Bob Dylan Gets Around Service Fees & Scalpers With A Simple Plan: Pay Cash At The Door

from the that's-one-way... dept

In our recent post about musician Joe Pug and other artists looking to get away from ridiculous service fees on tickets, commenter berick pointed out that Bob Dylan has come up with an interesting strategy to not just get around service fees, but scalpers as well: no pre-bought tickets to the show, just pay cash at the door:

When Bob Dylan says his just-announced, surprise show at the Warfield in San Francisco next Wednesday, August 25 costs $60, he means it costs $60 — no service charges. No scalpers. No secondary market. In fact, perhaps as an effort to combat all complaints about the ticketing industry at large, there simply won’t be any advance tickets to the show. Fans will pay $60 — cash only — on their way inside the venue, and that’s that.

Of course, the downside to this is that if too many people show up (a decent possibility) you might not get in at all… Still, it’s interesting to see how musicians are trying to get around activities that are seen as anti-consumer when it comes to pricing live shows.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Bob Dylan Gets Around Service Fees & Scalpers With A Simple Plan: Pay Cash At The Door”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Hulser (profile) says:

Festival seating

Of course, the downside to this is that if too many people show up (a decent possibility) you might not get in at all

Or you might just get killed. The Who concert tragedy in Cincinnati was a big part in the elimination of “festival seating” where people got seats on a first come, first served basis. Wouldn’t selling tickets at the door be, in effect, the same thing as festival seating? Maybe this would work for local bar bands, but for big name artists like Bob Dylan, it could spell trouble

Patrik (user link) says:

Re: Festival seating

I agree. This has tragedy written all over it.

Hopefully the bulk of Dylan’s fans are a little older and wiser than the average concert crowd and they’ll be able to avoid any stampede frenzies.

Scalping just seems inevitable and it’s profitable for the scalpers, so why are we criminalizing a whole generation forward-thinking “entrepeneurs”?

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Festival seating

You realize that the method of selling seats has nothing to do with how those seats are distributed, right?

1) Festival seating – People buy their tickets in advance, but there is no seating assignment. People form up in a huge queue and rush to get in the door so they can get a good seat.

2) Selling tickets at the door – People form up in a huge queue in front of the door so they can be first to buy a ticket for a good seat.

Some of the details may be different, but they’re similar enough that it seems like the net effect could be the same.

kryptonianjorel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Festival seating

But why would it have to be that way? Couldn’t you have barracades set up to direct a peaceful flow of traffic, like at amusement parks? And inside the venue, you could have security staff direct the seating. You sit where they tell you to sit.

Or, they could sell the better seats first, at a higher price, then worse seats for less.

Or, they could sell tickets at the door, get em in the section you want, pay, and immediately have your stub taken. This prevents scalpers, and also gives people assigned seating.

Matt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Festival seating

Couldn’t you have barracades set up to direct a peaceful flow of traffic
They used crowd control baracades at Love Parade and it caused a bottleneck mainly because, the entrance was too small and people weren’t going all the way on to the site they were staying at the enternce (where they could see the bands just as well) blocking the way for people trying to enter and leave. If you could overcome those problems, maybe have more than one big entrance/exit or have seperate entrance and exit queues it might work, but no promoter would try it, just in case.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Festival seating

> Or you might just get killed.

The Warfield has no built-in seats, but the photo gallery shows concerts with folding chairs set-up. Festival seating is typically first-come first-serve _standing_ room only. I think you mean “general seating”.

Of course, scalpers are a natural side-effect when markets aren’t free. If all tickets were auctioned, scalpers would disappear. I sympathize with artist who want to make their concerts affordable. It would make more sense to have some sort of tiered fan club, and then the “superfans” could enter into draws for the chance to buy cheap tickets.

Beta (profile) says:

Re: Re: Festival seating

“If all tickets were auctioned, scalpers would disappear.”

And the tickets would be just as expensive as if the scalpers were in business, maybe a little more so. It would be a little more convenient, and the money that the scalpers make would go somewhere else. Why exactly are we trying to get rid of scalpers again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Festival seating

– Act as an unauthorized agent that reduces the cost/benefit to the consumer. Consumers can and will get screwed with scalpers running the sales.

