Before we get on with today’s post, a word about the other site. I’ve decided not to make a permanent move at this time. There is functionality I’ve grown used to and fond of with WordPress that just isn’t available to me with .Mac, and I don’t really want to clog that page with a whole bunch of add-ons. Thanks for bearing with me through the experiment. I may continue to tinker with it, but for the time being, I’m looking forward to settling in here at home. And now, onward…
I love music. I love listening to it. I love making it. I love live shows, and go to them frequently. I saw Anoushka Shankar at the end of March, and on Tuesday night last week, June, her hubby, and I went to see Booker T. and the MGs. If you just said, “Who?” then you may be young, or possibly just less cool than I am (which is really bad news for you).
Besides the fact that I like Booker T and the MGs, among my reasons for going to their show, or to Dave Mason’s, or Stephen Stills’, is that, as a music lover, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to pay homage to music royalty, for what they’ve accomplished and how they’ve contributed to my life, both as soundtrack and inspiration to me as a musician.
So when I got my weekly Ticketbastard e-mail announcing upcoming shows and saw James Taylor on the list, I was excited. I love James Taylor, and listen to him so often that it has become a point of complaint and/or mockery for Scott. He does so love to mock my music. He does it to make himself feel better, because it galls him to know that he’s just less cool than I am (recognizing as he does that that is really bad news for him).
JT was going to be playing up in Phoenix, though, and the circumstances have to be just right for me to drag myself up to Phoenix for a show, the first and foremost consideration being whether the show is on a weekend. Making the trip on a weeknight requires some scrambling of work schedules, fighting rush hour traffic both here and in Phoenix, and then there’s the staying overnight.
Some years ago, back when Scott still attended concerts with me, we went up to Glendale (which is on the far north side of Phoenix) to see Matchbox 20 and made the mistake of trying to drive back to Tucson that same night after the show. Neither of us was awake enough to reasonably make that drive at that time of night, and given that the stretch of desert interstate between Tucson and Phoenix is among the more hypnotizingly dull expanses of asphalt in the nation, we were really lucky we slept in our own bed that night rather than taking a dirt nap in a ditch. We decided then that if we went up to Phoenix for a show in the future, we’d get a cheap hotel room, sleep there and head home in the morning, for our own safety. It’s an added expense, but the peace of mind has been worth it, and we’ve done it that way, together and me on my own, ever since. But it really only works for Saturday night shows; any other day of the week I’d have to leave work early the day of the show, and/or come in late the day after. For example, there’s a Lyle Lovett show on Tuesday night of that same week that I would love to go to, but school nights are just practically impossible.
As it happened, James Taylor would be playing on a Saturday night—bonus! Feasibility was increasing by the moment, and though the tickets were spendy, I figured this is another of those once-in-a-lifetime shows, and worth it, so I determined that come 10 a.m. Monday when tickets went on sale, I would be in line (virtually) bright and early to get mine.
All the orchestra pit tickets were gone by 10:20 when I remembered that I was supposed to be buying tickets, and after several attempts, I found a ticket in a decent spot and started the purchase process. Everything was all right until I got to the confirmation/give-us-your-cash page, and this is what I saw:
Now, it is news to absolutely no one that Ticketbastard has gone completely around the bend when it comes to service charges on tickets. But that started years ago, and has only gotten worse. As I looked at my confirmation, I found a facility charge, 2 different convenience charges (one for the parking pre-pay!) and an additional “Order Processing” charge. How that differs from a “Convenience” charge, I really cannot say. Nor do I have much faith that Ticketbastard could explain it, because they would be discomfited by having to tell me that all three charge names are really code for “Grab your ankles, chump.” In any case, it adds up to $19.95 in service charges (I particularly liked the extra one tacked on to the parking–it just smacked of “Screw you!”), an additional 25% of the ticket and parking price for my “convenience.” That’s worse than credit card interest rates. Not to mention the cost of the hotel room I’d have to get, and the approximately $378 it will cost me in gas to get there and back, and suddenly, I feel my deep and abiding love for James Taylor dimming. Or at least my deep and abiding interest in seeing him live in Phoenix. I could buy a cheaper ticket, but that would only short my own enjoyment, and it would come out of the artist’s pocket; Ticketbastard and the venue will still get exactly the same fees.
Ticketbastard’s stranglehold on live music is legendary, and I’ve experienced the truth of it over and over myself. I’m actually giddy when I can see a show without buying a ticket through them. And frankly, I am not the customer they want to turn off live music. I’m in a key demographic, childless, with the discretionary income to spend on shows. Most folks my age are busy raising children and don’t buy tickets to anything, as is evidenced by the many empty seats at most shows I go to, and those that are filled are filled with people a generation older than I. Who else can afford to blow $100 on a ticket? More and more, though, I have to think really hard about whether I want to spend the money, because it’s really just gotten out of hand.
I understand that everyone needs to get paid, but if I’m going to be paying $300 all told to attend a concert, it’d better be a full Beatles reunion I’m attending. I really think James would love Tucson, if he just gave it a chance. But he seems unwilling, and so am I. I closed the window on my ticket order. It’s disappointing, but that would be the defining feature of the music industry these days. They make it hard for you to listen to the CDs you buy, and they make it prohibitive, or at least irksome, to hear the music live. It’s as if they don’t want you to hear the music at all. Guess it’s a good thing I make my own.