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.