– Scalpers sell fake tickets.

– Scalpers artificially raise the price of tickets, reducing demand. Ticketmaster does this as well, it is their ubiquitous nature in the vast majority of events that allows it to continue.

kryptonianjorel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Festival seating

Ok, the fake ticket thing is a legitimate concern, but that is illegal anyway, selling fake goods.

Otherwise, what is wrong with the other 2 points? Doesn’t the first sale doctrine fall into this somewhere? Someone buys a bunch of tickets, and wishes to resell them. He has the right to set his own price, whether it be more or less than what he bought them for. People have the ability to buy from him, or the venue.

This is basic free market, supply and demand.

Its like saying if I bought 50% of all of the frosted flakes in the U.S. and decided to sell them for $1 per box, I shouldn’t be able to? If people want the cereal, they’ll buy it. If the price isn’t right, they’ll go home empty

Beta (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Festival seating

“Scalpers sell fake tickets.”

I hadn’t heard that. It’s a serious and interesting point, but I think it’s unrelated to what we’re discussing here.

“[A scalper acts] as an unauthorized agent that reduces the cost/benefit to the consumer”

(I think you mean increases the cost/benefit.) Compared to what? The price the consumer could get in an auction is about the same. And if their unauthorized status is the problem, heck, someone could just authorize ’em, problem solved.

“Scalpers artificially raise the price of tickets, reducing demand.”

I’d say they naturally raise the price of tickets. And I’m not sure what you mean by “reducing demand”, since I find it hard to believe that scalpers are left holding many tickets after the show (and I never studied economics).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Festival seating

“If all tickets were auctioned, scalpers would disappear.”

This would absolutely INCREASE scalping.

A large portion of scalper revenue is based on people that want shows at the last minute, and will pay an elevated price for doing so. An auction would allow scalpers to bid large portions of tickets at the lowest possible amounts, and sell later at the highest possible markup because the seats are in high demand.

JC says:

Re: Re: Re: Festival seating

You don’t seem familiar with the concept of an auction.

I doubt scalpers would be able to outbid people interested in going to the event. And even if they did, they would have paid more for the tickets than the market has valued them almost ensuring that they lose money.

Additionally, assuming you are correct and everyone wants to buy tickets at the last second (something you can’t do now unless you buy from a scalper) then they are clearly willing to pay. What would the problem be?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Festival seating

The experience of the Vancouver Winter Olympics illustrates that scalping went up which was why the auction idea died so quickly.

In the end nothing stopped scalpers and I have ask why we’re sidetracked onto scalping when the bulk of the price for an event ticket these days, other than what the artist charges are ticket “administration” fees that are more than I pay the scalper once I deduct the ticket fee extortion.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Festival seating

Not necessarily. While the crowds were a factor, it seems that other things contributed including (going mainly from your Wiki link):

– Poor communication (the crowd panicked because they thought the sound check was the actual concert).
– Not enough doors were opened due to union and other restrictions.
– Inadequate security (why else would people sneaking past turnstiles be a reason not to open doors?)

As for the difference between this and “festival seating”, I’m not familiar with the specific terms but what I understand (again from the Wiki) is that the latter doesn’t necessarily include allocated seats. So, the only problem with that is that people rush to try and get the best seat, which is a problem when combined with poor crowd control and communication. If the seats are allocated at the box office, this shouldn’t be that much of an issue as long as everything else is in place.

It’s all opinion at this point, but I doubt that merely eliminating Ticketmaster from the equation is going to lead to further tragedy without some very serious lapses in other areas. Changing the way tickets are sold should not lead to other problems so long as the crowds are handled correctly (which is necessary even with pre-sold tickets) and the venue does not oversell past capacity and cause rushes/panics (again, this should already be controlled).

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Festival seating

So, the only problem with that is that people rush to try and get the best seat, which is a problem when combined with poor crowd control and communication.

