On Thursday, singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers announced something surprising. She was going to skip Ticketmaster and do a presale of tickets for her upcoming tour the old-fashioned way: In person, at the box office.
“There’s a lot of conversation right now about combatting bots and making sure tickets get directly into the hands of fans, and at a reasonable price. Ticketing fees have never been higher and a lot of people, me included, are justifiably frustrated and concerned,” Rogers wrote in a Thursday post. “I’ve been thinking about this over the last few months and wanted to provide you with another option. So this time, in an effort to eliminate bots and lower fees — we’re going analog. Come buy an in-person ticket like it’s 1965.”
This was a somewhat radical decision because of a series of chaotic Ticketmaster presales by Blink-182, The Cure, and most notably, Taylor Swift.
I decided to check out the New York City pre-sale, as a fan who has never been to her concerts due to the exact reasons she cited: never being able to beat out the bots who always seem to access tickets faster and the insane prices that Ticketmaster now offers, as a result of surge pricing and fees.
When I got to the box office at 9 am, an hour before ticket sales started, the line was already wrapped around three-fourths of a block. As someone who has waited in many New York City lines, this was not surprising. I knew I was in for a long wait.
I was able to talk to a number of people waiting in line, who for the most part, felt that waiting in line for concert tickets was much more preferable than going through Ticketmaster.
When I asked Bridget Jividen how big of a Maggie Rogers fan she is, she said, “Pretty decent, but I also just don’t like giving Ticketmaster money.” When I asked if she had bad experiences with Ticketmaster, she replied, “I think everybody has.”
This same frustration with buying tickets on Ticketmaster was echoed many times. “The tickets [online] went from $30 bucks up to $300 each so it was a little bit out of my range. It was frustrating seeing it skyrocket so quickly,” Hannah Stenovec said.
“I decided to come out because getting tickets to the Radio City show was a bloodbath and I love that Maggie is giving us the opportunity to not pay fees and have a way to combat scalpers,” Amber Dorner said.
Many people in line had computers out, others were reading, knitting, listening to music, or with a group of friends chatting. Rogers herself actually made her way around the line once, saying hi to all the fans waiting in line. According to her Instagram story, she also helped sell tickets at the box office for a bit when it first opened.
Steph Jones, a fan who became acquainted with the two people behind her in line, Christine West and Courtney Davis, said, “I think it’s cool to be able to buy tickets in person. It changes the experience of the concert and you get the energy three, four months in advance of the actual show, and it’s cool to be in a line of people who like Maggie Rogers and become new friends.”
“I think it’s cheesy, but it’s authentic, we’re here, we’re getting tickets in person. We’re gonna be at the concert with the same people we’re standing in line with and that’s just cool,” said Aziz Alkattan, who came with two of his friends.
While a number of people told me it was their first time ever getting concert tickets in person, there were a few people who said that this was something they used to do all the time.
Tom and Joan Mulry were in line for their daughter, who works in Dubai but plans to come back home to New York for the concert. “We’re probably the oldest people on line here, but it seems amazing, the turnout,” Joan Mulry said.
“Back in the day, I’m 70, you had to go to the venue and stand on line or you had to go to a Sam Goodies or a record store and they would sell tickets there, so there was no way to buy it online back in the day. You either had to go to the venue or mail order,” Tom Mulry said, saying it’s fun to see that model come back.
“Way back in the 90s I was getting up early, going back to my local Ticketmaster outlet, they were handing out bracelets and I would wait in line and do it old school,” Adam Buchsbaum said. “It’s definitely a lot more convenient on the Internet, but I understand the whole message behind trying to eliminate all the fees because it is kind of ridiculous.”
I ended up getting to the front of the line and placing my order at 1:48 pm, which made it nearly five hours since I got there at 9 am. The tickets I bought were the second cheapest option, at $35 dollars before a small credit card fee, and I saw that the venue’s map had a good amount of availability left. I was able to select where exactly I wanted to sit with the ticket seller as well as choose the ticket tier I wanted.
At the end of the day, it was hard to decide whether or not the waiting was truly worth it. It became clear that the in-person box office model is not very sustainable as the main solution to fixing the current issues with concert ticket sales.
On one hand, I was able to buy tickets at the lowest price point I’ve ever paid for an NYC concert ticket in recent years and had much more autonomy in choosing a seat and price point. I also wasn't beaten by scalpers or bots. I also really enjoyed meeting fellow fans and seeing Rogers herself be so engaging and friendly with us.
On the other hand, it was definitely tedious to wait in line for so long, which is not something I’m always able to do on a regular basis with work and other responsibilities. It’s also an accessibility issue for those who cannot physically stand in line for such a long time.
“It’s kind of fun, it’s like some buzz, there’s a little bit of community going on, I think it’s nice, but I don’t always have the ability to do this,” Dorner said. “I think everyone here is working from their phones or on their laptops.”
“There’s an inherent privilege in being able to come here and wait in line, which not everyone can do,” Courtney McGowan said. “Gladly I can, but there’s probably a balance that needs to be found.”
Currently, Ticketmaster, the number one concert ticket sales company in America, is under a lot of hot water, especially after the company made a number of mistakes when selling the U.S. leg of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour in November 2022.
Since it merged with Live Nation in 2010, the company has created a monopoly that controls seventy percent of the ticketing and live events venues market. Its ticket prices have been jacked up higher than resell tickets would normally be and scalpers still find inventive ways to get tickets before regular fans. Now, it seems that everyone, from artists to the U.S. government, is trying to find the best solution to combat this untenable system.