Friday, May 29, 2009

Fare thee well, ticket stubs

A few of my favorite ticket stubs (see explanation, below).

Goodbye, ticket stub, we hardly knew ye.

One of my most prized, tangible possessions (other than "myself") is the photo album in which I've collected ticket stubs to every concert and event I've ever attended, from Cliff Richard at the Playhouse in 1982 to Bloc Party at the Burton Cummings a few weeks ago.

I've been waxing nostalgic about my ticket-stub collection over the past few days, because I know that the next victim of the digital age will not be the newspaper, but my good friend, the paper ticket, and the decapitated "souvenir" version: the stub.

I came to this realization after first buying tickets to Coldplay. My only option: to print out a soulless Ticketmaster page that so doesn't look like a ticket, it has to tell you that "This is your ticket" at the top of the page.

If that ain't bad enough, I then bought tickets to Fleetwood Mac, and was horrified to find out that they're "paperless." Good for trees, bad for my ticket-stub collection.

The paperless ticket

The paperless ticket, I'm told, is designed to prevent scalping. To me, it also seems well designed to prevent "convenience."

Check out the list of paperless ticket "rules," provided to me by Ticketmaster by e-mail and phone:
"IMPORTANT REMINDER: You will not receive paper tickets for this event. To enter, you must present the credit card used to purchase your tickets. We ask that you also bring along valid government photo id (such as a Drivers License or Passport) to ensure smooth and timely access to the event. Your entire party must enter the venue at the same time. Tickets are non-transferable. All patrons will be subject to a security search...

"Enjoy the show!"
Yeah, I'll be sure to do that.

The ticket has always been the tangible remembrance of the intangible event - without it, people may be more inclined to pick up a quality item at the merch table for, I'm sure, a low, low price. Charlene from Regina weighs in on the CTV talkback page:
"I have saved every ticket stub from every concert I have ever attended. I have them glued into a scrapbook with a date and who I went with, and where it was held, sometimes a comment about the concert (whether or not I enjoyed it). It's a whole lot less expensive (than the) t-shirts they sell at these things and I can look back with my friends, and remember the good-old days when tickets were $20, and we had to scrounge for that kind of money. Without a ticket stub what will I do?"
Other questions:
  • What about people who don't have credit cards?
  • What if you've bought the tickets as gifts, but don't intend to go to the show yourself?
  • What if one friend shows up late - everyone has to wait for him or her to show up?
  • What happens if the credit-card holder gets sick that day?
  • What's with the "government-issued ID?" If I have the credit card and no government ID, I can't enter the concert?
  • How, exactly, will all of this ID checking and people counting "speed up" entry to the concert?
It doesn't help Ticketmaster's argument to consider that it has been routing people to its own ticket-scalping site, TicketsNow, when tickets are "sold out" on its own site. Concert tickets are quickly becoming airline tickets: the ticket price has very little to do with what you actually pay.

Every ticket tells a story

I love flipping through the ticket stubs, marveling at the tickets themselves: design, color palette, and font (dot matrix to laser!).

Good job on those square Arena ticket stubs in the early 80s (The Fyxx! Tears for Fears! the Tubes!), bad job on those green and purple tickets of the early 90s, where someone really needed to change the printer ribbon (Moxy Fruvous! Soul Asylum! Kids in the Hall!).

I also love "the memories," many of which are surprisingly bad:
  • The day I got ejected from the Sloan concert for protecting my girlfriend's honor (which, ultimately, wasn't worth protecting): Sept. 17, 1994. Four days before my birthday!
  • The day I went to see Cabaret in New York with my about-to-be ex-girlfriend, and drank a bottle of wine to prepare for the discussion: Sept. 2, 2000.
  • The day I called in sick at work with the flu, but dragged myself to the Sting concert, only to run into my boss at the show: Aug. 6, 1991.
  • The day my girlfriend got hit in the head with a beer bottle at a Waterboys concert in Boston: Nov. 13, 199 (date cut off).
  • The date Dane Cook was the unannounced comedian at the Pyramid Cabaret Just For Laughs Tour: March 27, 1999. Good memory! After the show, he talked to me about writing jokes for Betty White. No joke.
  • Thankfully, I'm missing the ticket stub from the day that a guy turned around and punched me in the face at the Simple Minds concert. "Simple Minds" is right...
Ticket prices

Another reason I love to flip through the old ticket stubs is to marvel at how little a concert ticket used to cost. The old argument was that "shows are for "the kids" and the kids don't have a lot of money."

