Tuesday, March 03, 2009

His Date with Ticketmaster


My Date With Ticketmaster

Posted on Monday March 2, 2009 at 05:30 PM 8 |

There’s been a lot of griping and cussing from fans lately about the difficulty of trying to buy tickets for a show through Ticketmaster. So in the interest of journalism (and because I’m a huge Leonard Cohen fan), I tried to do just that myself this morning.

And guess what? I’m pretty sure I had the same experience that’s been enraging people all over the country.

The show I wanted to take in is April 13 at The Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Calif., and tickets went on sale today at 10:00 a.m. PST.

You’ll notice I said wanted. I won’t be seeing Leonard at The Paramount Theatre. Unless, of course, I want to pay a lot more than face value for the tickets. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s a minute-by-minute account of how my attempt to buy tickets went down.

10:00 a.m.: I cruise over to Ticketmaster.com and type in Leonard Cohen. I click on the Oakland show, ready to score my prime seats. Looks like I jumped the gun though, because tickets aren’t available yet.

10:01 a.m.: I navigate back to the homepage, type in Leonard Cohen again and hit enter. Select the Oakland show again. Bingo! I ask for two seats at any price with the best available section and location option.

I type in the captcha and we’re in business. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Score! Two seats. Where? Balcony Row D, Seats 1 and 3, priced at $129.50 each (plus service charges of course, but that’s a discussion we’ll have some other time).

Wait a minute! You’re telling me that one minute after tickets went on sale, the best seats available are in Row D of the balcony? Uh huh.

I’ve learned from experience that sometimes if you hit the “search again link” you can come up with better seats. So right away, I try it. Big mistake.

10:03 a.m.: I hit the “search again” link. Waiting, waiting, waiting. What do you think I see next? You guessed it. “Sorry, no exact matches were found, but other tickets may still be available.” That’s Ticketmaster-speak for sold-out. Curses!

To ease my pain the nice people at Ticketmaster have helpfully provided a link for Ticket Exchange Marketplace, where I can buy tickets from someone who was lucky enough to get tickets, but in the space of three minutes, has decided they don’t want them anymore. How thoughtful.

I resist the temptation to see just what I’ll now have to fork over if I want to see Leonard in the Bay Area. After about 8 minutes, the pressure is too much and I cave. Sooo…

10:12 a.m.: I click the link for Ticket Exchange Marketplace, where I see there are now 65 people selling tickets for the Oakland show at a significant markup. The top price, for Orchestra seats, is around $800 for two tickets. Wow. That was fast.

Now I’m a devoted Leonard Cohen fan. I realize he doesn’t tour very often and this is probably the last time he’ll do a tour of this scale. I was even prepared to pay $251 for Orchestra seats. After all, we’re talking about a living legend.

There is no way, however, that I can justify forking out $400 a ticket. Especially not in this economy. I’m not saying I couldn’t afford it; I can - although it would mean sacrifices. (Eating is overrated anyway.)

What I’m saying is when I weigh the merits of blowing that kind of money for something like this, they don’t add up. (Plus if my parents ever found out, I’d never hear the end of it – some things never change.)

I love all types of music, which means I’ve seen plenty of shows over the years. Heck, I’ve even purchased the majority of my tickets through Ticketmaster. I’m sure I’m dating myself here, but I remember camping out in front of a record store to score choice seats when tickets went on sale. Ah, the good old days.

But things change, and when it became possible to buy tickets online, I adapted and started buying them that way.

Admittedly, a lot of the bands I make it a point to see aren’t the ones whose tickets sell out in a matter of minutes. That’s probably why I’ve never had this experience with Ticketmaster before.

Of course, I also haven’t gone to that many shows since Ticketmaster went into the business of secondary ticketing. I’m sure there are plenty of people inside the industry who would argue that there’s no connection between this and not being able to get tickets. I’m just not one of them.

(Update: As of 2:30 p.m. PST, Orchestra seats at The Oakland Theatre were topping out at $1254.02 on Ticket Exchange. Guess I should have jumped on them when they were only $400 each