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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2010/03/28
by David Steinberg

The Two Ticket Methods

Like most west coast Phish fans, I am a little frustrated with this summer tour. Sure, Phish always have and probably always will play the vast majority of their concerts in the northeast. No one ever expects to get many shows west of the Mississippi, but everyone assumes that there will be one or two that can be attended. Summer Tour 2010 is challenging that.

For some perspective, look at 2009’s tour. I don’t think that anyone would claim that last summer was exactly biased towards the Pacific Time Zone with two shows at the Gorge and one at Shoreline. Still though, between those 3 nights, there were 62,000 tickets available for fans, every one of which sold. Yes, there were plenty of extras floating around so some softening of the market should be expected, but going from 62,000 to 25,500 is rather drastic. There are less than half as many tickets available in the Pacific Time Zone than last year, and one third as many for the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones combined [1]. Seeing how they’re largely playing the same venues in the Eastern Time Zone as they did last year, there doesn’t seem to be that big of a perceived drop off. [2]

Phish can play whatever venues they want. Maybe they just got a wild hair to play those two locations and that was it. If that’s the case, that’s fine, but it just feels like one of those Phish 3.0 Annoy Their Fans™ schemes like taking California off the map and waiting until after Indio to announce Miami in order to sell more tickets, but letting airfares rise in the meantime. Those at least made some sense. If there’s a marketing strategy behind this, I just don’t get it. The most likely result of this tour is that the western fans will be shut out of all of their shows while the east coasters would have free tickets in the lot most nights. Maybe Red Light knows something I don’t about the economy and how fans are traveling but it seems weird.

Unfortunately, as much as I wish that there were also a Gorge run to alleviate the stress on the Greek and Telluride, I don’t get to make those decisions. I’m just addicted enough to have to deal with it. Fortunately, I’m not alone. I’ve engaged in many conversations about ticket strategy over the last few weeks with other left coasters [3] (and one of the reasons why I went on the rant that I did is that I’m hearing quite a bit of anger from a lot of people who don’t have my soapbox, so I figure it would be good to let it out) and people seem to be in two camps, the visualizers and the stressers.

I understand the concept of visualization. Think about the ticket being in your hand. Don’t let doubt or fear cross your mind. Focus on thinking positive thoughts and your desire will be yours. Unfortunately, I’m a mathematician and a cynical one to boot. I go for the opposite approach.

Stress isn’t just a way of getting your blood pressure to exciting new levels. It also inspires people to work harder. Picturing being shut out inspires me to go out and research how ticket sites work. I’m probably going to practice a few times on Tickethorse – yeah like there’s any chance that site isn’t going to just collapse – and work to see if I can find someone who might be able to help me out. Visualization is nice, and I see the argument but freaking out in advance is what worked to get me into Hampton.

Besides, this way you get the depression out of the way early. There are going to be a lot of furious people in Colorado and Utah and New Mexico and Arizona and California and Oregon and Washington on April 2. The worst part about visualizing success is the crash that comes when you are just left with failure. Panic first and you can only have a pleasant surprise.

Tune in next month to find out how the mail order/ticketmaster/tickethorse/apeticket gods treated me. Maybe stressing will work or maybe I’ll be up to Plan Q by then. Seeing how I’ve already priced flights into every single venue on the tour and even speculated about driving to SPAC, who knows what wackiness could ensue. I’ll take suggestions!

[1] Note that Telluride does get a little weird as there are only 2 day passes being sold and 1500 tickets are reserved for locals.

[2] The current rumor mill has these shows being it for Phish west of the Mississippi in 2010. If that happens, this will be one of the weakest years for western Phish ever. Phish will have sold more tickets in the Mountain Time Zone in 1994 than they did in 2010, and it’s quite possible the same would be true about the Pacific Time Zone. This is a prediction that I hope looks really stupid in 3 months when the surprise west coast fall run is announced.

[3] One shortcoming of these tiny venues that might not be quite so noticeable is that it becomes even harder to get groups of friends together. Summer tour is one of the few times I get to hang out with my out of town friends but odds are low that J’eliz and I will get to see each other this summer unless we both get lucky with the Greek. And no, it’s not Phish’s job to give me excuses to hang out with my friends but it sure was nice when it was happening.

*****

David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at www.ihoz.com/PhishStats.html and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He occasionally posts at the Phish.net blog.

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