all actually sold before 11 – that is, before they officially went on sale. I asked how one finds out about these pre-sales, and she replied simply “I don’t know.”

I understand the promotional value of making a small number of tickets for an event available to a select group of people. However, allowing an event to sell out before the stated beginning of ticket sales is absurd and inexcusable. The Overture Center’s web site does not contain a single mention of (or warning about) pre-sales. Furthermore, at the time I attempted to make my purchase, there was no indication that the Flight of the Conchords show was already sold out. Had this information been available, I might still be without tickets, but at least I wouldn’t have rearranged my Saturday plans around the supposed beginning of ticket sales or wasted half an hour frantically trying to make a purchase.

I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of contracts between performers, promoters, and venue, so I hesitate to lay the blame for this situation entirely at the feet of the Overture Center’s staff. However, I do fault them for failing to keep their customers informed. If pre-sales are outside the Center’s control, they can at least make the general public aware that pre-sales are occurring. They can also certainly update their web site more quickly to reflect when a performance has been sold out.

My only option now seems to be purchasing tickets that members of the ‘select group’ of pre-sale participants have made available on Craigslist. But at a minimum markup of 200%, they are now well outside my graduate student budget.

I’ve sent a much-shortened version of this (on my own site, I don’t have to abide by any 200-word limits, ha!) to a number of local news outlets as a letter to the editor. If anything comes of it, I’ll update this post.

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2 Responses to Ticket Madness

  1. Rob Chappell says:

    Hello Dave – Rob Chappell, Overture Center spokesman here. You’re obviously not the only one disappointed by the way the FotC ticket sale went, so I’d like to try to shed some light on some of the concerns that you raise.
    The simple fact is that this show sold out very quickly, as popular acts often do. We did have some website and phone system issues, however, which we regret.
    One reason the show sold out so quickly was that Flight of the Conchords management required us to make a presale available to FotC Fan Club members beginning on Monday, February 2, five days ahead of the general public on-sale. We were asked to make 70% of the available tickets, or about 1,360 tickets, available for this presale. In addition, we made a small pre-sale available to our own email list and the promoter ran a presale with one of the media partners, radio station WMMM. Only 250 tickets were allotted to each of those two pre-sales, which were made available the day before the general public on-sale.
    You also wanted to know how to get onto those presale lists. The best way is to sign up for our e-list at http://paciolan.myprefs.com/?@overture&p2p=Signup. Joining fan clubs of bands or radio stations you like can also help get you on preferential lists for pre-sales.
    Anyway, when 11:00 Saturday morning rolled around, we felt that we had to set aside enough tickets to accommodate at least those who were standing in line at 11. Our phone system was overwhelmed and crashed, a fact that we regret. In the end, only 371 were available to sell through the Internet on Saturday, which didn’t take more than a few minutes, as you can imagine.
    Unfortunately, ticket resellers were able to purchase a number of tickets and have subsequently made them available at much-inflated prices, as you note. We do have measures in place to curb this as much as we can. For example, we’re holding tickets in the first 15 rows at the box office and will only give them to the person who bought them (and only if that person has valid ID). Still, this reselling practice pervades the live performance and concert industry. It is disappointing to venue managers like us, to performers, and, most importantly, to fans. Unfortunately, at this time, the measures we have in place can only go so far to stop these outfits from buying tickets and reselling them.
    We are truly sorry that you and many others were disappointed not to get tickets.
    Anybody with questions can contact me at rchappell at overturecenter dot com.

  2. Patricia A. Wells says:

    In the immortal words of Leo Getz [Lethal Weapon II]:” They f*ck you at the drive-thru!”

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