Do you know what you should do if you want a quick-fire adrenaline rush?
Try and book tickets for the hottest show in town.
Along with thousands of other people.
As soon as they go on sale.
I have experienced this adrenaline hit a number of times in the last few weeks, and it does not lose its edge.
It all started with Hamilton.
If you’ve been living in a theatre/literature/cultural phenomenon black-hole for the last couple of years, then you won’t have heard of this Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize, Grammy Award (and whatever else) winning show.
But millions of people have.
They’re the hottest tickets in town, and the hardest to get.
People from all over the world have been flocking to Broadway (and to the other cities around the States that the show is touring to) to get to see the latest brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda and now, finally, it’s coming to London!
Months ago, there was a (not so) secret sign up link, to join the “Priority Booking” list.
This meant that you’d get the opportunity to book your tickets to the show a week or two before they went on general sale.
That day came.
People all over the UK (including my eagerly anticipating self) sat at computers, with their fingers poised – waiting for the clock to tick over to 12.00pm.
Waiting until the online queue began…
Ready to become the least productive people in their workplaces!
Last year, I had experienced such a queue.
I was trying to get tickets to “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”.
It was a nightmare.
Luckily, a friend of mine was far further advanced in the queue than I, and I got to add two tickets to her cart.
But, despite the excitement on that day, it was nothing compared to “Hamilton”.
The clock hit 12.
The panic began.
I had friends texting me that they were through the first wait.
They’d made it past the first obstacle and were selecting dates and tickets.
But then, just when you thought you were free and clear, the computer would tell you it was thinking about whether you could actually have those tickets and suddenly someone else would have snapped them up instead!
When I say “suddenly”, I really mean after waiting another 20 minutes in your second queue.
So then you’d have to go through that whole process again.
It was madness!
It was mayhem!
It was an emotional rollercoaster!
It was all such a flurry of nervous energy that when it came time to actually secure my tickets, my usually decisive seat selection process was out the window!
Which seat would be best?
Was it worth £10 more for that seat instead of this one?
Should I just spend an entire year’s income on four tickets?
Why was it all so difficult?
What I realised was that for all the benefits of these online systems, instead of the old-fashioned ways of camping out at a ticket booth overnight in the rain and cold, there are things that are lacking.
In the old days, when you did go to the local Ticketmaster (or equivalent) representative, you could consult with them about the seating plan.
About your choices.
You could look at a few different dates at once.
The only pressure was the tap-tap-tapping of the feet of people in the physical queue behind you.
On Sunday night, the beautiful Ms Fab-mum-ulous and I were in a physical queue.
This time we had tickets.
We’d booked to see a certain music theatre goddess in a one-night only “I’m Back in London” concert.
The tickets were paid for.
All we had to do was arrive, collect them and sit.
I got to the venue an hour early.
We were told that tickets would be available for collection 45 minutes before the show.
When I arrived, there was already a queue of a good hundred people ahead of me.
To enter the venue.
To collect their tickets.
And then no-one had allocated seating, so it was to be a free-for-all once we were inside.
That was the epitome of bad queue management.
Or bad planning.
We were in the cold and rain and desperate to get inside.
But the adrenaline was building anyway…
The show started 45 minutes late.
The suspense had built up so much, that maybe that was part of their ploy..?
When she was joined onstage by one of the Tony Award winning members of the “Hamilton” cast for a duet, we did all lose our minds just a little bit… And it kinda all felt worth it.
And this made me think.
Is this whole queuing system designed purely as another marketing tool?
To build interest…
And what’s best anyway?
Or in person queue-ing?
Is it actually worth queuing at all?
In London, the way that things are at the moment, if you don’t queue (in one way or another) for tickets, you’ll likely miss out.
That’s what happened to me with “Angels in America”.
I forgot which date and time the tickets went on sale, and I missed out.
So it’s the Friday Rush and returns queues for me.
Each year, the booking fee that we all have to pay on ticket purchases goes up and up.
And this is another contentious argument:
Shouldn’t it be included in the cost of the tickets?
Didn’t it used to be?
And why is it that there’s no consistency between different companies or between different booking and ticket collecting options?
All of these factors – the booking, the fees, the prices of the actual tickets – they make it a more and more cutthroat business, this ticket-buying!
For people like Miss Jew-ish, who hates to plan three weeks ahead, let alone three months ahead, or (in the case of the “Hamilton” ticket she’s now tied to) a year and a half ahead, having to book this far out is an off-putting process.
What does all of this mean?
Well, it means that the die-hard fans of things will always be the die-hard fans.
They’ll always be in there, buying first and buying big.
Shows like “Hamilton” and “Harry Potter” have instigated systems whereby the person who purchased the ticket must be present upon collection and with about a million forms of ID and with all of their party members present – this is a great way of trying to stop touters, but it also means that the gift-giving of tickets may become a thing of the past.
It means that people are less likely to accidentally hit upon a brilliant show.
They’re unlikely to just book “Hamilton” on a whim – they’d need to know about it and know about it a long time before it happens, in order to be surprised by it.
It may also mean though that smaller shows that found it difficult to attract an audience, may find themselves with more chance of getting later ticket sales.
If I can’t go to see the big hit at the NT, then why shouldn’t I find out what’s on at one of the smaller independent venues around this giant city – all with offerings of great quality?
What have we learnt this week?
That I’ve been on yet another ticket buying frenzy – I’ll be seeing two shows this week and have booked for a dozen more throughout the year already!
We’ve learnt that you should buy yourself a ticket to “Hamilton” in London now!
(Even if you live in Australia – make the trip, it’ll be worth it!)
And we’ve learnt that the British will always queue.
Online or in person.
It’s their thing.
They’ll never stop.