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.

David Butler
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.


Edit Your Comment

  1. nybiker says:

    And you won’t be able to use the gift cert for the phish tickets. But, again, don’t get caught up in the hype for TM stuff and you won’ be disappointed.

    • ScottRose says:


      I think you’re being a little hard on TM.

      They’re obviously going to charge a $50 “gift-certificate-redemption fee” on the use of those certs.

  2. nakedscience says:

    Ticketmaster just can’t do anything right.

  3. edwardso says:

    So you get the $50 gift certificate two weeks after the tickets you want go on sale? I wonder what the convienience charge will be for using the gift certificate

  4. philmin says:

    So… ticketmaster handled this situation quite well. Why the misleading headline?

    • legwork says:

      @philmin: What’s misleading? Did it change?

      • nakedscience says:

        @philmin: How is this handling the situation well? They could have given everyone a $50 CREDIT TO BE USED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, not a certificate “in two weeks” that’ll be cut in half from fees, anyway.

  5. HarcourtArmstrong says:

    I wonder what Ticketmaster was smoking when they did that?

  6. jtheletter says:

    Anyone catch the trick Ticketmaster just pulled to get more money out of these people? Let me stitch together the key quotes for everyone:
    “the public onsale date for the Red Rocks concerts is scheduled for Thursday, March 26
    “by providing you with a gift certificate in the amount of $50.00 […] You should receive this gift certificate in the next two weeks.”

    The $50 voucher won’t even show up until potentially after the purchase date for the show these people are interested in. Meaning if you want to even use that GC you have to go back to TM for yet another ripoff purchase.

    FU Ticketmaster, here’s hoping you get branded as the monopoly you are and shutdown in 2009.

  7. legwork says:

    Wow, people are complaining about getting away without a cancellation convenience fee? Or a letter from the president fee fee? I mean, TM canceled their errant tickets automatically. What more could you expect?

  8. magic8ball says:

    From Phish’s website: “Phish takes this and all ticketing matters extremely seriously.”

  9. WarOtter - I went to Japan and all I got was this tumor. says:

    Lol, a 50$ voucher might just cover some of their ‘(in)Convenience’ fees. Damned tickletmaster is a monopoly, and we need Teddy Roosevelt to do some fancy stick work on em.

  10. philmin says:

    @ legwork:

    From the consumer’s standpoint, the most important piece of news about this story is that the customers were quickly contacted, apologized to, and offered a $50 dollar voucher.

    Dont get me wrong… I could make a list of complaints about ticketmaster a mile long, but why would this, of all stories, be framed with a negative headline?

  11. ekthesy says:

    Phish needs to go back to selling their tickets by mail. I did this many times back in the day and never, ever had a problem. They played smaller venues, but selling 18,000 tickets can’t be any different than selling 8,000, they just need a bigger staff.

    That would be phair, indeed, and would take the stench of Ticketmaster and LiveNation out of the Phish game, leaving only the usual scents accompanying Phish shows…

  12. Anonymous says:

    Don’t get me started on TM.

    I attempted Tuesday to score tix to Taylor Swift in a ‘password pre-sale’.

    Same song-and-dance as everyone else for every TM event for the past few years. On first day of presale, we got last row of the nose-bleeders, while TicketsNow, StubHub, eBayHoles, etc had hundreds avail in all sections for 300-1000 (face value=50).

    Tix on sale Mar 17 for Cajundome (Lafayette, La show on Sept 9).

    I honestly think my daughter and I scored better face value seats for Hannah Montana.

    You’d swear in this economy…

  13. ds says:

    First thought at an article with Ticketmaster and Phish in the title:

    “Oh, Fee, you try to live a life that’s completely free…”

  14. MrsLopsided says:

    Another “error”:


    Pawel Kusnirewicz was playing the two-cent slots at Georgian Downs Casino in Innisfill on Dec. 2 when suddenly bells on the machine began ringing, whistles began blowing and a voice on the machine told him to call an attendant because he had just become a millionaire.

    “You’ve just won $42.9 million,” the machine said.

    A casino attendant rushed over to congratulate the man but then called over supervisors when he realized the size of the jackpot.

    Supervisors told him that the machine was broken and that they couldn’t offer him the prize money but as compensation the casino would treat him and three of his friends to dinner.

