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June 8, 2009

My thoughts on the scalp-proof system at Rams Head

rams head liveSince the booking and sale of tomorrow's surprise Beastie Boys show at Rams Head Live (pictured) generated so much interest/controversy, I thought I'd add my opinion to the pile.

First off, I want to give credit where credit is due: Landing a surprise Beastie Boys show was huge for Rams Head Live.

The Beasties are only playing two of these club shows (the other one is in Asheville, N.C.) before Bonnaroo. It's a score for Rams Head -- the Beasties are one of the biggest groups to have ever played there.

Now, a little criticism: It's obvious the club's Web site was totally unprepared to handle the volume of traffic it received when Beastie Boys tickets went on sale.

I'm sure there are ways to avoid this (Midnight Sun commenter Abject Disaster had a good point about renting space on outside servers to insure smooth ticket buying)

I'm intruiged by the "scalp-proof" ticket system Rams Head Live instituted for this show ...

Here's how it works: Concertgoers could only buy up to two tickets per order. Considering how fast tickets went, it was highly unlikely the same person had time to buy more than two tickets.

Tickets could only be bought online -- not over the phone or at the ticket window.

More importantly, tickets could only be picked up at the will call window the night of the show. At Rams Head, the will call window is inside the club -- and the night of this show, there is no re-entry.

Got all that?

beastie boysIn theory, this makes it pretty close to impossible to scalp tickets. The downside is, if you bought tickets for this show but then something came up and you couldn't go, you couldn't scalp them on Craigslist. You'd have to suck up the cost of the tickets.

The scalp-free policy gives loyal Beastie Boys fans a chance of seeing one of their favorite bands at a reasonable price (tickets were about $40 each). Ticket scalping sites such as StubHub couldn't swoop in, snatch up tons of tickets and re-sell them for three times face value.

Of course, other loyal fans who couldn't get tickets don't have the option of buying a scalped ticket -- even for three times the original face value. And as you can see, more than a few fans are looking for tickets. 

I think this is an interesting little experiment. I have no problem with scalpers (I've bought my share of scalped tickets in the past), but scalping sites like StubHub have gotten out of hand.

Rams Head's scalp-free system seems a little extreme -- especially for the average show. But for special shows like this one, I understand it.

I'm going to the show tomorrow, and I'm interested to see how the ticketing system goes. I'll check back in on this topic Wednesday.

(At top, Sun photo by Christopher T. Assaf. Bottom photo by Getty Images.)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:04 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music


I wish I was a hacky writer for a washed-up newspaper that could score tickets to this show. Just make sure you don't stand in front of anyone while slow dancing to Gratitude.

Hope a Cordish official doesn't kick them off stage for performing Hip-Hop at Power Plant Live.

Sam, got an extra??

You clearly have no idea how the ticket industry works. Stubhub isn't buying any tickets at all. They are just a marketplace.

In any case, you also clearly haven't thought this through. Let's say you can only buy 2 tickets. What if you have 2 kids that want to go to the show? Either your kids have to buy the tickets with their credit cards, or one of them can't go, since you as the parent with the credit card have to attend, eating up one of the ticket spots available.

This is bad for consumers, and is just part of TicketMaster's attempt to get a monopoly in all aspects of ticketing. When that happens, will tickets be cheaper? If you think so, perhaps you be interested in a bridge I have for sale.

The ordering process was completely smooth. The screen tells you it will hold your tickets for up to 8 minutes and you get timed out at 3. Ramshead is a great place to see a show but they botched this big time.

You better show up to that will-call line early. I have a feeling then line is going to be ridiculous. A good hour wait would be my guess.

Pissy, like I said in the piece, I'm going to the show. Are you?

Anon, heh.

Sturmy, sorry, I don't have any extras. Who's got Sturmy's miracle? Anybody? Anybody?

Albert, good point about not being able to take your kids, I hadn't thought about that.

I never said tickets were cheaper because of Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster (and its "convenience" fees) is one of the world's great evils. Ticketmaster also owns TicketsNow, a resale site. I don't think many people would call me a conspiracy theorist if I said I think there's the potential for some really fishy business there.

Also, whether StubHub itself snaps up the tickets or a bunch of scalpers does the snapping and reselling at ludicrous prices is splitting hairs.

The point is, only allowing the sale of two tickets at a time keeps online scalpers from getting their grubby paws on a ton of tickets just so they can flip them.

Alas, Ram's Head's wonderful, overloaded website twice told me I had secured two tickets before reporting a "broken link" when I tried to enter payment info.

This does not sting nearly as much as the Beasties / RATM tour I had tickets for in 1999 before the tour was canceled. I wish institutions, such as Ram's Head and many others, would anticipate large demand and update servers / procedures accordingly.

I'm most pissed at the fact that I missed out on tickets while friends of mine scored them. They wouldn't have even know about the show if it wasn't for this humble postwriter.

Pissy, ah, yes, it's all my fault. I've heard that one before.


Hah, I was just talking about that Rhyme & Reason tour with my friends last night. I think I still have the tickets to that show. Beasties, RATM, STP, J5, and more I think. Too bad Mike D had to dislocate his shoulder. Maybe if he ate real food he wouldn't be so brittle.


I agree that this was probably one of the better ways the ticket sales could have been handled, especially on such short notice (I probably would think otherwise if I didn't get my tickets). But I don't think there will ever be such thing as a scalp-proof system. On that Craigslist link you posted there are a few people selling tickets to the highest bidder provided that they walk into the venue with the seller. But it obviously cut down on larger-scale scalping operations.

Getting pumped for tomorrow's show.

All this over the Beastie Boys? Really?

The thing that annoyed me is after the bulk of us tried to buy tickets at 4:00 and were bounced, there were people who managed to get tickets around 5PM. Why were there still tickets available at 5PM that weren't at 4:03, when I supposedly had 2 tickets locked? I hope Rams Head works out the kinks before they try this again.

An interesting approach to defeating scalping was for The Rolling Stones' American Tour 1981. You mailed in for tickets and got chosen randomly which resulted in getting the opportunity to buy tickets, if not chosen got a official tour postcard (the illustration was by whoever did the "Still Life" album cover).

NR, there will never be such thing as a scalp-proof system as long as people are will to pay their asking prices.
It's nice to know scalpers get burned occasional, once went to a concert where most of the prime seats near the stage were empty the whole night until the intermission.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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