Re: Concert seats on floors in US

Elizabeth Platt ([email protected])
Wed, 12 Aug 1998 10:13:28 -0700 (PDT)

On Sat, 11 Jul 1998, Mike Prevatt <[email protected]> wrote:

> To the guy asking about floor seats at American gigs:
> As much as it sucks, at most arena and stadium shows in the US there are
> seats on the floor. I think this mainly has to do with possible lawsuits
> from crushing and rough behavior (i.e. moshing, stage diving, crowd
> surfing). You all know how lawsuit-happy Americans tend to be.

Lawsuits and insurance are part of it--especially after so many people
were killed at the Who's Cincinnati show in the late 70s! Of course,
inadequate security played a role in those deaths, but since then, more
promoters have opted for reserved (seated) shows, as a means of avoiding
the sort of free-for-alls that result in injuries and insurance payouts.

There's another aspect to this reserved-vs-general admission debate,
namely, that some artists now insist on reserved seating as a means to
adequately audit the attendance at shows, and guard against the promoters
doing any "skimming", by overselling a show or otherwise not declaring the
sale of some tickets, etc. It's an old trick: a local promoter running a
GA show can print up extra tickets, above the number set for the hall, and
simply pocket the extra money generated by these "extra" tickets. For a
really "hot" show, it's easy enough to cram an extra few hundred, or even
a thousand, additional bodies into a general-admission show. If there
were all reserved seats, it would be a bit trickier, since everyone would
have to have a seat!

Also, reserved seating can help guard against wholesale scalping of
tickets, and even counterfeiting. GA tickets are too easy to bleed to the
scalpers, and counterfeiters find it easier to pass off fake tickets if
there's no number/letter system or other form of ID that can serve to
verify that a ticket is legit (I've seen this done in Europe). Reserved
seats (and computerized ticketing systems) can help to deter these
practices, if so desired.

One example of how this could be done: On the Joshua Tree tour, U2 had
their management survey the audience at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Fans leaving the shows were handed survey forms, asking where they were
seated (seat/row numbers), how they got their tickets, and, if they bought
tickets from a "broker" or "agency", which one(s). Any fan who responded
was sent an autographed photo (or something like that--I didn't qualify
for the survey!) Apparently, the intent was to see what sections, rows,
etc., were being bled to the scalpers, and in general, to try to track the
flow of tickets from the box office to the general public. Seems that the
fans didn't get a fair shot at most of the tickets (duh! said my New York
friends!), and U2/Principle wanted to get a sense of what wound up in the
scalpers hands. A venue like MSG has a lot of seats that go to corporate
clients, who often sell off tickets to the scalpers, and there's always
the risk of employees doing "inside jobs", e.g., taking tickets for better
seats and selling them to the scalpers.


> I must
> say, I see footage of British bands playing, say, Wembley or Glastonbury or
> Reading and I get excited just seeing a huge massive crowd below the stage
> jumping up and down and all.

Sure, it _looks_ exciting, but so does the running of the bulls at
Pamplona, and you don't see me going there, do you? The general admission
bit may be fine and dandy for someone who's young, willing to push and
bully their way to the front, and has great bladder control. I just hate
to see some sort of ugly social Darwinism dictate who gets down front,
that's all; what if someone is short, or disabled, or wears glasses (in a
mosh pit?!), or just doesn't feel the need to use their feet, fists and
elbows to get 10 feet closer to Bono? And yes, this shit does go an at U2
shows--even at venues as small as the Point in Dublin, I've seen big,
lunky guys shove and flail on itty-bitty teenaged girls in an effort to
get down front. I suppose these same folks then turn around and
praise U2 because the band are, like, opposed to violence 'n' stuff! :P

Also, let's not fall into the trap of assuming that the only way to show
"enthusiasm" or "appreciation" for a band is by pummeling and kicking your
way to the front of the stage, and moshing like a maniac for the whole
show. Reserved seating doesn't preclude really getting into a show--and
believe you me, just because someone is willing to bully their way down
front is no proof that they're a "real fan". It just means that
they're willing to trample other people to get to the "prime" spot they
feel is their entitlement.

Of course, a lot of this debate has been rendered moot by U2's choice of
stage design and the selling of seats through Propaganda. Oh, yeah, and
the b-stage stamping thing! The b-stage design means there isn't much of
a "front row" anymore, since the band shift location on and off during the
show; yes, it *is* amusing to watch the rich folks who are so smug about
shelling out big bucks for "front row" tickets watch in dismay as U2 troop
down to the b-stage and perform...30 or more rows away! Stamping tickets
for b-stage access (standing) allows hard-core fans to get up close,
without having the whole audience shoving up behing them. And Propaganda
seats means that fans can get a fair shot at getting good seats, without
having to spend an eternity in line or paying through the nose to the


Elizabeth Platt
[email protected]

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b2 on Wed Aug 12 1998 - 10:15:37 PDT