  15. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    There’s something phishy at Ticketmaster. Oh, wait. No there isn’t. They canceled it.

  16. Russ Savage says:

    this isn’t really related to this article, considering some may think ticketmaster handled this well.. but all i know is, F*** ticketmaster.

  17. NightSteel says:

    My question is, how many more real people were able to score tickets because of this unannounced early sale? As opposed to the many stories of almost no real people getting tickets during a normal sale because the resellers have scraped them all up with their bots.

  18. greatgoogly says:

    Normally I would be pissed at Ticketbastard, but in this case it’s a bunch hippies who got screwed so…. “The Man” 1, hippies 0.

  19. ThickSkinned says:

    I’m glad the 10 year banning of Phish from Red Rocks has expired. Considering the reason for the ban was too many phans showing up, they should get a lifetime ban after this run.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Forget the service charges. If you ever saw the inner workings of the TM ticketing system, you’d know the fees are the least of your worries when it comes to Ticketmaster. Can you say ‘plain text’?

  21. Nathaniel Burns says:

    Check this out:


    Two huge ticketing fiascos within a few weeks. I tried to get tickets to a Phish show that was on sale a few weeks ago, with Live Nation (and you may be aware that they are merging with Ticketmaster). After getting error messages for an hour on their site, I finally got some tickets in my cart. I entered my credit card info, then clicked “proceed” to get to the next page where it was the point of no return (and I didn’t want to return, getting Phish tickets at face value is amazing). All I had to do was click the “confirm order” button on the bottom of the page. But alas, when I did it said “javascript error.” The page was corrupt. And I had to sit and watch as the two minute timer ran down, and my tickets were returned to general sale.

    What is more infuriating is that these $50 tickets had a $20+ surcharge that went to Live Nation. And the show was supposed to be at Comcast Center, which I believe is owned by Live Nation (or vice versa). Therefore Live Nation was getting not only $20 in service fees, but must also have been getting some of the $50 ticket cost too (for Phish to use a venue they own).

    AHHHHHHH. I could go on and on…about how scalpers ruin it for everyone, about how Phish should have their own ticketing site, about how Ticketmaster scalps its own tickets, about how Phish is only back together for the money….

  22. Louie Colon says:

    This is shady… How many other times was this “mistake” made… and then on the day of the actual sale, the tickets sell out “in under 5 minutes?” How do we know this isn’t a common occurrence and COULD be a reason why so many tickets show up immediately on Tickets Now? Ticket Master did no favors to conspiracy theorists with regards to their relationship with Tickets Now, their reseller affiliate. I hate Ticket Master.

  23. ras_d says:

    please JAH let me win my 4 nights at Red Rocks thru the raffle!

  24. mac-phisto says:

    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[…]

    …but in the end, they agreed to a peace pipe & drum circle, but they promised to play really angry beats (at least until the brownies kick in).

  25. Blinky987 says:

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

    I thought yuppie-hippies weren’t supposed to be dicks. Yes, the voucher is exactly that- Ticketmaster made an error and is compensating you for it. This is a case where the customer is out-of-line.

  26. Alessar says:

    Ticketmaster was well within its rights to cancel tickets that were sold before they should have been available. The since apology was a nice touch. Forking over a $50 credit, even if it’s not applicable to the show that caused the problem, is really very generous.

  27. Blueskylaw says:

    “Ticketmaster will have the right to cancel that ticket (or the order for that ticket) and refund to you the amount that you paid.”

    Minus a convenience fee of course.

  28. AldisCabango says:

    If you dont like it dont buy the ticket. I quit attending events sold thru ticketmaster or live nation. It sucks because i’m missing out on a lot of good stuff. On the flip side. I am discovering a lot of great music by going out to see local/regional artists.

  29. RunawayJim says:

    I am a Phish fan (hence my handle). However, I did not get in on this (didn’t hear about it until after they stopped). I think TM handled it quite well. Those whining just feel like they are entitled to Phish tickets. They are not. The fact remains that so long as supply of tickets is low, the market will set the price, which might be 600% above face value. If people are willing to pay the scalpers what they’re asking, the scalpers will continue doing what they do. If people will pay the scalpers no more than face value, the scalpers will quit. It’s simple economics.

