U2 Spotlight – Ticket Sales

This past week saw the completion of sales for the first round of shows for next year’s Experience + Innocence Tour. Unless you’re the type of U2 fan who completely avoids contact with other fans at all costs, then you already know that many fans were…let’s be nice and call it displeased. So displeased that some big names in the community actually got together and wrote a letter to U2’s manager, Guy Oseary, detailing their complaints. Guy was kind enough to write back, and his letter addressed many of the fans’ concerns — but not all of them. I’ll get to that in more detail in a bit.

First off, I should say that I was one of the lucky ones. I was in the Experience (tenured) group, and I got the two tickets to the Atlanta show that I was looking for with absolutely no trouble at all. I didn’t have to go through any anti-bot verification steps, I didn’t have my codes rejected, the AXS site worked fine, and I positively have no right to complain in any way, shape, or form. My experience (no pun intended) seems to have rung true for many ticket shoppers in the Experience group (not all, but most – one girl complained that her sister, who was in the Experience group, didn’t receive her code until an hour after the Innocence sale had started.). It seems that many of those who found themselves in the Innocence group (those who have joined U2.com since Xmas day of last year) weren’t so lucky.

At first, I have to admit, I thought that they were just complaining because the Experience group snapped up all of the tickets and there weren’t enough left to satisfy those in the secondary group. “Tough luck,” I thought. “That’s the benefit of being a tenured member – first shot at those tickets.” As I read more and more posts, though, I became horrified to learn that there were deep and serious problems with the way this pre-sale was done. I conducted kind of a small poll in a Facebook group that I belong to — U2Tribe — and one recurring theme was that people simply did not receive their pre-sale codes.

According to Guy’s letter, it seems that this was due to a problem with the algorithm that identifies scalpers and bots, and separates them from legitimate fans. Some LiveNation employees told fans that there was a lottery that fans had to be subjected to to gain access to tickets. It turns out that that claim is one hundred percent completely false. One person who responded to my poll stated that she was given conflicting information about whether or not she had to re-subscribe to U2.com to get access to tickets, so it seems that another big problem that we can identify is with the way LiveNation trains their phone agents. I’ve heard several horror stories about fans trying to prepare for the pre-sale and receiving information over the phone from employees that was in direct conflict with other information they received from other employees. Put simply, the LiveNation employees didn’t know what they were talking about, and I believe that a lot of the stress and misinformation that went along with this experience could have been avoided if that were not the case.

Now I want to talk about Guy’s reply letter and the one thing that he glossed over. One of the things that those who were invited to take part in the initial letter to U2’s manager wanted to know was why U2.com subscribers were only allowed to buy two tickets, but CitiCard holders were allowed to purchase four. Guy totally sidestepped this question, by answering that U2.com members have always been allowed two tickets. He entirely missed — I believe intentionally — the CitiCard aspect of that question. I have several friends who are fans, all members of U2.com, who wanted to take their families to a U2 show and lost the opportunity because CitiCard customers got more tickets than the true, hardcore, verified fans did. I think that is some bull crap. I suspect that LiveNation signed some kind of promotional agreement with Citi that allowed their card holders access to more tickets, but they should have remembered to put the fans first. I’m not blaming U2 here — I honestly believe that the band wants their fans to have the tickets that they need and want, and for us, the fans, to be happy and satisfied. I think that this is completely out of their hands, but I still think it stinks to high heaven.

The good news is that the powers that be know that the ticket sale was screwed up. That’s the ray of light shining through the dark clouds of this mess. They are aware of the problems and can work to fix it next time. U2 has long been on the forefront of trying out new technology, and it doesn’t surprise me that they were willing to try something new to get tickets in the hands of fans. It’s a shame that it didn’t work, but such experiments often go astray. As Guy pointed out, they are adding some new shows to the first leg of the tour, so maybe fans who have been disappointed thus far can get what they were looking for. I hope so. Some day, U2 and their management will find a system of ticket sales that gets the tickets where we all want them to go, and until then, we just have to exercise some patience.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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