1.29.2007

(Mis)Adventures in Ticketland

by Caitlin Servilio

This past weekend, I found myself shivering uncontrollably, swaddled in three or four layers of my warmest clothes, surrounded by a throng of college students in the middle of Washington, DC at 7:40 in the morning. Was I getting ready to participate in the huge peace rally going on at the National Mall? No. I was standing in an extremely long line outside the Kennedy Center, trying to get free tickets to see Sufjan Stevens.

As anyone who is, or ever was a college student knows, the word “free” has a powerful magical allure. Free food? College students are there. Free t-shirts? College students are there. So when I heard Stevens was playing at the Kennedy Center, I knew instinctively that I’d be there too. Unfortunately, so did every other student in the DC area. While our classmates marched in harmony on the Mall, we were locked in a deathly struggle for our beloved Sufjan Stevens tickets, calling friends and casting dirty looks at each other.

As I stood in the icy morning air, suffering from A Christmas Story Syndrome (the inability to put one’s arms down because one’s garments are too puffy) I started thinking about some of my previous experiences with shows I really wanted to see. One highlight was trying to see the sold-out Decemberists show: I frantically e-mailed every seller on Craigslist until one agreed to sell me their ticket for almost twice its original price. I had to take the Metro out to some place called West Falls Church (to the uninitiated: a DC suburb in Virginia) to pick them up outside a parking garage. Very sketchy.

Why is it so hard to get to see an artist you really appreciate and admire? I wondered. And why are tickets so expensive when you do get them? A reasonable price of $25 quickly becomes $32 if you order online, with service charges. If you happen to miss the window for that show, you’ll end up paying $40 on eBay or Craigslist — if you’re lucky. It seems unfair. Is this what artists picture when they dream of their careers, for their biggest fans to be excluded from overpriced shows in too-small venues? Don’t clubs care that they’re alienating their younger, poorer customers?

Frankly, concerts are my vice. I blow my savings on bands like Apples in Stereo and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. But even as hardened an addict as myself notices when her concert habits start to deplete her food fund. I don’t want to spend so much money on shows. But by boycotting prices, am I really hurting the venue, or the artist whose music gets stolen online and needs concert profits to get by?

“God, if you approve of concert prices, show me a sign now!” I prayed in the Kennedy Center's courtyard.

At that moment, word did come down from above. “The show’s sold out!” came the yell.

As I trudged away from the Kennedy Center, foiled again in search of free tickets, I knew one thing: next time this happened, I wasn’t going to wake up so early.

I was going to camp out.

(Photo of the line at the Kennedy Center by Caitlin Servilio.)




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2 comments:

Jenn Dearden said...

First off, I'd like to "publicly" apologize for being a screw-up and partially causing (I say partially because Steve showered) the misadventure.

It's very sad to see concert tickets going for much more than their original price. I tried to get Radiohead tickets last year, and of course they sold out in minutes. What is most aggrevating is that at least half of those tickets were gobbled up by sellers looking to make a profit by re-selling those tickets for 4 to 5 times the original price. Do they like Radiohead? No. These sellers are preventing true fans from being able to see their favorite bands. So we couldn't get Sufjan Stevens tickets. Well, I'm sure someone camped out to get those free tickets with the intention of selling them for $200 on StubHub or something. It's completely unfair, and it screws over fans and artists.

It makes me sad that a bunch of those people in front of us were probably just out for a profit.

Caitlin Servilio said...

Thanks for the public apology, Jenn, and I've forgiven both you and Steve for your deadly tardiness, so don't worry about it. And I agree with you and think you're completely right about people who picked up a second free ticket just to sell it. Since most of those people were college students anyway, you'd think they wouldn't be so greedy knowing that their fellow students were trying to get tickets also.

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