Op-Ed: Ticketmaster's Interactive Seating Charts – By Bob Lefsetz

Music is a business of perception. Via smoke and mirrors, labels and managers make stars. Or stiffs.

But sometimes the star is really a stiff. But how do you know?

SoundScan helped. With sales data published in seemingly every major newspaper and readily available online, you can see when a supposed star falters. And then the dominoes continue to fall. Radio stations stop playing the tunes and people stop going to the show. No one wants to follow a loser, we want winners, all the time in the U.S!

But although we now have accurate sales data regarding recordings, (and despite the hype of the machine, the anemic numbers contribute to the death of the machine and the rise of the indie acts, I mean if a supposed star reaches this few people…) we've never had accurate data regarding concerts, certainly not accurate data available to the general public.

But now, in many cases, we do. Thanks to Ticketmaster interactive seat maps. Suddenly, you can see the show's a stiff. And chances are, if you aren't a dedicated fan, didn't buy your ticket the moment the show went on sale, you're gonna now wait for that discount offer, or the cancellation.

Let's start with Lilith, the summer's whipping boy (girl?)

How big is demand?

Try this link.

It'll take you to the show next Tuesday at the Verizon Wireless Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana.

Now you see the seat map?

Click on a section…

All those dark blue dots? Those are unsold seats.

But for a truly clear picture, go to the navigation arrows to the right, and move the slider all the way to the bottom, towards the minus icon. You'll now see the entire venue. And you'll see there are many unsold seats.

How about the Swell Season? At Hollywood Bowl?

In this case, and maybe it's because the tickets are sold via Ticketmaster and not its partner site, Live Nation, as it is in the case of Lilith, you've got to click on "Use The Map". Better yet, click on "Show Me How". Then again, who reads instructions anymore?

But after clicking on "Use The Map", click on a section, then move the slider down to the minus position, and you'll see that business is quite good for this gig. Could be the cheap prices, could be the night under the stars at America's most famous outdoor venue.

How about Rihanna and Ke$ha? At the fabled 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds (ain't that a mouthful…)?

Well, she's not as hot as perception. All the truly good seats are sold, but once you veer from the center, availability is massive.

And John Mayer?

I wouldn't run to get a seat, there are plenty available in Scranton

Then again, business is great in Cincinnati.

And kind of mediocre for a major market at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, CA.

Then there's Phish, they're sold out at the Berkeley Theatre on August 5th.

And you can't get a hard seat at the aforementioned Noblesville, Indiana venue, but you can get a lawn seat…referencing what those in the know are aware of, Phish is not as hot as they were when they reunited, should they let it lay fallow or burn it out? Do they utilize Irving Azoff's philosophy or Howard Kaufman's?

And speaking of Irving's philosophy, which is to keep acts off the road and out of certain markets until demand has been reignited, are these new interactive seat maps good for the company or bad? Good for promoters or bad? Good for venues or bad? Good for acts or bad?

Mmm… Seemed like a great idea prior to the crash, when you couldn't get a ticket, or believed you couldn't get a ticket, but now?

Is this a case where we've got to return to the era of smoke and mirrors? Hurting the public to save the business?

Not every gig has interactive seat maps, not every promoter or venue. In some cases it's on a date by date basis, you can see availability at Rihanna's gig in Florida, but not at certain other venues. Could this be because of poor sales?

Turns out that many of the acts we thought were winners are really losers, or are not that big. How do we know? SoundScan and these Ticketmaster interactive seating charts!

So, are we going to return to the days where the key was to underplay a market, to create heat?

I'd say so.

And I'd also say the public has seen the man behind the curtain. That's what data does, reveal truth. These stars all over the magazines and on certain Websites? In many cases their light is much dimmer than previously perceived.

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