Ticketmaster Sells Phish Tickets Early, Then Cancels

Thousands of disappointed Phish fans are crying right now because Ticketmaster accidentally sold “a significant number” of 4-day passes to the upcoming show at Red Rocks — then canceled them. Phish fan and Consumerist reader Trevor has the scoop:

Last night, word spread like wildfire on numerous Phish fan message boards that tickets for the band’s recently announced 4-night stand at Red Rocks Amphitheater were available for purchase on Ticketmaster.com. Fans were in disbelief, since the public onsale date for the Red Rocks concerts is scheduled for Thursday, March 26. But sure enough, those brave enough to enter their account information received immediate confirmation emails from Ticketmaster.

After the window closed, fans immediately began speculating about how this could happen and whether or not Ticketmaster would honor the purchases. Considering Phish’s rabid fanbase, the limited capacity of Red Rocks (9450), and that these would be Phish’s first Red Rocks dates in 13 years, these tickets promised to be the most difficult to secure of any for Phish’s summer tour. Those who successfully ordered the tickets were overjoyed at the ease with which they’d just gotten 4 day passes and at face value!

More skeptical fans went into overdrive, reading Ticketmaster’s terms of service. Upon close inspection, they found the Ticketmaster escape clause:

If the amount you pay for a ticket is incorrect regardless of whether because of an error in a price posted on this web site or otherwise communicated to you, or you are able to order a ticket before its scheduled on-sale or presale date or you are able to order a ticket that was not supposed to have been released for sale, then: Ticketmaster will have the right to cancel that ticket (or the order for that ticket) and refund to you the amount that you paid. This will apply regardless of whether because of human error or a transactional malfunction of this web site or other Ticketmaster operated system.

Phish fans awoke this morning to find that Ticketmaster had indeed canceled all orders overnight. Fans who had missed the “magic window” rejoiced that they still had a (slim) chance of getting tickets at face value through the public onsale. Fans who suffered the cancellations debated how best to express their dismay. Suggestions included mass emails to members of Congress, phone calls to promoter AEG, class action lawsuits, and other fanatical measures.

Conspiracy theories raged. The most popular centered around the idea that a Ticketmaster insider briefly “opened the window” to allow ticket brokers access to tickets before the public onsale date.

This evening, Phish issued the following statement, found on the front page of their website.

Eventually, jilted fans received an email directly from Ticketmaster North America President David Butler. The text follows:

Dear Phish fan:
Unfortunately, the tickets that you ordered from Ticketmaster for performances of Phish scheduled at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre between the dates of July 30th and August 2nd, 2009 were put on sale inadvertently, allowing you to order tickets before they were supposed to have been released for sale to the general public. The sale of these tickets prior to the scheduled onsale date was the result of an inadvertent error on the part of Ticketmaster. While we strive to be perfect, errors do occur, albeit rarely. Per our stated policy and our practice Ticketmaster refunds purchases in such situations and cancels the tickets. In this case, while we asked the credit card companies for an authorization code at order time, we did not and will not charge your card for the purchase price and have canceled your order for tickets.

In addition, we’d like to show our sincere regret for this error by providing you with a gift certificate in the amount of $50.00 that is redeemable for any purchase for tickets to qualifying events on Ticketmaster.com or through our call centers as long as your order was in accordance with our standard order guidelines. You should receive this gift certificate in the next two weeks.

We are sorry that we were not able to provide you with the tickets you ordered and hope that we will have the chance to serve you better in the future. We encourage you to visit Ticketmaster at the scheduled onsale for Phish at Red Rocks currently scheduled for Thursday March 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm MT.

Sincerely,
David Butler
President
Ticketmaster North America

People are shocked that Ticketmaster engaged in such a good will gesture. Guilty conscience much?

Anyway, fans would obviously rather have the tickets than a $50 voucher that will be worth $27 after handling fees and convenience charges. As it stands, very few fans will be able to beat out the scalpers and their automated ticket bots to purchase tickets at face value, and most people who get to attend the Red Rocks shows will undoubtedly pay $500+ for each night’s ticket.

No offense to your Phishfandom, but this sort of thing makes us feel really lucky to not like any band well enough to buy from a ticket scalper. Fun should not be this stressful.