Canadian music fans, more specifically Tragically Hip fans are outraged by the current ticket buying process and being beat out by a ticket buying bot only to see the tickets reposted for sale at a significantly higher price. Some ‘experts’ (apparently because they wrote a book on Ticketmaster or the ticket buying experience) have stated that the only way to potentially fix this problem is to go back to the classic, wait in line for tickets process.
I completely agree. Not because of the whole ‘fight the bots’ thing. I think this is a great idea because the current process is very disengaging for the music fan, where as waiting in line, sometimes even camping out over night for tickets was a huge engagement factor and engaging activities within the music industry is a big component missing in today’s modern music industry world. I’ve felt this way for a while. Even wrote this blog back in Oct of 2014…it’s kind of sad that it’s still relevant today.
Tickets To Disengagement – Something else that’s impacting music engagement
Apple has an extremely high level of customer engagement and a very dedicated fan base. If you want to get a sense of how strong their customer engagement is, go talk to any of the individuals who have lined up, sometimes even camping out over night before the release of the newest version of almost any of the apple products. Even when it’s the newest version of something they probably already have, you will see these diehard fans lining because they NEED to have it as soon as it’s available.
In 1997, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, George Lucas re-released all three original movies with additional footage. In some cities, tickets went on sale prior to the release of each film. Die-hard fans who had seen the movie countless times lined up, some even camping out overnight anxiously waiting for tickets to go on sale. I remember seeing one individual, who happened to also be dressed up like Han Solo, being interviewed by the local news. He explained that even after getting the advance tickets he planned to continue camping out so that he could ensure he was the first one in the theatre to make sure he got the middle seat in the front row, where he would lean forward throughout the entire movie so that the light off the screen would hit his eyes before everyone else’s, which he believed would mean he’d see the movie first. Another example of highly engaged fans.
It was around this same time that how we purchased concert tickets changed. I still remember showing up 4 hours before the tickets were supposed to go on sale, to line up for tickets to the KISS reunion tour and being shocked that no one else was there waiting. As the time passed, more people started to arrive. They were also surprised by how few people were lined up. As the group of us waiting discussed this, I started to get excited because I also started to realize that I was first in line, which meant there shouldn’t be any reason why I wouldn’t end up getting some killer seats. More time passed and about ½ an hour before the tickets went on sale a lot of people showed up and all of them were wearing wristbands. Next thing we know one of the ticket booth employees is asking everyone who has wristbands to start lining up in order, starting with number ###### and anyone without a wrist band to come see him for one. I went from being first in line to near to the end of the line. When it finally became my turn to buy tickets there was next to no seats left aside from the very back of the arena. When I left, I felt like I had just wasted the last 4 hours. That feeling never really left me. Even the night of the concert I found myself the least excited I had ever been to go to a show.
Soon concert goers were no longer lining up for tickets. We were lining up to get wrist bands. It was a similar experience, but nowhere near the same level of enthusiasm or fan dedication you would be bragging about if you lined up for the tickets themselves. Just didn’t sound the same. “I camped out over night for a wrist band to reserve my spot in line for Motley Crue tickets”
Now the ticket buying experience is completely different. Everything is done online. You don’t even get tickets now. It’s just a print out with a barcode they scan when you walk in. I still have a handful of the ticket stubs from the first couple concerts I went to. Some I even framed. There are people who collect tickets, paying ridiculous amounts for rare tickets on eBay. Who wants to keep a printed out version of a ticket? It’s just not the same thing.
The technological advancements have made things a lot easier. It’s convenient to be able to order tickets from home. It makes it a lot easier for the ticket outlets. I remember once lining up for tickets and the outlets printer jammed and caused the tickets to print incorrectly. That’s no longer a concern for companies like Ticketmaster. When you think about the majority of the technological advancements that have led to the easy buying process we see today, for the most part they aren’t advancements that benefit the consumer, they benefit box office and ticket retailers. Being able to reduce staff, eliminate printing tickets and other cost cutting changes have helped the ticket outlets to save money. But saving money isn’t the only way they’ve been benefiting. Service charges have also been increasing as costs have been decreasing. The growing service charges are also a contributing factor to the growing disengagement of the average concert goer.
Even though the intent of these improvements has been to enhance the customer ticket buying experience, I have yet to hear anyone say anything positive about the process. In fact there is an even large sense of frustration. Issues with having to log in, unpredictable internet connection, systems crashing and tickets selling out in less than a minute have led to the ticket buying experience being a negative one. Sure, people will still buy concert tickets and go to shows but long term, ongoing negative experiences will have a negative impact. We’re already seeing a decrease in ticket sales and as much as the industry will point fingers at other causes, I firmly believe moving from an engaging experience to an automated experience is having an impact.
Well maybe if we made some tickets available in advance for pre-sale to select groups that will make the online experience more engaging. That worked for a bit, and then there were too many pre-sales and the options for tickets were horrible or the shows sold out seconds after tickets went on sale because too many were sold in the pre-sale. Now, we’ve also got to deal with people hacking the system and buying up multiple tickets to re-sell on eBay of Kijiji. Pre-sales and ridiculously quick sell-outs are just two more examples of how the current ticket buy process is disengaging.
Waiting in line, camping over night for concert tickets was an engaging experience, something true hardcore dedicated fans would do for the artists whose music had reached them on an entirely different level. These same fans would also buy the albums, the t-shirts, the posters and would share their experiences with their friends. Camping out was something you bragged about. It made you a bigger fan than the other fans who didn’t camp out. Even just hearing that people camped out over night for tickets made people think “Gee, maybe I should go to the show and see why people would camp out for tickets.” No one has ever said “You printed those tickets out yourself? I should buy some tickets and do the same”
“Improving” the ticket buying experience is diminishing the concert going experience. Eliminating engagement factors like camping out for tickets or even simply just having the tickets to show off to your friends has had a negative pact not only on the concert going experience, but the music industry as a hold. We need to start refocusing on the end user. We need to get back to engaging the fans.