Something’s got to give in this discouraging state of affairs. Phish tickets have gotten nearly impossible to acquire on actual on-sale dates, and there is no solution in sight. In a nutshell, this sucks, and many fans are being left ticketless. This weekend, we witnessed the death of online Phish ticket sales, and discovered the only way to score a decent ticket is to be the first in line at an outlet- sometimes. Although I had most of my tickets, I tried to score tickets for every on-sale this weekend to fill in the gaps and grab tickets and hook up friends in need. Not interested in buying lawns, I was able to score a whopping two Gorge tickets out of seven on-sales.
This isn’t coming from a place of bitterness-I have my tickets, and for that I am blessed- just one of utter dismay and empathy for those who had similar experiences. I tried all weekend long to score a decent stub and met with fail after fail after fail- and I consider myself pretty savvy with the ticket thing. After my multiple experiences this weekend, I thank my lucky stars for having so many friends looking out for one another, because without such a network I’d be out of luck right now. Yet not everyone has such a network, and these on-sales are their only real chance of getting tickets, and herein is my point.
Let me narrate this weekend’s bumpy road, and I bet that some of it sounds quite familiar. Red Rocks- not a chance. I never even saw the screen after I selected two four-day passes. Next day- I tried for Darien while a friend stuck out on Merriweather. I was never able to access a screen to actually select tickets- not sure why. Maybe I refreshed one too many times, but I was never let back in, even after restarting my computer- though obviously nothing was left at that point. There is nothing on Live Nation’s site about refreshing screens.
SPAC- nothing. I am thrown into a waiting room from which I never emerge. Once I decided to bite the bullet and refresh the screen, tickets were gone. Live Nation’s server seemed to be jamming every single time, and even when I did get by the captcha in under fifteen seconds, there was always an error message waiting on the next screen.
Meanwhile, I heard of a friend’s success at their local Blockbuster, and decided that for Shoreline, that would be my plan. But first the Gorge was going on sale. Completely defeated and ready to toss my computer out the window, I would attempt Gorge tickets as a mere formality. But less than an hour before they dropped, a friend stopped by and suggested we look at places to go in the city. We hopped in her car and sped down to a little Ticketmaster outlet within a store in the Mission. Upon arrival, there were about nine people there and about a half an hour to go. I figured we were screwed but decided to wait and be told formally. In conversation, I learned that eight or nine people had scored four-day passes for Red Rocks there the previous day. Hmmm, I thought, we are going back to the old-school.
While waiting in line, I realized that our technology has finally outdone itself. With so many people trying to score tickets against insurmountable odds created by ticket bots, hacker software, and scalpers, online ticket sales for Phish shows are officially dead. Sure, there will always be stories of the people who were lucky enough to get them- but that’s what it is, pure luck. Sure, you can strategize until the cows come home, but with zero barriers to entry, when thousands of people all hit the button simultaneously, whoever gets pulled into the system is quite random. Online ticketing is far too accessible- you can sit in your underwear with your bong and click the mouse, or try order tickets when you should be working. Back in the day, you’d have to go to a Ticketmaster outlet- it took a lot more effort. Online on-sales have become no better than another lottery at this point, so we are left to trade and scalp; it’s a bad scene.
As the guy at the outlet furiously ran credit cards and printed tickets, the two-day passes sold out, as expected, with the person before us. We did manage to score two individual tickets, and now she’s in. That’s my success story. But it wasn’t supposed to be the main story- that was coming Sunday with Shoreline.
I tried for Hartford and landed in another waiting room, then all that was available was lawn- all within about thirty seconds. Really?! I got into the system in the first thirty seconds and all that was left were lawn seats- something was going on here. Unless you got right in at the moment the tickets went on sale, your chances at a pavilion seat were slim to none. Sure we can all get stubbed down, but it’s all about having your own ticket in your own pocket.
Yet for Sunday I had scouted my plan. I located a random Blockbuster an hour outside the city, and was heading there early- very early. Waking up at 7:07, I hopped in my car by 7:30 and was in the desolate parking lot of Blockbuster at 8:30 am- alone! I had done it, I had accomplished my goal- I was first at an outlet. I smoked a joint solo just to celebrate my forthcoming pair of 100 level tickets, and sat on the curb with the Sunday Times- blowing up my solo lot scene. I spoke with the manager, and he was on board with the mission, so I relaxed and enjoyed the morning sunshine for 3 1/2 hours. About an hour into my personal sit-in, a second guy rolled up, and we shot the shit as we gloated about our situation.
I checked in with the manager again, telling him about the high demand, the scalpers, and the incredibly time-sensitive nature of his forthcoming task. He was down, he would do all he could to make sure we were hooked. Beautiful- or so we thought.