I don’t think how the seats are allocated is the relevant similarity. The problem, in both festival/general seating, is that you have a huge crowd of people who are incentivized to be “first”.

With festival or general seating, you don’t have any seat assignments, so in order to get a good seat, you have to get in the door first.

With selling tickets at the door, you don’t have any advanced tickets, so in order to get a good seat, you have to get to the box office first.

Think of all the big holiday sales. People getting trampled on because their trying to rush the door. Yes, in theory, they’re supposed to form an orderly queue, but in reality, the first people in the door get the good stuff. All I’m saying is that having a huge number of people standing around all trying to get a limited resource is a bad idea.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Festival seating

You’re still identifying the problem as properly organised crowd control and communication, not the methods by which tickets are sold.

The artist can’t always guarantee that the venue will provide the right level of crowd control. But what they can control, at least in this case, is setting up a scenario where a lack of good crowd control can lead to a tragic event. I’m not saying that The Who concert was caused exclusively by festival seating, just that it was a large contributing factor.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Festival seating

So, you’re dismissing an entire business model because it’s possible that the venue is incapable of performing crowd control correctly? Seems a little bit of a flimsy excuse, based on an accident that happened over 30 years ago in a venue that was probably pretty primitive by today’s standards in many ways.

Again, I know what you’re trying to say, but I think it’s misplaced. You seem to only be considering the worst-case scenario based on a single data point.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Festival seating

So, you’re dismissing an entire business model because it’s possible that the venue is incapable of performing crowd control correctly?

In so many words, yes.

Seems a little bit of a flimsy excuse, based on an accident that happened over 30 years ago in a venue that was probably pretty primitive by today’s standards in many ways.

Every year, there are people trampled, sometimes to death, when a crowd of people are trying to get into stores with large holiday sales. So, it’s not just one event, thirty years ago.

Why is it such a controversial idea to suggest it’s a bad idea to tempt fate? If you have a potentially large groups of people trying to gain access to a limited resource, it’s a dangerous situation. If you have good crowd control, you can avoid problems, but it’s an inherently dangerous situation. There are plenty of other business models that don’t involve the risk of people being trampled to death.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Festival seating

“If you have good crowd control, you can avoid problems, but it’s an inherently dangerous situation.”

As is any concert or club. How many people die or are injured each year due to violence, drug or alcohol abuse, poor electrical or fire safety in the venues, etc? Not many, certainly not enough to stop most people from thinking twice about going to most events, but it happens.

There may be a higher risk, but it’s minimal. You’re almost certainly going to be more likely to die in a car or plane crash on the way to the gig than at the gig itself, whatever ticket system is used.

You’re suggesting that such problems are inevitable, I simply disagree.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Festival seating

That was more of a problem with the venue chosen (the public streets) and overcapacity than anything else:

“the number of people attending allegedly reached 1.4 million – the original expectation was around 800,000 -, whereas police believed around 400,000 people were present… Safety experts and a fire service investigator had previously warned that the site was not suitable for the numbers expected to attend.”

So, yes, poor communication, overcapacity and poorly prepared security – things that are much more controllable at an actual concert venue.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Festival seating

…and what’s the crowd control situation at a Wal Mart? Do they have proper barrier setups, security staff properly trained to handle large crowds, etc.? Unlikely – it’s further proof that proper crowd control is needed.

Apples & oranges, in any real comparison. To my mind, the best comparison would be a club, and how many stories do you hear of people getting crushed there? The only difference between them is the fact that people don’t necessarily need to get into a club before a specific time, but the crowds can be controlled easily if properly managed.

Joe Dirt says:

Re: Festival seating

There are still many places that have no assigned seating and sell tickets on a first come first served basis without incident. Part of the tragedy surrounding The Who concert in Cincinnati had to do with not enough staff and far too few entrances open to allow entrance to the venue. The Warfield is also nowhere near the size of the former Riverfront Coliseum.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My guess is that would work for some, but still means that things this move is meant to eliminate – scalpers, service charges, general rip-offs – would still apply for the premium seats.

