A typo in an email and a myriad of failures in the mobile-only ticketing system conspired to turn a Garth Brooks concert at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo into a bit of a nightmare for fans this week, according to numerous reports. Rodeo officials apologized following the debacle, which saw some wait more than two hours to enter the venue for the show, including embarrassing helecoptor footage on the local news showing lines snaking far from the entry points at NRG Stadium as the concert approached.
“It was really our screwup that created this, and we apologize to our fans,” said Joel Cowley, president and CEO of the rodeo. “We wanted this to be a great experience for them to come in and see our opening night and brand-new stadium presentation. Some had to wait in line an hour to get into the stadium, and we’re embarrassed by that.”
The concert was the first time the rodeo had forced consumers to use a mobile-only system, eliminating printed PDF tickets. That system, Flash Seats, didn’t exactly perform as fans might have hoped.
One fan’s experience was outlined in the coverage of the concert and its ticketing failures by the Houston Chronicle. Tom Craddock got to the venue early, and decided to browse the livestock show and get food before returning to the line slightly after the start of a rodeo performance that preceded Garth Brooks taking the stage. By that time, the line snaked past food tents, and fans were grumbling about the system’s failures.
“Sure enough, when I got to the front, people were trying to pull up their flash tickets on their phones,” he told the Chronicle. The internet wasn’t working, they didn’t have proper IDs – it was all due to the flash tickets.”
The event organizers also informed fans via email that they could begin arriving for the program at 5:15, when the entry time was supposed to be 45 minutes later. Hundreds reportedly arrived early, which they say caused a backlog that the ticket system couldn’t handle quickly enough once gates were opened.
Cowley, who told reporters that processing capacity on FlashSeats has been doubled for the remainder of the rodeo’s concert series, expressed hopes that the aggrieved consumers will return and give the rodeo another chance.
Of course, this kind of story is nothing new in the ticketing world. As new mobile-only solutions are pushed into operations, breakdowns have been notable at several high-profile events. The College Football Playoff final in Atlanta was one. Fans attending a Kid Rock show actually had to go get printed tickets from the venue when that mobile system collapsed. A huge outage on Ticketmaster’s mobile system snarled lines at several events across the country last fall.
To editorialize, it seems fairly obvious that mobile ticketing – which may be the future – is definitely not the present. Given the laser-strong focus on the technology by many in the business – for a combination of fan “convenience” and for the potential to ratchet down heavier control on the free movement of tickets on the secondary market – it’s likely that the kinks will be ironed out. But as fans in Houston now know first-hand, when things go wrong, they go badly wrong.