Finally, it was five to twelve, and tickets were about to drop. As I watched him navigate the computer, I realized how slow he was at each movement and began to fear that his lack of speed would be our doom- but I was first- I knew I would at least get my two. 12:00 hits! He pulls up two pavilions but has no idea what button to press to try and acquire the tickets. After about twenty seconds of searching he finally found the “add to cart” button, which I thought was strange for a corporate outlet. A cart? Anyhow, as he entered the order, his computer came back with an error message!? What the fuck?! I came here to avoid error messages! And so he started the process from the beginning again, and I knew I was sunk. By the time he pulled ANY ticket, it was 12:10 and it was a lawn, which we let a third guy have who came up at the eleventh hour.
I was momentarily livid. It was so obvious that Live Nation sent their guy to install their computer at Blockbuster, dropped off an instruction manual and left. The guy confessed to being “very new at this” having only sold twenty tickets ever, and no offense, but it showed- he was totally unprepared for the task at hand. If I was behind the terminal, I’m confident we would have all walked out with pavilions, but alas, what could we do- he was the guy that worked there. To make a long story short- first in line, 3 1/2 hour wait, no tickets. Nice.
What to do now? I have no idea. With internet on sales as random as the lottery, outlets’ efficiency subject to staff competence, and a phone system in which we get hung up on, we are left with very little control over our own destiny to score Phish tickets. It’s reached the point of absurdity, and I have yet to hear a legitimate solution. This whole paperless ticket trend wouldn’t work for Phish, as you wouldn’t be able to trade or buy tickets for friends unless you were actually going in the door with them. Though by subverting scalpers, everyone just might be able to get tickets again.
Ironically, part of the problem is the relatively low price of Phish’s tickets. With a $50 face value, they are sold at a fraction of the cost of any major act like Bruce Springsteen, The Dead, or U2. Knowing the profit margin available on Phish tickets, scalpers, like vultures, flock to them using ticket bots and mark them up 400-500%. If that’s their business, how can you blame them? The incredibly high demand for Phish tickets far outstrips the supply for any given show, driving the true market value of a Phish ticket far above $50. With such a high demand, they are able to make ridiculous profits on Phish. In trying to keep it cheap for the fans, the irony is that fans aren’t getting the tickets; it’s a total mess.
So we are left to our networks of friends, trading boards, and scalpers- not always feasible options for everybody. I am a firm believer that if you go to just about any show and try hard enough, you will always find one. But it shouldn’t have to be like that; it shouldn’t be so damn hard for to get a ticket to see our favorite band. But with the band members taken out of business decisions this time around, we are left with Coran Capshaw and corporation Phi$h running the show, and, honestly, they seem like they couldn’t care less. Sure, they put anti-scalping messages on Phish’s ticket site- but do they actually do anything? Not so far.
Bruce has done something, Trent Reznor has said something, Eddie Vedder pioneered the anti-corporate ticket movement, and Metallica, AC/DC, and Tom Waits have tried paperless tickets requiring credit card and ID for entry. Yet nothing but silence has come from camp Phish as TicketsNow continues to hawk all their summer shows at absurdly high prices. It seems clear that Phi$h Inc. likes the hype and these sky-rocketing prices in the secondary market, as the demand to see Phish will only increase with every fan shut out. In the end, with the millions rolling in, no one cares who is getting the tickets or how they are doing it, this much is plainly obvious.
This is 2009, folks- we can pull up our friend’s entire music libraries on our phones from across the country, we can zap messages to people around the globe instantaneously and locate anything with pinpoint accuracy via hand-held GPS devices, but somehow we can’t figure out an effective system to get tickets in the hands of real fans. The real question remains, does anyone really want to?
PHISH THOUGHTS TICKET EXCHANGE:
Speaking of tickets, The Phish Thoughts Ticket Exchange has been updated for all the new shows! We have opened up the board to the public- no longer will you need to email for an invite. Please respect the board, as this is a community resource to get around the secondary ticket market. Please respect the board and post carefully to make sure you are putting your info in the right place. Please read the instructions on the board before posting. There is a permanent link to the board on the upper right of the home page. If you make a successful deal through the board, please send an email with “Great Success!” as the subject line with the details of the deal in the text so we can track transactions. If you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions, please email email@example.com!
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
I am re-posting this classic SBD for the sake of completing our ride through Red Rocks history. We conclude with a straight up classic- certainly one of the best ever in Morrison. Enjoy the blistering show from start to finish, as we dream of the end of July.
I: Wilson, Chalk Dust Torture, You Enjoy Myself, Rift, Down With Disease, It’s Ice, Tela, Stash
II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Run Like an Antelope, Fluffhead, Scent of a Mule, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, Maze, Contact > Frankenstein
E: Suzy Greenberg