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.

2 Comments

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!”