If this becomes a regular thing, some kind of balance would need to be found between 100% up-front (leading to rip-offs) and 100% on-the-door (potentially risky and leaves out those with day jobs who can’t queue for half a day for the most popular concerts).

Danny says:

It would be nice

If there was some way to put up a giant sign showing how many spots are left that way people could gauge whether or not they would have a shot at getting in.

Well there is also purchasing over the web. I’ve only done it a few times but when I did I had to pay with a debit/credit card, print out the confirmation, and show it and photo ID at the door. Aren’t those thing usually non-transferable (meaning that I can’t buy 12 seats and try to sell them off at a higher price because those 12 seats are attached to my card and ID)?

Danny says:

Re: Re:

“You would have to find some kind of uncrackable drm though.”

Talk about a double edge sword. On one hand an unbreakable DRM would work in your idea but…if someone did manage to come up with a truly unbreakable DRM every industry that handles electronic media would have a collective orgasm over the idea of finally have a away to “protect their industry”.

And besides saying your DRM is unbreakable is literally an invitation for every hacker/cracker/etc… from all around to make a name for themselves.

Beta (profile) says:

Look at it another way.

Instead of deciding how people should get tickets, try coming up with a good way for them to fail to get tickets. Seriously, there are more people who want to see the show than seats, so some of them won’t get in; what should happen with them? Should they find out that the tickets are too expensive? Or that the show sold out in two minutes and they missed it? Or that there was a mailing list they should have gotten onto (somehow) six months ago? Or should they show up to stand in line only eight hours in advance and find crowds of more devoted (or less employed) fans ahead of them? Or should they take part in a lottery and lose? Or some combination of these?

If you don’t like these options, suggest a better one; if you don’t like to choose a failure mode at all, be aware that by suggesting a way to distribute tickets you are choosing a failure mode.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

This works best when everyone can get a ticket

I’ve collected cash at the door for some shows. And I’ve stood by and watched as door guys did the same thing.

You won’t likely have a problem as long as everyone waiting in line is likely to get in. There may be people who come after the show has sold out and they get turned away, but as long as everyone has a reasonable expectation of getting in, panic isn’t like to set up.

But everyone’s concerns about crowd control are likely to be very real if demand for tickets greatly exceeds capacity. You don’t want to whip up the crowd into a frenzy.

You might want to give everyone who wants a ticket a number in advance (probably online), like you get at the motor vehicle department, so they know in advance if they can get a ticket.

Scalpers could probably get numbers, too, but if you required that a photo id must match the ticket holder, then perhaps you would reduce the number of people buying more tickets than they personally can use.

Some of this process already duplicates what ticket sellers do, but if you eliminated credit cards and everyone had to pay cash at the door, it should reduce some of the charges that come with ticket services.

But this gets back to some of the questions I asked during the Joe Pug thread. Even venues that sell their own tickets directly usually want a cut of the ticket. So you’ve got to work out a relationship not only between the artist and the fans, but also between the artist and the venue, and if there is a promoter, will the promoter need a cut, too? If the artist is taking the cash, then some of it probably needs to go to the various entities involved. If the venue is taking the cash, the artist needs to get paid. If the promoter is taking the cash, then both the artist and the venue need to be paid.

leo perez says:

Dylan Tickets

And what happens to those fans who live in other cities or countries?? With this new system of purchasing tickets, they would never get to see their favorite groups, Dylan in this case, because they would not have the chance to buy a ticket. And if they get to the venue in time, what are the chances of their getting a ticket if too many people show up?.
There sure are other ways of controlling scalpers and the like.

diana says:


I think its brilliant of Dylan and the other artists trying to get rid of scalpers and the ridiculous money charged by the corporate takeover of ticket services.
This is how I remember concerts back in the day- not necessarily general seating though.
You went to the Filmore,(or wherever) you paid your money, got your ticket and went in.
Maybe you could by tickets at the venue window in advance-if memory serves , yes, I think that was available and eventually some local record stores (yes, records) would sell them.
It was so long ago and admittedly the memory is a bit fuzzy but one thing is clear- it was not the huge rigamarole, redtape and expense over and above the price of the concert.
Not to mention being unable to get seats close up and personal even if you get on line the moment the tickets go on sale. The scalpers hit first somehow.
I’ve often wondered if ticketmaster and the others reserve blocks for scalpers for a generous fee.

