Published May 28 2013
Early birds often get multiple chances to pick best seats at area venues
That’s because, according to local music promoters and bookers, it’s now normal for concerts to have at least one, or even multiple, opportunities to buy tickets before they go on sale to the general public. This means the early bird gets the first pick at the best seats.
“The days of the public ticket on-sale of the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s has really gone away,” says Rob Sobolik, general manager of the Fargodome.
That’s especially true with the Feb. 7 Justin Timberlake concert at the Fargodome. Ticket details for the concert were announced on Tuesday, and the show has three separate presales.
The Tennessee Kids Presale, for members of Timberlake’s fan club, runs from 10 a.m. today to 5 p.m. Thursday. There is no fee for signing up for the club, and members receive an access code for the presale.
At the same time, the MasterCard Presale, available to MasterCard holders, runs from 10 a.m. today to 5 p.m. Friday.
A third presale, for entertainment company Live Nation, runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. Fans need to RSVP on Facebook to receive a code for the presale.
Each presale has a specific number of tickets available to fans, with the remaining seats being made available at 10 a.m. Monday, the concert’s on-sale date for the general public.
Presales like these aren’t new to the concert industry, but Sobolik says they seem to have increased in recent years.
That increase, he thinks, means that fans are going to have a harder and harder time buying tickets if they wait until the on-sale date.
“Based on the demand for tickets, it can lead to more difficulty on the public on-sale,” he says. “For the general public, or the general fan, it might be more challenging.”
Each show is different
Though there are three presales for the Timberlake concert, Sobolik says there’s no way to predict how many presales the next Fargodome show might have.
“It really is artist specific,” he says. “There’s really no format from here to there. Every artist is different.”
Additionally, the amount of tickets that are held for each presale can also vary depending on the artist.
“Most artists will hold back certain percentages for on-sale,” Sobolik says. “Some will say, ‘We’ll hold every other row for on-sale.’ Some will say, ‘We’ll hold 20 percent for the public on sale.’ It all depends on the group or artist.”
Sobolik did not have any information available regarding presale tickets for recent Fargodome shows.
While presales might be more noticeable with higher-profile concerts like Timberlake, the format isn’t unique to large arenas like the Fargodome. Fargo-based concert promoter Jade Presents has sold presales for concerts at The Venue at the Hub, Imagine Amphitheater in Moorhead and the Fargo Theatre, according to founder and president Jade Nielsen.
Nielsen has even seen an occasional presale for the Aquarium above Dempseys, which has a capacity of abut 260.
The Aquarium presales, he says, reflect the general increase of the presale trend.
“That wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago,” he says.
As with the Fargodome, Nielsen says the amount of presale tickets held and sold for Jade Presents changes from show to show and artist to artist.
“It totally varies,” he says. “It can be anywhere from zero to 50 percent.”
For the July 11 Avett Brothers concert at The Venue at The Hub, for example, Nielsen says Jade Presents sold roughly 500 presale tickets out of a total venue capacity of close to 2,400.
As of Tuesday afternoon, tickets for the Avett Brothers were still available.
Connecting with fans
One of the biggest reasons for the recent increase in presales, Nielsen thinks, is that social media has made it easier for artists, promoters and venues to connect with fans through mediums like Facebook or Twitter.
“There are artists that, just as venues and promoters do, are trying to build their followers through Facebook,” he says. “Social media has allowed artists and promoters to build fans, and to build their fan base and build their direct connection to those fans.”
In the case of Jade Presents, if fans “like” the company’s Facebook page or join an email list, they’ll get access to upcoming concert information and presale codes.
“In exchange for that information, we offer them the opportunity to buy a ticket early,” Nielsen says. “It’s a change in how tickets are being sold.”
Another possible reason for the presale increase, Sobolik speculates, is that artists are trying to find other ways to keep tickets out of the hands of ticket re-sellers.
Such re-sellers, or scalpers, will buy up tickets during on-sale dates and then turn around and sell those tickets for several times their face value.
“I’m not an artist, so I can’t tell you what their reasoning is,” Sobolik says. “But, I do think that presales are another way for artists to be able to get all of the ticket revenue that they feel is due them, rather than re-sellers buying them and selling them for one to 10 times the face value.”
While the new reality of presales poses a challenge for fans that might normally wait until on-sale dates, it doesn’t necessarily mean that buying tickets needs to be more difficult, Nielsen says.
Rather, he says, it just means that fans have to be more aware of opportunities for connecting with their favorite artist, whether that’s joining a fan club or email list or “liking” a Facebook page.
Though some artists charge a fee to join their fan club – Justin Bieber’s fan club, for example, costs $99 per 12 months – in most cases it’s free for fans to sign up.
That means there aren’t many deterrents to getting access to presale tickets, rather than waiting until the general public on-sale date.
“Fans have to be a little bit proactive,” Nielsen says. “They don’t have to, but if they’re truly interested, it’s a good idea to be. It’s really easy to just go on a website and sign up.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535