Friday, November 03, 2006

The Power of the Box Office

Toward the end of September of this year I purchased four tickets to the Dixie Chicks who are playing in Portland’s Rose Garden on 11/9/06. It was a bad time for such an extravagance—hot off of an expensive journey around Europe—but I went ahead and forwarded the money to be sure we got the best seats possible, because I enjoy the Chicks. This was to be my husband’s big birthday gift. The seats were not very good, and I was disappointed that they were located where they were, while still considered “top dollar” tickets.

Today, by chance, I checked the Rose Garden website only to find tickets for the same price as ours, in a far superior location. Puzzled I phoned the Rose Garden box office and was unceremoniously told that these were newly released tickets. When I questioned what that meant I was told that it is “industry standard” practice for promoters to release better tickets close to the date of a show, and to sell them to the lucky folks who hold out. As I maneuvered the site I discovered a large block of tickets (8 seats several times over) of these so-called special releases available. It seemed unbelievable to me that such a large amount of superior seats would suddenly become available to the general public rather than people who were forced to purchase inferior seats beforehand. Shouldn’t, at the very least, an exchange policy be in effect?

When I protested that it was unfair not to provide people who had previously purchased tickets— people whose money the venue was able to sit on and utilize for well over 6 weeks—the opportunity to switch out their lesser tickets for the far superior ones now being sold for the same price, the lady at the box office laughed at me. She told me in no uncertain terms that this was just the way it was, and I could buy the better seats, but they would not credit my other tickets back.

Does this seem unfair to you? I mean, should the best seats be held back for promotional purposes, and then released to fill seats that true fans were unable to procure?

I’m eager to know how any of you feel about this, and whether this has happened to you before. Why does the overpaid entertainment industry treat its customer this way? I have grown weary of the hassle of purchasing tickets to live shows (all this work to keep scalpers from getting tickets, even while they hold back tickets for their own use). As a fan of music, the energy of a live show is fast being overshadowed by substandard acoustics, ridiculously rigid and self-serving policies such as the one outlined above, and a lack of ability to negotiate the exchange that is standard in nearly every other market industry—namely being able to fairly purchase the best product at the best available price when you make the best effort to do so.

As I understand it, the artist isn’t getting the money for these promotional tickets, the venue and the promoters are. Does anyone know the mechanics behind this process, because I’m eager to understand it.

In conclusion, as a consumer, my experience with the Rose Garden, and unfortunately the Dixie Chicks, has been seriously compromised. If I fork out over $300 for tickets to a show only to find out far better ones become available to someone who buys their ticket 6 weeks after me because the venue has decided to release them for any reason, then I just won’t support the venue (and therefore any artist I admire that plays there). A live show is a big luxury in today’s economy. And if this is how all venues work (as the Rose Garden stated to me), then I’ll go to small shows with up and coming artists—artists who will better appreciate my presence. Bye bye Rose Garden, you clearly can’t live up to the promise of your “best available” tickets, so I’ll settle for listening to my music on my iPod and watching for televised performances by my favorite artists.


PS. I should clarify that these tickets that have been released are not "kill seats," tickets held until almost the time of a sold-out concert (generally with compromised views).


At 1:38 AM, Blogger Karina said...

heya Hools. I lost a tonne of email addys this year when outlook killed my emails. come over to Mandas forum and you will find me - PM me for my current email addy there.

Good to see you posting on your blog again - I missed your words !

And as for the ticketing fiasco - it sounds word for word the kind of complaint I am forever sending off to places here. Same kinda thing happens with the seat releases. To my mind a true fan has already bought the absolute best seats on the day they went on sale - why should people who are not as big a fan be able to buy tickets just days before the gig and get better seats than me. its a big GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Emily said...

That is BS, Pamela. If I were you and really wanted the better seats, I would buy the snazzy tickets and then sell the older ones on Craigslist at price. Check out the listings - there are people wanting to buy tix:

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't hate the Rose Garden; It's my understanding that this is an industry standard. I found out about it a few years ago when a friend wanted me to see Barenaked Ladies with her and asked me about 2 days before the performance. She knew that it was common practice to release tickets. In this case they released them the morning of the concert. She had called the venue to see when tickets would be released and made a point of calling at exactly the time she was told. We ended up with great seats.

One can only hold out for late released tickets (or whatever they call them) if it's a performance one is willing to risk missing. I think that you may be able to buy the better tickets now and sell the less desirable tickets as Emily said. The people looking on Craigslist, etc probably also don't know of the practice of releasing tickets. I'd be a little nervous about having 4 extra tickets, though.

Enjoy the show wherever you sit!

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Sandy said...

BTW, that was me posting above. :-)

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Pamela said...

Thanks to Emily and everyone else who posted a response on this thread--I'm still indignant about it! :)

I checked Craig's list, but people were quite specific about either where they wanted the tickets to be (floor), or how much they were willing to pay (not enough), most often both. And there were plenty of people selling tickets, too. I can't afford to be stuck with those other tickets.

Whether this is industry standard or not, I still think the practice is unethical. This was not just a few tickets held back, this was all or most of both sides of the best loge section, held back by the promotors apparently as freebies. A day of the concert release of a few floor seats feels different than this to me.

I'll go and have a good time, I'm sure, but I won't go back to the Rose Garden, and I'll write to tell them why--whether they care or not. If they had an upgrade policy in effect, the policy would bother me less.

I feel we can only effect change if we make a statement to the entities that get our money--that's what commerce is all about. Without concert-goers venues have no purpose, and a show is pure entertainment. I'll get entertained doing something else. I just feel that strongly--venues should not privilege people recieving freebies,or late purchasers, over the people who pay their rent.


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