Music News

AEG's New Lottery Aims to Make Buying Concert Tickets Feel Fair

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats performed at Red Rocks on August 22.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats performed at Red Rocks on August 22. Miles Chrisinger
Big promoters are great at putting on concerts, says AEG co-president and senior talent buyer Don Strasburg, who is regularly recognized as one of the top promoters in the country. "What I think we’re really bad at is selling tickets," he acknowledges. "Not that we’re bad at it. But it’s not convenient for the costumer. It doesn’t feel – even though it is – it doesn’t feel fair."

Fair or not, he's right that music fans have no shortage of gripes when it comes to buying concert tickets: Paranoia that bots and scalpers purchase most of them abounds and prices are sky-high, especially when fees are added. And the entire process of showing up online at a certain on-sale time – mostly the inconvenient hour of 10 a.m. on a Friday – gives people with faster computer connections, flexible schedules and quicker typing skills an unfair advantage over work-a-day mortals.

Last year Westword reporter Chris Walker told the story of Chris Howard, who had logged online when tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. for a Gorillaz concert at Red Rocks; he was beaten to the punch by other fans and possibly bots.  "Absolute horse shit," he posted to the concert's Facebook page. "I got in line right at 10 a.m. on the dot waited in the damn cue for 15 mins and they were all gone already. I’ve been waiting to see them live since I was a little kid, and was ready right on time for a ticket. Now I have to hunt down two at a bullshit scalped price.... I have never been so upset over not getting a ticket to a show.”

Now, Strasburg says, AEG might just have the fix for people like Howard – at least in making the process of buying tickets more convenient and less prone to attract scalpers and secondary sellers who often jack up prices.

"We thought about this a lot: How can we do it better?" he explains. "Why can’t somebody go at their leisure and sign up during a longer period of time?"

With the ticketing service AXS, AEG has created what it's billing as a "ticket lottery"; the goal is to give fans "a fair shot at buying tickets without racing the clock or the bots used by scalpers," according to a release announcing the new program.

The company's rolling out the lottery on a show-by-show basis. The first shows to test it are two Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats concerts announced for December 19 and 20 at the Ogden Theatre.

Here's how the lottery will work for those performances: Fans can request tickets anytime before 10 p.m. Wednesday, August 29. Each customer is only permitted one lottery account (which can purchase up to four tickets). Credit cards will be charged $1 per submission; that fee will be refunded for those who don't get tickets. Tickets for the Rateliff concerts are $47.50 plus a $13.30 service charge, for a grand total of $60.80.

Fans' requests will be processed in a random order. AXS, the ticketing company, will filter through all the requests. "The computer sweeps through it and looks for all the telltale signs of fraud," says Strasburg. Suspect orders will be deleted.

Winners of the lottery will be notified by Saturday, September 1, and their cards will be charged. Tickets will be delivered to concertgoers the week of the show with the AXS app. 

"What it means is that nobody is favored. It’s random," says Strasburg. "Look, if there’s not enough demand, everybody gets a ticket. And if there is more demand than we can fit, the least you figure is, 'What’s the loss in trying? It’s not like I had to miss my day or miss a meeting and not get a ticket anyway,' and say, 'Screw it. Why did I waste my time?"

Breckenridge Brewery has rolled out something similar using the website Seated. "This is the first time AXS has done it on a larger level in Denver," notes Strasburg. "We all want people to have the opportunity to get the tickets from us and have an absolutely fair chance and just as much a right to get a ticket as anybody else."

The lottery for tickets for the Rateliff concert is now open at AXS as well as the Ogden Theatre website. The lottery ends at 10 p.m. Wednesday, August 29. If the shows are not sold out, tickets will also be available by phone at 888-929-7849 and in person at the Gothic Theatre and Ogden Theatre box offices up to sixty minutes before doors, and at the Bluebird Theater up to thirty minutes prior to doors. The Ogden Theatre box office will also have tickets available on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris