The Hip in Peterborough: A Ticketing Nightmare PART 3

Too Hip to ignore; A couple of policy changes would calm concert controversy
Editorial – Wednesday, November 01, 2006 @ 09:00

It was, it turns out, a sure-fire recipe for rock and roll fireworks:

Announce the first-ever local appearance by one of Canada’s iconic bands, the Tragically Hip;

Combine with thousands of hard-core fans;

Pour into Memorial Centre, but sell 2,200 of 3,500 seats in advance; Open ticket office. Step back and wait for explosion.

The wait was short. Angry fans who lined up outside the Memorial Centre box office for hours in the early-morning cold last Friday but went away Hip-less let loose after they discovered how few tickets were available.

Most of their anger was directed at the city-owned arena and concert venue for selling 700 advance tickets to Peterborough Petes club seat holders. As an incentive to pay a premium for season tickets to Petes games, those fans get first choice of tickets to other events.

That’s a common strategy. Use the carrot of year-round access to help sell your priciest season ticket packages. Music fans may not see the connection between hockey and concerts, but they don’t have to pay the bills to operate expensive arenas that are empty most nights of the year.

The $175 club-seat premium and an additional surcharge per ticket generate $150,000 a year toward the cost of paying off the $13-million Memorial Centre renovation.

It’s as much about marketing as music.

Which is also why Hip fans who belong to the band’s official fan club and register on its Web site got access to advance tickets. And why some were sent to The Wolf radio station as a promotional giveaway.

The entire 3,500 tickets could have been sold twice over at the door without any special offers, but that’s not the way the music business works.

The city does deserve some criticism for the way it handled ticket sales, and has said it will consider one change in policy. For future concerts, the number of tickets available would be posted at the box office so people could decide whether to take a chance and wait.

Another necessary change concerns the number of tickets Petes club seat holders can buy. It should be one-for-one, concert seat for hockey seat. One club seat holder bought six concert tickets and was told that was the maximum. Another reported buying eight. That takes too many tickets out of the hands of everyone else, and promotes ticket scalping.

At the same time, give Memorial Centre staff credit for bringing in one of the country’s most popular acts. Had interest not been so high there wouldn’t have been any ticket controversy. Willie Nelson and Bryan Adams both drew big crowds to the Memorial Centre in the past 12 months but no one was complaining they couldn’t get in. Stompin’ Tom Connors sold 2,000 tickets, Jann Arden just 1,600.

But we’d like to think there will be other blockbuster events that are so popular someone is going to be left out. For that reason, fans should be told how many tickets are available when they line up, and a $175 hockey seat fee should buy access to only one ticket. Save the fireworks for concert night.

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