Green Day was still towing this line in 1994 when it played Les Rendezvous for a measly $11 a ticket. New Green Day ticket price: $59.50. Low by today's standards, but five times higher than 1994.

The great 2003 documentary, Festival Express, chronicles Janis Joplin - and a host of great bands - as they tour Western Canada in 1970. It's hilarious to find out that the big controversy of the day was that the bands dared to actually charge admission to the show. Honest!

You can see Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper review Festival Express, and marvel at the Winnipeg mayor (I believe that it was actually Edmonton), who took up the free admission cause here in the At the Movies database.

A sampling of ticket prices from "the early days" of my collection: Genesis: $12.73; Rush, $12; the Police: $13.41; David Bowie: $20; Split Enz: $12, etc.

It's funny to consider now that David Bowie's first concert in Winnipeg - the 1983 Serious Moonlight Tour at the Stadium - was controversial in its day for charging the huge sum of $20 a ticket. "And how are we supposed to buy beer as well, Mr. Bowie?"

Twenty years later, I spent $70.50 a ticket to see Bowie at the arena, not so much as a grumble to be heard. The next time he comes through town, I wager it'll cost about $300.

As Chris Rock once said, "F*** the kids!"

Ticket stubs pictured above, clockwise from top left:
  • Belly, Minneapolis, April 16, 1995 - the stub made it through the washing machine intact;
  • World Trade Center Observation Deck, 1988;
  • Autographed A Flock of Seagulls, Winnipeg Concert Hall, July 20, 1983 (the back reads, "You must be joking," written by band member who refused to sign such a small ticket, but not to make a joke in the same space);
  • Queen with Billy Squier, St. Paul Civic Centre, Aug. 15, 1982 (Freddie Mercury's last US tour!);
  • The Police, Synchronicity Tour, 1983, $13.41!;
  • Late Night with David Letterman, Sept. 1, 1988. Rick Moranis was the guest;
  • Cliff Richard, Playhouse Theatre, July 21, 1982 (the first concert I ever saw, except for maybe "Beatlemania.");
  • Autographed Elvis Costello (did he sign it "Declan?") ticket stub, June 5, 2002, Minneapolis;
  • The Divine Comedy, Leeds (love that design!), May 8 2001. I said, "We came all the way from Winnipeg to see you." He said, "I think you're mad."

2 comments:

  1. Hey Kenton,

    I'm from a website called Stubstory.com and I know how you feel. We made a whole site for people to share stubs and stories.

    I found your page with ticket stubs and I'd like you to check out my site and hopefully contribute some of your fantastic content.

    Stubstory.com gives fans the chance to put their stories to the stubs, making the experience complete and sharable for the entire community. We've got stories from lots of bands and games etc, and want more! Take a look. We'd love to have you contribute and will happily give your page it's credit along the way as well.

    With that I leave you a link to out website here: http://stubstory.com
    and our Facebook page, where "Likes" are welcome http://www.facebook.com/stubstory

    I look forward to your reply.

    Thanks

    Matt

    ReplyDelete
  2. I found your page with ticket stubs and I'd like you to check out my site and hopefully contribute some of your fantastic content.

    Stubstory.com gives fans the chance to put their stories to the stubs, making the experience complete and sharable for the entire community. We've got stories from lots of bands and games etc, and want more! Take a look. We'd love to have you contribute and will happily give your page it's credit along the way as well.

    With that I leave you a link to out website here: http://stubstory.com
    and our Facebook page, where "Likes" are welcome http://www.facebook.com/stubstory

    I look forward to your reply.

    Thanks

    Matt

    ReplyDelete