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Hype Active Ticket Market

September 9, 2015

What were you doing at 12.01am on Monday, 17th August 2015? If you were sensible, the answer would involve getting some sleep before starting another working week. Unless you were in another time zone, of course, in which case, suit yourself.

Assuming you were British, not up to buying a “priority membership” and desperate to see “Funny Girl” at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre, then chances are you were like me. Hunched over a computer, hitting the refresh button until “booking from 17th August 2015” vanished and the list of dates appeared – then quickly sifting through to find that perfect seat on a date you could go.

Jason Maddocks, Head of Sales and Marketing at the venue, explains, “The whole thing was truly extraordinary. The sales opened on the website at midnight and for the first hour is was pretty busy. The deluge really started at 9am when the phone lines opened and the email announcement to our database went out.

It took 90 minutes to completely sell-out. I have been involved in sales and marketing for shows both here and in the West End for 20 years, I’ve never seen demand quite like it. As our sales staff were describing seat locations to customers, the tickets were literally disappearing before their eyes. Of course the down side is there are a lot of very, very, disappointed customers. People become quite agitated when they can’t have what they want, but what can we do. It’s a limited season, we are a small venue and demand was unprecedented.”

I was lucky. One of less than 20,000 to be so. Sure, the show could well move to a bigger venue later, but I’ll get to see it in the space it was first rehearsed for.

And I’ll try to think what might have happened if I hadn’t been mad enough to stay up so late – given the fact it was sold out by 10.30am. I may well have got a ticket at 8.30am when I start work, but… well… the competition may have been stiffer, the web slows on a Monday morning, and I would probably not have got the exact seat I wanted. So…

… Still and all, was I a victim of hype, and is it becoming more frequent?

I think the truth is, “partly.”

Yes, it’s the first time the show has been seen in London since 1966, and it has a rising star name in the lead, but Ms Smith isn’t internationally famous (yet) and the show has been seen in other countries fairly recently, so… I put it down to two things: Simple lack of ticket quantity. The Menier is an amazing venue, my seat will be literally a few feet from the stage – and the experience should be unbeatable in that respect alone. The closeness of performers and audience should be special. The only way that is achieved is by having fewer than 200 tickets per show. The fact the run is only 12 weeks limits numbers further.

Second, once more, the fact tickets are so much more easily available with online technology than the old days of a few phone lines / having to stand in line at the venue. Sure, it was fun queuing for a massive concert outside Wembley Stadium from 3am once, when I was a teenager… but now, I admit, lying in bed with a tablet computer was far more comfortable.

Combine the two – short runs in restricted spaces and easy access to tickets and really, no wonder a show can sell out so fast. More to the point, the story can spread even more quickly with instant social media.

Provided the right people – genuine fans and musical lovers got the tickets, and the touts / scalpers didn’t then I guess it’s OK. It’s what it is all about, isn’t it? Still, maybe the slightly slower pace of life is something to savour still – or perhaps I’m simply addicted to the “great British queue.” At least you know where you are when you can actually see the thousand in front of you and hope your wait is worth it. Six hours standing in the cold really does allow the hype to settle and reality to set in… perhaps that’s the bit we need to work on, restore the balance a little by slowing the process. Don’t ask me how, but it might be fun to try…

2 Comments
  1. abitoftap permalink
    September 9, 2015 8:39 am

    I was one of those awake and pressing those buttons at 12.01….

    Living a couple of hours from London it does make it possible for us out of towners to get access these sort of shows on an equal basis to those living in London. And at least Menier tickets are (at least for now) still reasonably accessible to us, unlike say The Donmar now seems to be.

    • Steve Rich permalink
      September 9, 2015 10:28 am

      Ah, that’s two of us at that hour LOL.

      I agree, without physical queues it does make it equal. It’s really the online thing that changes everything as they can do so many more bookings than a phoneroom ever could. Would be quite nice to go to “postal booking” perhaps, one time, so everyone gets a fair chance…

      The Donmar is insane, isn’t it. If you are not online the second booking opens, it can be hopeless for some productions, and even then, you just have to take what you can get. Mad.

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