I’d love to see ticket window sales again- even with advance sales AT THE VENUE would cut back on some scalpers tricks- particularly if technology was employed to limit the number of seats one could purchase via smartphone, email- something.
Many good ideas and suggestions here.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: tickets.

There are venues that still sell tickets at the window. And for a lot of shows you can either head to the window in advance (which can be a problem if you live somewhere else) or you can take you chances and get them right before the show.

And actually we are reverting back to that sort of system anyway. As people learn they can often get tickets cheaper by waiting, they are learning to wait.

Phil T. Listener says:

Re: tickets.

I remember well at The Fillmore (East) for me.
Tickets $3.50, 4.50 and 5.50.
Show such as
Elvin Bishop – Opening Act
Allman Bros. – Special Guest Stars
Johnny Winter And – Headliner

Bands such as Mountain, Airplane, Jethro Tull, Santana etc.

Those were the days(yes they were),those were the days.

J says:

Nothing wrong with scalping.

Personally, I don’t see why scalping is illegal. If I buy an item and decide to resell it for a higher price (meaning as high as I want) why is that illegal? I paid for the ticket — so its mine to use or not use or to sell — at my leisure.

If someone else was too slow, so what? Move faster next time. Anti-scalping laws are stupid, just my opinion.

(No I’ve never scalped at ticket, but it just makes perfect business sense to me).

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Nothing wrong with scalping.

And the argument has been made that if there is a market for ticket resales at a higher price, then the original tickets were too low to begin with.

And what has been pointed out in some discussions about ticket resellers is that often they are actually doing the selling on behalf of the artist. The artist wants more money, but doesn’t want to price the tickets so high. Therefore some tickets are immediately taken off the market, sold at a higher price, then the money goes back to the artist and/or promoter.

Another argument has been that ticket resellers provide a service by grabbing tickets on behalf of people who don’t want to spend the time on the computer trying to get them. These busy fans would rather pay more money for them instead.

But now what has happened is that many concerts aren’t selling out so prices are dropping and you can get discounted tickets directly from the promoter and ticket seller. The secondary market is getting killed because people are figuring out they can get tickets to some big name artists for as low as $10. In this economy the live music industry isn’t the sure thing it once was perceived to be.

Jesse says:


I have been to 11 Dylan shows (a small number compared to some). 8 were General Admission floor seating where I lined up hours and hours before the show. I have never run into the slightest problem of losing my spot because someone tried to budge. There was one time where the venue planned poorly and lost our line, but there was still no physical danger whatsoever.

Also in response to “In itself a good idea but what about the handicapped people who cannot line-up for hours and people living in another country, who occasionally like to attend a concert and don’t know this in advance?”

I live in the U.S. I would love to see this show. I can’t. It is Dylan’s choice to perform where he wants (or his management but same difference). We aren’t entitled to get to see him. Its a blessing and a great experience, but we aren’t entitled to it.

Jesse says:


And to clarify, all those GA shows where shows where everyone in line waiting got let in at a particular time and had a free for all to get the best spot. Once again, no issues. I always got a spot that I ‘deserved’ based on when I arrived in line. What’s more, I’ve never seen anyone not get a spot they deserved and never seen anyone else get hurt or trampled.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

The concert didn't sell out

Bob Dylan’s No-Ticket Show No Sell-Out : SFGate: Culture Blog!:

“By comparison, much pricier tickets for Dylan’s concert the night before at the Fox Theater in Oakland sold out within an hour, fees and all.

Lefkowitz thinks a few factors worked against the ‘ticketless’ model, which admitted concert-goers on a first come first served basis.

‘Some people may have been intimidated by the line,’ he said. ‘Some people maybe didn’t like the idea of leaving home without a ticket; the uncertainty. Most of his fans probably have jobs so to get here before 6 or 7 p.m. was probably a stretch. It was challenging.'”

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...