By Anne T. Donahue
Once upon a time, I was a young person who went to concerts and live events. It was great! A truly wonderful time, in which I’d acquire tickets via the internet (or sometimes in-person – RIP Soundscapes) and then begin counting days down to the main advance.
Obviously, I took this all for granted. First, I was lucky to write as a music journalist for a few years so I got to see a bevy of talent as part of my job. And this meant I got to circumvent the nonsense of certain websites (see: Ticketmaster) on a regular basis, which was an actual blessing. I was also a small child (in my twenties), so 10 and 11 pm sets were no big deals and would in no way activate a wave of anxiety that now revolves entirely around “But what if I don’t get a good night’s sleep?” mental rhetoric.
Then, I got a little older. And with my advanced age, I started going to shows for work less, and began springing for big ticket acts that reminded me that live music (and/or comedy) ruled and that I genuinely liked being part of fun things. This was immediately followed by the pandemic and the completion of my evolution into an Old Who Complains About Things™, so the last concert I went to Niall Horan in 2017. And, thanks to the Hunger Games that has become getting tickets to anything, it looks to be my last for a long time.
It’s not that I don’t want to go. (Although depending on who’s playing and what’s going on, I might not want to go.) Today, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler announced a comedy friendship tour, and after the few seconds of “What! Amazing!”, I noticed that said tickets are already going for a cool thousand-and-some on second-party sites and that the race to get them Is beyond my enthusiasm. Which, now that we’re being honest, kind of sums up how I feel about getting tickets to anything these days: there’s nobody I want to see bad enough to add my name to a wait list or pay more than a month’s worth of freelance or sit glued to Ticketmaster (and its contemporaries), hoping to score a precious golden ticket. I’m too tired. I’m too lazy. I don’t have the fight in me anymore. The current approach to ticket-buying has won out over my show-loving spirit – I’ll just put on the album, watch the TikToks, and try to convince myself that I’m having just a good a time.
Which I’ve accepted means that I don’t deserve to see artists like Beyonce or Harry Styles or anyone whose tickets are highly in-demand anymore. There are real fans who live by the credo of “I’m going to this fucking show and that’s the only choice there is” who deserve the spoils of ticket bureaucracy after they’ve spent time and resources finding holes in the armour. But at the same time, that’s bullshit too: fans of anyone shouldn’t have to shell out a small mortgage to see somebody whose work brings them joy, and the rules in place also don’t leave room for newer, younger audiences to head to a show just because they can. The majority of my favourite artists are the ones I saw open for the main acts I paid for once upon a time. And while bigger names tend to open for big names, there’s still magic in realizing an artist you’ve yet to fall in love with are perfect for you. How dare anyone be robbed of that.
Me? I can haul my old self over to the wide world of playlists and recommendations via the soulless algorithm – but the kids and teens and everybody younger than me don’t deserve that bleak fate. Yes, we all live on the internet, but man alive, it can’t replace live shows. (Zoom concerts taught us all that much.)
I think in the end it just makes me sad. I’ve long accepted that my inability to tango with Ticketmaster means that I’ve removed myself from the concert-going equation, but in the words of Helen Lovejoy, won’t somebody please think of the children? The world seems increasingly bleak and dreary, and keeping artists out of financial reach only perpetuates the feelings of isolation that have come to define the current landscape. It sucks in a real and overwhelming way that to even try to get tickets these days (“these days” – I am on million years old) is overshadowed by the fact that they cost the price of a small horse or that some bot will snatch them up before pricing them even higher. Stadium shows have always been pricey, but they shouldn’t drain your soul while simultaneously draining your bank account – they’re supposed to be something to look forward to, not a source of stress. And what’s our solution? Not going? Less joy? Less fun? Fewer events? Punish the acts simply trying their best?
I wish I knew. I don’t like to complain unless I can offer a solution, but the only solution I can see is to topple a juggernaut that even Taylor Swift fans are having issues with. (And those fans get shit done – I am terrified of them, genuinely.) Do we go back to IRL line-ups? Camping out in front of record stores? Approaching a scalper and offering him six months’ rent? Gen Z may be smart, but they’ve got enough on their plate – it’s not fair that we ask them to fix this particularly system, too.
I guess until then, I will be the sucker who hears about great concerts and wicked shows and thinks, “Aw, that’s so nice.” I will go to bed early like the aspiring retiree I am, and I will scroll through social media for highlights that make me feel like I’m part of a conversation I don’t have the proper stamina to participate in. That is, until I don’t have to choose between buying a textbook and buying a ticket. And then at least if I bail on a live show, it’s because it’s my actual choice, not because I’ve accepted defeat.
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