Pretending to be Hot

A couple weeks ago, I made the following point:

“Without meaning to, I’d say our industry has made it pretty hard to buy live entertainment. Ticket buyers are generally confused, frustrated, suspicious and trepidatious.”

That’s right. As a group, we put obstacles in the path of people who are just trying to give us money and attend our events. This sucks, but let’s stay positive for a moment and look at the beginning of my sentence:

“Without meaning to …”

Redskins fans at FedExField. Photo Credit: John McDonnell/The Washington Post

Well … true for most of us, but not everyone. Because there’s this:

For years, the Washington Redskins have maintained that the waiting list to purchase season tickets contained tens of thousands of names. Even as the team removed seats from FedExField at least three times between 2010 and 2015 while ramping up solicitations to former season ticket holders, officials insisted the waiting list remained packed with fans who wanted a way in. That waiting list, the team said, included 90,000 names, or 160,000, or even 200,000.

On Wednesday, the Redskins announced that there is no longer a season ticket waiting list.

Oh, man. Where do you start with this? In fact, this is not a surprise. People have suspected — known — for years that the claim of a wait list two to three times the size of the stadium capacity was malarkey. Now it’s official malarkey.

This claim has been, quite plainly, a lie. How do we know? Well, all the empty seats for starters. How about those games where the opposing fans outnumber Redskins fans? Or, how the Redskins kept removing seats from the stadium?

But this isn’t about bashing the Redskins. (Do have a go though. It’s pretty easy.) It’s about calling out the practice of pretending your event is hot.

Stop it. Stop it now.

There’s nothing wrong with promoting or highlighting how much people like your event. And nobody’s forcing you (most of you) to disclose how much you’re actually selling.

But once you venture into territory where you’re claiming or implying that you’re sold out when you’re not, you’re adding to the B.S. that potential customers have to wade through just to buy tickets to live entertainment.

Put differently, when enough ticket sellers tout their [false] high sales for long enough, one of two things happens:

  1. The audience stops paying attention because they figure they can’t get a ticket.
  2. They just stop believing anything you (or any of the rest of us) say.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Green via Unsplash

You’re basically peeing in the pool that we all have to swim in because Scenario 3 — where people react to your falsehoods by going nuts and paying whatever price at whatever time for your event — is a fantasy. I know, I know, you kept some sections off sale once to create “scarcity” early on and tickets moved 12% faster for a while. You know what else? You can stand up at a football game and get a better view … until everybody else does the same thing. Why? Because people adjust. They trust you the first time and maybe the second time, but after a while, they adjust.

Besides, this isn’t what we want. Redskins-style chicanery isn’t a good look for an industry full of good people that work as hard as we do. If people don’t trust what we say, they’re going to be less likely to buy from us, and when they do, they’re going to cast a suspicious and probably negative eye on every little aspect of what happens.

So, instead of pretending to be hot, let’s focus on talking about what makes the event great. Whether one person shows up or it’s sold to the rafters, let’s talk about what makes it special. And when it IS sold to the rafters, by all means, make sure people know! Because if that’s the only time we play the ‘sold out’ card, it’s going to work to ensure future demand.

Playing the ‘sold out’ card when you’re not isn’t a power move. It’s an empty bluff.

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