Yes, Virginia, You Too Can Get Good Seats From Ticketmaster ...
(or any ticket agent)
Gone are the days of sleeping out at the venue box office for days before the tickets went on sale. (On the other hand, the last time someone I know did that, they got held up at gunpoint, so probably a good thing.) Competition is going to be FIERCE for PJ tickets on the forthcoming tour, no matter who's selling them, so we'd thought we'd offer some hints and tips for the ticket-buying newbie (and some reminders for the veterans who may not have done this in a while...)
1. The Lottery System. Part of TM's World Domination Plan was to get TM outlets in as many non-music locations as possible. However, your local drug store wasn't too thrilled when the great unwashed (as they saw it) turned up three days before the show, took up their parking places, and scared their customers away. Hence, the lottery system. It doesn't matter WHEN you get on line, they make you pull a number out of the hat, and you could be first in line and end up #400, or last in line and end up #1.
To make matters worse, some places go one step further and pick an arbitrary number that is the front of the line - using the example above, they pull #66 as the starting number. That means if you're #1, you're still screwed.
In these examples, your best bet is to show up with as many of your friends as you can reasonably recruit, pull numbers, and whoever has the best number buys for the group.
However, the scalpers have this system down too. In some major cities, they recruit the homeless or the unemployed by the dozens to wait on line for them, and then take the best numbers and buy all the tickets. Chicago and New York are places where we KNOW that this happens.
2. Beat The Lottery: every town has an out-of-the-way ticket outlet that no one knows about. Maybe it's new, maybe it's in an unlikely location. Even better, maybe they can't be bothered to do a lottery. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to research those places NOW. Scout out ALL of the ticket outlet locations in your area. Visit or call them and ask them if they do a lottery. (Some locations may not do a lottery for most shows, but will for "big shows", and we have a feeling that PJ will be rated as a "big show".)
Day of the ticket sale, you have GOT to be first in the line to stand a chance. Hopefully, you've got more than one location scouted out, and multiple friends, acquaintences and relatives in position. Someone will probably end up towards the front of the line. This leads us to:
3. Cellphones (and Pagers!) Are Your Friend: I originally bought my cellphone for no other reason that I was sure PJ were going to announce a club show and I'd need to call in the troops while waiting on the line. (Unfortunately, I bought it the morning the tickets went on sale.) However, it's come in handy in the scenarios described above for other ticket sales: multiple people go out to various ticket outlets. You all check in with each other and see who has the best position (first on line, no lottery, etc.) You can use a combination of cell phone and pager (with pre-arranged signals) to let people know what's going on. Then, that person is the one who makes the ticket buy for your group. Cellphones come in handy for another reason:
4. Charge-By-Phone: While you are standing in line, you (or someone else) should be dialing the charge-by-phone number the minute the tickets go on sale. This is especially important if there's a lottery in place or if you're not first in line. Worst case scenario, you get to the front while you're on hold, you hang up. Best case scenario, you get through, get tickets, and the show sells out the person in front of you. (Don't laugh. It's happened.) Or, you get tickets from both sources and then get rid of them later. This leads us to:
5. You Need MONEY (or plastic): There's no getting around the fact that tickets cost money. Fortunately, we aren't talking $75 a ticket, we're talking $30 a ticket, so you won't need hundreds of dollars to be as flexible as possible. Sometimes this means buying more tickets than you need over the phone AND at an outlet to get the best ones. Luckily, we're talking Pearl Jam, so you will not be stuck with the tickets, should you be so unfortunate as to not have enough friends who want them! You can still do this without excess cash, but you need to be REALLY organized and plan ahead. All money does is give you a little more flexibility.
6. Long-Distance Telephone Sales: It's a little known fact that you can buy tickets through Ticketmaster nationally. That means you can buy tickets for a show in New York through an outlet in, say, Vermont, or as far away as Michigan. Well, guess what. Not many people in Detroit want tickets for Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden! Therefore you connect quicker and have a better chance at tickets, even if you are paying long distance charges.
If you're going the phone route, you need to research this in advance. Don't assume that your local charge-by-phone number will be selling the show that you want in an out-of-state location. Call them IN ADVANCE, a day or two (not weeks) before the show, and specifically ASK them if they will be selling tickets for this show on this date. They have that information in their terminals. So many people are doing this nowadays that Ticketmaster has started to put a message on the recording indicating that they will not be selling tickets for a big national on sale. You may have to make a lot of phone calls, and pay long distance, but again, you can end up very very lucky that way.
However, this can also happen: you can make all your phone calls, have someone in Indiana tell you that yes, they will sell you tickets for a show in New York City, but the day of the on-sale you get the recording mentioned above, or the operator tells you he or she can't sell you the tickets. Don't argue. Hang up, and dial again.
It goes without saying that if you live in a major city, you can call a TM outlet upstate or in the south of your state and do this as well. But again, you need to call that specific number and ask them if they will have tickets for the show.
7. Ticketmaster On Line: When TM first started selling tickets via their web site, they used to put them on sale after the tickets had gone onsale at the outlets or on the phone. This is no longer true. Good news, right? It depends. If there are multiple big shows going on sale all over the country, or in the case of PJ, 10+ shows going on sale at the same time, the web server crawls to a slow halt and you're out of luck. Completely forget about TM Online day of sale if you are on a modem, you won't stand a chance.
8. The Box Office, Night Of Show: There are all sorts of reasons tickets get released at the last minute! If you're at a show ticketless, or with a sucky seat, you should plan on hitting the venue box office the minute it opens the day of the show, and keep returning periodically. Sometimes the tickets don't get released until a few hours before showtime. Occasionally the box office staff will know if there's any chance, sometimes they don't, and other times they outright lie so as not to create a stampede. Again, persistence and patience pay off here.
Also, in the past PJ have made it a very quiet policy to release tickets the day of the show to combat the scalpers. Don't expect a large-scale announcement about it (hey, the scalpers listen to the radio too), but we'd bet they will do something similar this time around.
9. "Best Available Seats": TM has a 'technology' that supposedly shows the person manning the terminal what the "best" available seat is at that time. For big on-sales, or if a lot of shows are on sale that day, that's what you get - you can't stand there and ask them to try again. Print out the seating chart and have it with you - some outlets don't have them.
10. Beating The Scalpers At Their Own Game: If all else fails and you're outside the venue pounding the pavement, looking for a ticket, it becomes a waiting game. Hopefully, you'll find a fan who will sell you the ticket their roommate bailed out on at the last minute at face value. But if not, the scalpers start getting nervous the closer to showtime it gets. Check out what the going rates are, and keep asking. Show them you are patient. If you don't mind missing the first notes (well, of course you do, but if it means missing the first few notes vs. missing the whole show, what would you do?!), you'll find the ticket prices drastically bottom out. Oh, and be sure to check what the tickets look like with a fan or the ticket takers at the door before shelling out your $$. We do have to caution you, should you go this route, that scalpers do sell counterfeit tickets, and if you get one of those, you have zero recourse.
We don't pretend for a minute that this is a complete, exhaustive guide to buying tickets, and these circumstances may differ from city to city. Also, some of the best tips are ones that shouldn't be advertised publicly, but would occur to you if you use a little common sense. Hopefully, this guide will get you started in the right direction!