What happens when the presale lays an egg? And when did the presale stop mattering and lose its exclusivity?

The live concert business is a mess, and we could spend hours pointing fingers and laying blame on everyone that contributes to it:

The promoters for overpaying with ridiculous guarantees years back that started this cycle

The government for allowing unrestricted resale of tickets with no cap on the multiple

The artists for their greed

The unions for making some buildings ridiculously expensive to play in

The consumer for supporting all or any of the above

But let’s concentrate right now on the presale and the shortly thereafter resale. Awhile back some artists did a cool thing, they offered advance tickets to their core fans. These were thank yous and if you were in that band’s fanclub, you got access. And that access was a great seat that would never see the public light. That access also came with a responsibility, you had to show up at the venue with your id and credit card and then enter the building. If you somehow were able to resell that ticket and were caught you would lose all future privileges. That model worked and still does; you never see the prime fan club seats for Pearl Jam or Dave Matthews on the open market, the risk of losing future access is not worth the risk.

But then came what we can call the “float” or “gage the market” presale, where there is no direct artist tie in, maybe it’s the promoter’s list, or a credit card company. For these instances there is limited if any benefit to a fan because; these are random seats all over the building and in some cases seats you’d never buy, especially knowing the real onsale is a few days or weeks away and there’s no restriction or penalty for trying to resell them.

In reality it’s just a psychological ploy. Here’s how they try to mess with your head: You hear presale, You are conditioned to think exclusive access to best seats, you get in and crappy seats come up, you panic because you want to go to the show, you think to yourself, “OMG, if these are the only kind of seats coming up in the exclusive (see the conditioning!) presale, there’s no shot in hell of anything better in the real sale.” So you buy the crappy seats and what that does is move a percentage of the bad seats for the promoter before the show hits the public. Brilliant for the promoter, not so good for you.

Paste magazine recently posted something about the LCD Soundsystem ticketing uproar and cited Bob Lefsetz opinion of it all, if you think I blister bands and people, Bob makes me look like Mother Teresa, but he’s right, there is something fishy going on with that situation with the MSG show and the Terminal 5 shows announced immediately thereafter. But I do think that LCD Soundsystem sells out multiple shows at Terminal 5 regardless and probably would have sold out their final show ever at MSG, although I do believe there’s a bit of deception in all of it. And by the way, artists can bitch all they want about scalpers, but remember they are paid on the ticket when it’s sold the first time, so they mostly don’t care, if they did, they’d handle all tickets the way Pearl Jam or Dave Matthews does.

And this brings us to what is a rarity in the presale game: the non presale sell out, and we have encountered this with the Strokes Amex presale, where tickets are still available a week after the fact, I’ve never witnessed this.

There are numerous factors for this, one being the Strokes aren’t that big to play MSG despite a 4 year absence; it’s not a definite that this album will be good either, these tickets are onsale before anyone has heard the new album! There is also the fact that tickets are priced at $80!! Yes $80 (with ticketmaster rape fees) for any seat, including the top reaches of the upper deck, this is more than Pearl Jam and Springsteen charged for those seats at MSG. I think that plays a big factor. But here’s where it gets interesting and you wonder if the promoter and ticketmaster and the band perhaps are double and triple dipping…let’s say for the Strokes at MSG not selling behind the stage and the extreme side stage seats (BTW, PJ and Bruce sell the whole arena) that there are 12,000 seats available for this show (which hasn’t gone onsale yet) and let’s say that 20% were made available to the Amex presale, which is 2400 seats, can someone explain to me how a show that currently has 2400 seats in the marketplace, has 1800 of them available on stubhub? Are we to believe that 75% of the ticket buyers for this show, bought them on spec with the hopes of turning a profit? This is something I find really hard to believe. Hopefully Bob Lefsetz or Paste magazine will dig deep into this one.

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