Want tickets for a big concert at Covelli? You aren’t the only one

Every time tickets for a big concert at Covelli Centre go on sale, there are always people who come away empty handed.

And they aren’t happy about it. We hear the complaints — and sometimes, the wild accusations.

It happened again just last month, when tickets went on sale for the Feb. 1 Elton John concert. And it will certainly happen again in the future.

The reason it happens has nothing to do with nefarious activity on the part of the arena, Ticketmaster, club-seat owners, the performing artist, the Polar Vortex or scalpers.

It has everything to do with the laws of supply and demand.

When folks want to buy 60,000 tickets for a building that has only 6,000 seats, something’s gotta give.

“I can’t make any more seats,” said Eric Ryan, director of Covelli Centre.

Fielding such complaints is part of the job for Ryan, who would like to explain the logistics of ticket sales so as to minimize the hard feelings.

What typically happens for a big concert is this: Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on a Friday morning. Thousands of people attack the website as soon as the clock strikes 10. Each one usually wants to buy the maximum number of tickets allowed, usually six.

Ticketmaster, which handles sales for Covelli, has computers powerful enough to handle sales surges in football stadiums in major cities. So it’s not that the website is overwhelmed.

The fact is, demand is so much greater than supply that all tickets get sold in short order — sometimes less than an hour.

Let’s do some simple math. For Elton John there were 6,000 tickets available, and the average person that got in wanted to buy six tickets, so only about 1,000 were able to make the purchases. So if 10,000 people tried to log on, only 10 percent were able to buy tickets. Everyone else got the “Tickets are not currently available” message.

Here’s an infuriating scenario that some people experienced. Say a buyer quickly gets through to the website and secures tickets for six seats in a row, thanks to the computer finding the best available. But then the buyer releases the tickets because he doesn’t like the price or location. When he tries again, he is shut out, because in the blink of an eye the inventory dried up.

That’s the cold, hard truth. Fans get frustrated because they didn’t get what they want. They underestimate the number of people who are after those same tickets, and the intense competition that creates.

Here’s another scenario. Say at 10:10 a.m., the computer tells Buyer A that no tickets remain. Then Buyer B releases his tickets, and Buyer C snaps them up at 10:11 a.m. Buyer A finds out about it and cries foul, thinking something is fishy. But there isn’t.

“It’s pure luck,” said Ryan.

There are a couple of other incidentals that ticket buyers should keep in mind.

First, and most important, never buy a ticket from a website that purports to specialize in concert tickets (and is not Ticketmaster.com) before the actual sale has begun. Because they are counterfeit, a rip-off, a scam.

Fans show up at every major concert at Covelli bearing fake tickets that they bought in earnest for a high price.

Some have even showed up with real-looking tickets in the 300 sections of Covelli Centre, and the problem with that is ... there is no 300 level at the arena. All sections are either in the 100s (floor) or 200s (the “bowl” seats).

Disgruntled buyers also have questioned the sale of tickets to club-seat holders. Club seats are a special deal in which the “owner” gets the right to buy a ticket for that seat for every event for a year.

It’s basically a personal seat license: a guaranteed seat, though you still have to buy a ticket for each event. If the owner declines a particular event, the seat is sold to the public.

The club seats are in sections 204 and 205, and are extra-roomy padded seats with cup holders, at center ice. Only about 300 have been sold.

For the Elton John concert, Covelli was offering a deal in which for $350, you get a seat for the concert plus the club-seat license for other events, VIP Lounge access and parking.

Oh, and one final thing:

The die-hard fan ritual of lining up to buy tickets at the box office — sometimes camping out overnight in front of the arena — is an option whose days are numbered.

In fact, Youngstown is one of the few remaining cities where this once-commonplace practice still exists.

It’s a quirky necessity for doing business in Youngstown, which clings to the past and is often years behind in adapting to new practices.

“Ninety percent of the arenas in the country don’t even open their box office for big on-sales,” said Ryan. “Cleveland and Pittsburgh don’t. We always have to ask permission to hold a minimum amount of tickets for the box office. Sometimes they laugh.”

Ryan said Covelli Centre will keep doing it as long as it can.

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