    All you Phish fans whining, shut up and get a life. I hate TM like the rest of you, but they handled this the best they could. It shouldn’t have happened to begin with, but if they let it stand, it would have been unfair to the thousands of fans who weren’t online at the right time. It just so happens the band agrees that if TM allowed the sales to be honored, it would be unfair to the rest of us.

  30. trujunglist says:

    There is something extra special about getting ripped a new asshole for tickets to a show by a band that represents hippies and that whole culture

  31. cromartie says:

    Why, their fans must be Bouncing ‘Round The Room with anger at this incident.

  32. hippybear says:

    The article states that automated purchasing bots are going to shut out regular customers when the tickets do actually go on sale. I thought the reason Ticketmaster uses a “capcha” system was specifically to defeat these bots. Has OCR technology suddenly taken a leap forward that nobody else knows about?

    Frankly, I find it all a bit silly. I cannot remember the last time I had to purchase a ticket from a scalper. I go to major shows such as Pearl Jam and U2 every time they tour, and I just wait for the tickets to go on sale, make sure I’m at my computer 15-20 minutes before the onsale time, and load up the page and hit refresh every little while until I get a purchase page.

    That being said, if you wait another 20 minutes after that, likely all the tickets WILL be gone, especially for the really high-demand shows. This is not a process for the tardy.

    One little tip — if a show comes up as being sold out right away, keep checking back every hour or so during the day. As credit card purchases are processed, any cards that are declined will negate that order and those tickets will usually be immediately released for purchase again. I’ve had this work at least twice that I can think of

    • humphrmi says:


      Has OCR technology suddenly taken a leap forward that nobody else knows about?

      No, you don’t need OCR to defeat CAPTCHA, in most cases you only need a bunch of offshore workers willing to make a few cents per hour. But plenty of people know that…


    • Anonymous says:

      @hippybear: You clearly didn’t try to get phish tickets online. It’s really not the same. At. All.

      Six people who I know who tried to get tickets to Merriweather Post Pavilion this morning – about 22,000 seats – all did exactly that. We all were online waiting for the exact moment tickets went on sale and put in our orders.

      You know how many people got their order? One.

      If you ordered at exactly at 11:00 AM you had a small chance. If not, you had no chance. There’s no “15 or 20 minutes”.

      The supply and demand differential is in a completely different league than the shows you’re seeing. It’s too bad, I really think Phish is doing a disservice by pricing tickets so low and creating such an incentive for scalpers to buy as many as they can to resell at a huge profit.

  33. deejaypopnfresh says:

    hahahai guess the phish phans will have to watch it on youtube from their macbooks at starbucks

  34. Anonymous says:

    Hello i would like to let the public know how we are all getting ripped off by (drum roll) our old friend Ticketmaster. I along with many other fevered Phish Phans have been awaiting this summer since ’04’ in Coventry to come our way, well it did and the tickets sold out in a matter of seconds, i went online yesterday to get my tickets for the Gorge shows and guess what, as soon as the time came for them to go on sale, oooops they were sold out, hmmmmm well then i started searching around i came across several so called ticket agencies selling the 49.95 ticket price for 125. on up to 1,200 dollars (no joke) well one of these companies who have bought all the tickets from Ticket master is Ticketsnow.com owned by (drum roll) Ticketmaster, thats right they buy all the tickets up and tell the fans they are sold out then turn around and post them for sale at much,much,much higher prices at another company???? Am i just dumb or our we getting takin for ride on the magical mystery ticket ride? Lets put this to rest and not feed the beast, does the boys of Phish know about this? Is this not a form of ticket scalping? What is next????? Please lets get the word out…. Like me i am sure alot of fans of Phish and other bands are being robbed and let down for not being able to see their favorite bands.

    Thank you
    Teresa Neathery
    Pacific University

  35. Anonymous says:

    They did the same thing with the Earth, Wind, and Fire show in Alpharetta, GA. We ordered PIT tickets, received the PIT tickets, and then a week later were told that the tickets were not supposed to have been released and that they were moving us from the 1st row, to the 5th to last row in the venue. They haven’t offered any form of compensation even though we already made a hotel and flight reservation (4 couples total)