Friday, April 14, 2006

The Ticket Racket

Recently, I was required to do something that I would rather not do. I had to deal with Ticketmaster. The Dave Matthews Band is going on their summer tour, and it's time to deal with the devil, which means Ticketmaster, which isn't Hell, but you can see it from there.
While I promised myself that this blog would not be a personal diary of my life, the Ticketmaster experience is enough of a worldly pain in the ass that I cannot imagine anyone having anything nice to say about it. Yet, we continue to deal with it, Pearl Jam notwithstanding.
It's because the ticket machine has become a monster. Legal scalpers on the web, phone scams and schemes of all sorts are used to bag precious tickets. So my pain is probably your pain, and I suspect that if you have anything nice to say about getting tickets to a show, it's because you were able to get them. Otherwise, you dealt with busy signals and "server busy" messages.
And speaking of servers, what's with that ridiculous word jumble we have to type to get to the ticket search window? Words I've never heard of - and I've heard of a lot of words. Words like decamp, towned and thionyl. Yes, that's right, thionyl. And don't make a mistake typing it, or you're relegated back to the dreaded "Event Screen."
Let's use them in a sentence: "Today, our group attempted to decamp, but the bus was towned at a stop sign when it ran out of thionyl." If my english professor was dead he'd be turning over in his grave.
The thing that bugs me the most about the ticket racket is, of course, the price. I realize it's a long time ago, but in 1975 when I started going to shows, tickets were $5.50. I saw Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Black Sabbath and The Kinks - all first-rate headliners - at The Spectrum in Philadelphia for less than six dollars. I will see The Dave Matthews Band, also a first-rate headliner, at the Tweeter Center in Camden for $60, or roughly ten times the cost of a show 30 years ago.
Does anything else cost ten times as much now as it did 30 years ago? I don't think so, and if you, dear readers, can think of anything, post a comment, but I am at a loss.
Oddly, the shows are not ten times better, or even that much different than they were in 1975. They're the same length, the stage is the same size, the lighting is a little better (but not ten times better) and the sound systems have not improved much. So, where am I to assume that the extra $55 is going?
Almost $10 of it is going to Ticketmaster (which was Ticketron in 1975), and I think the service charge back then was fifty cents. For the record, the tickets still look the same. We had to go to a local record store and stand in line for hours. Now, we sit at the computer and they mail them to us ... for $10. Or, if we print them ourselves, they charge us another $2.50. Is there something wrong here?
But we pay it, don't we? We fall all over ourselves to pay $250 to see aged Paul McCartney or the Rolling Stones, so why should Ticketmaster change if we are not willing to?

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