Folk-rock legend Bob Dylan, no stranger to experimenting with how tickets are sold to his shows, held a concert at The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco last night, August 25, where fans paid an admission fee at the door, in cash, eschewing advanced ticket sales in an attempt to thwart secondary market ticket sales.
The show in the 2,250-capacity theater did not sell out, according to Joan Rosenberg, director of marketing for The Warfield, but patrons did not complain about spending hours in line before the concert, which cost a flat fee of $60 per person. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the theater was “visibly undersold,” but Rosenberg declined to offer specific sales data.
“That’s not info that we disclose, but we had a very good crowd,” she told TicketNews, adding that she believes sales were adversely affected, in part, due to a lack of heavy advertising and promotion before the concert. After paying the entrance fee, fans were given wristbands and a commemorative ticket as a souvenir. See the video below.
The move was at once a return to the old-school days of concerts where people waited in line for tickets, but also a potential harbinger for how artists might consider selling tickets to some of their shows in the future. After paying the entrance fee at the box office, fans walked straight into the theater, and those fans could only pay for their own admission. Credit cards were not accepted for the show.
Prior to the concert, media outlets reported that some fans may have been nervous about standing in line for hours with cash, and no guarantee that they would get in. Rosenberg said that the theater paid an undisclosed amount for street performers to entertain the crowd while they waited in line, and in addition, the theater also rented portable toilets. Also, street vendors were in the area selling bottled water and other food and merchandise.
“We were happy with the way it turned out overall,” Rosenberg said. “We think it was a worthy endeavor.”
Dylan was the first artist to suggest such a system at the theater, she added, but if other artists wanted to do it the theater would do it again. The Warfield is a Ticketmaster venue, but it has not yet held a paperless ticket concert. The two-and-a-half hour show marked Dylan’s first concert at The Warfield in more than 20 years.
While identification wasn’t necessary to gain admission, fans could not leave after paying their way into the show, and the commemorative ticket was not used, so there was no way for people to resell anything, which completely eliminated the secondary ticket market.
“I think it would be nice to see other artists experiment with this idea,” Rosenberg said. “It could help keep prices down for fans.”
David Lefkowitz, vice president of concert promotions company Goldenvoice, told KGO-TV that while the move was inconvenient for some fans, people saved on service and convenience fees.
“Part of the reasoning behind this is to avoid ticketing fees and the kind of up-charges that consumers have to face. Obviously, you lose the convenience of sitting at home buying on your computer, but at the same time, it’s kind of a first come first serve thing,” Lefkowitz said.