Several days removed from the Foo Fighters' so-called Beat the Bots nationwide concert presales, which made tickets available only in person at venue box offices, fans who braved the cold are finally starting to thaw out. They're starting to catch up on the sleep they missed by showing up in person early Saturday morning. And they're starting to resell their seats. For a lot of money.
Part fan-friendly endeavor, part exercise in promotion (the band's social networks made ironic use of computers to raise public awareness of the event, including making sure to hashtag "Beat the Bots" for easy trending), the weekend presale was supposedly a way for "true fans" to get their frostbitten hands on tickets that usually end up in the possession of brokers who resell them for profit. Instead, however, most eschewed the opportunity to wait for upcoming online onsales by plunking down 70-something dollars per ticket and walking away with at-best decent seats for concerts that are still as much as 11 months away.
The band's frontman, Dave Grohl, is one of the most likable figures in modern music. He is also a fan of nostalgia. His recent projects have largely been excuses to work with those whom he grew up idolizing. His documentary film "Sound City" documented his efforts to save a rare analog sound board. And his band's current HBO series, "Sonic Highways," is part performance, part history lesson. So it's not hard to imagine him having flashbacks to his own youth and wanting to give others the experience of waiting in person for a ticket onsale.
Grohl's obsession with how things used to be is charming most of the time, but trying to bring back in-person ticket sales today is the equivalent of the IRS saying to Americans, "Remember when we used to file taxes by hand, without online tax-preparation sites charging you extra to make the process more convenient? Let's go back to that." No thanks. Using the band's own song titles, here are five reasons why bots weren't the only ones to come out on the losing end this past weekend.
1. No Way Back. Hey Dave, it's 2014, and we use computers now. The idea of reverting to an in-person, face-to-face ticket-buying experience is quaint and refreshing. But let's get real - just because we used to sit outside an arena box office overnight to buy our tickets doesn't mean it was the optimal way to do it. The online ticketing process is hardly flawless, but there are far more upsides than downsides. Plus, who said this is a scalper-free approach? Because....
2. The Pretender. The Beat the Bots promotion was touted as a way for fans to finally level the playing field against scalpers armed with an arsenal of "bots," automated software applications capable of flooding online ticketing sites and scooping up tickets at much faster rates than human hands are capable of. But does anyone really think that every single person who showed up over the weekend intends to use their tickets themselves? It's only been a few days, but Foo Fighters tickets - being sold online at huge markups, of course - are already not exactly hard to find. The in-person approach may take bots out of the picture, but that doesn't mean that ticket brokers can't still take advantage, either by showing up themselves to stand in line, or by hiring homeless people to do it for them.
3. Cold Day in the Sun. Having a morning onsale time was fine in places like Los Angeles, where the weather is still balmy in November, but people living elsewhere dealt with some borderline harsh conditions. In Calgary, for example, more than a thousand bundled-up fans turned out for their chance to stand in line and wait. And freeze. And overpay. One deluded fan was reportedly "thrilled to only pay $365 for four front-row tickets." What a bargain! Meanwhile, for the thousand or so people who ended up with a worse spot in line, and endured the chilly morning temperatures for the same mediocre tickets they could have later bought online, in the comfort of their own homes, was this really a win?
4. Win or Lose. The Foo Fighters' Facebook page is full of comments written by fans in response to Beat the Bots. Many shared stories of a lottery-style onsale in their city, giving everyone an equally random chance to be first in line, but others - including one user in St. Paul, where it wasn't exactly 70 degrees - complained that tickets were sold on a first-come, first-served basis. So either fans who showed up at the last minute potentially got a better spot in line than everyone else, or those who couldn't get there hours in advance ended up with the worst seats being offered. On the bright side, if there's no way to win, then maybe no one really loses.
5. The Feast and the Famine. For a band supposedly concerned with making sure their fans don't get taken advantage of, Grohl and friends sure do charge a lot for seats to their concerts. Averaging about $70 (before fees), Foo Fighters tickets aren't exactly accessible to everyone, even at face value. A quick visit to the band's web site also reveals its penchant for selling $40 hoodies and $25 tank tops. There's nothing wrong with asking fans to pay for your records, merch and concerts, but don't live large off their hard-earned money while claiming to be their advocate against those seeking to make them overpay.
If you missed out on the Beat the Bots presale, you're not alone: for many fans, the last time in-person ticket sales were en vogue was probably also the last time they didn't have work, school or child-care responsibilities that made it impossible to go stand in a line for hours. And if you're still hoping to see the band in concert, internet onsales start in the next couple of weeks. Sure, you may not get to feel like you're 19 again by standing in line, but then again, who among us could have afforded a $75 ticket at that age anyway?