As I get older, the more impatient I get – especially when it comes to waiting in lines. While a firm believer in the Law of Changing Lines (the moment you move into the “faster line,” you end up in the slowest one), I have been known to shift around in banks, at Costco, and at toll booths – usually to no avail.
And yet, there’s a whole generation of music lovers who haven’t experienced the unadulterated joy of standing in line to get your hands on great tickets for a hot concert, show, or event. Over the years, I camped out for University of Michigan football tickets, and got up at ungodly hours to get in line to get choice seats to see one of my favorite bands.
But all that came to a grinding halt when ticket sellers met computers a few decades ago, and companies like Ticketmaster and StubHub sprouted up. Now, when a show goes on sale, the trick is to be situated in front of a computer – or several of them – in order to hit “enter” at just the right moment to grab those elusive tickets.
Despite all the algorithms and systems, however, many walk away dissatisfied and even angry at the computerized ticket experience. Too often, they end up with lousy seats despite timing their online experience perfectly. Other times, they get shut out altogether.
So, it caught my attention when I discovered there’s a band trying to change that. Not surprisingly, it’s Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails. On their current concert tour – Cold And Black And Infinite North America 2018 – the band is playing small theaters.
And their concern is the difficulty so many hardcore, devoted fans have in getting tickets, amidst the scalpers and resellers. So, they created The Physical World pre-sales in 14 different markets.
That translates to standing in a physical line for hours, rather than making the transaction from the comfort of home on a mobile device or computer. And despite the hassle, the inconvenience, and the obvious problems caused by inclement weather, these long lines turned into something altogether different:
A communal, fun experience, shared by those with like tastes and mindsets.
— Broken Controller (@BRKN_Controller) May 23, 2018
In much the same way more and more Millennials enjoy the tactile thrill of playing a vinyl record on a turntable or reading a physical book, the concept of waiting in line with hundreds of complete strangers was a new experience for most of these NIN fans.
Not only did they end up getting good tickets to see the band. They had an amazing social experience – not on Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram.
Back in the day, rock stations often connected with fans in these long lines. At WRIF in Detroit, we had a deal with a local coffee joint. On the morning concert tickets for a major show went on sale, we had the van, an army of interns, and a personality on hand at the ready, greeting listeners, keeping them warm, and caffeinated.
And all those cold, wet, tired rockers in line loved the fact the station “got it,” cared enough to feed them coffee and donuts, and join them as part of what it meant to enjoy the total concert experience. And it was a true bonding adventure with uber fans excited to see us.
Oddly enough, some of those same things happened organically at these NIN pre-sales. Aside from the obligatory band merch on sale, local merchants got in the act, including Chicago coffee shop, Dark Matter, serving up a custom blend of joe to fans waiting in line. In Dallas, Alamo Drafthouse cooked up a special NIN menu on pre-sale day.
By all accounts, this exciting new experience – standing in long lines for hours, hanging out with total strangers in all sorts of weather – was a satisfying, memorable experience for many:
— Ryan (@Coxitron) May 22, 2018
It seems like it’s more exciting to finally have those physical tickets handed to you rather than printing them off at home.
The Capitol Music Group press release said nothing about local radio stations pulling off a food truck, coffee service. or other promotion, so it’s unknown whether any have participated old school style with fans. (But it’s a great idea.)
What’s next? Holding up BIC lighters for the encore?
(Actually, Jack White is one of several artists using a company like Yondr to ban cell phones from concerts on his current tour.)
What’s old is new again.
Rock ‘n roll.
Thanks, Mike Stern.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
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