Tegan And Sara Offer ‘Pay What You Can’ Donation-Based Seats To Fight Secondary Ticketing

Tegan and Sara
– Tegan and Sara
Though Tegan and Sara’s Oct. 1 show at San Francisco’s Sydney Goldstein Theater quickly sold out in July, hours before the concert there were hundreds of tickets still available on secondary ticketing sites – with the real possibility that many of those seats would remain empty when the twins took the stage. The indie pop duo decided to try an experiment and announced that they would be filling empty seats on a “first come first serve basis” in return for a “pay what you can” cash donation at the door to The Tegan and Sara Foundation. 
Tegan and Sara alerted fans to the experiment via their social media sites in posts that went on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram around 2:30 p.m – five and a half hours before the show – explaining that after it had come to their attention that “significant numbers of tickets to our show tonight in San Francisco were unethically gobbled up by secondary ticketing platforms …  our goal is to ensure that our real fans are in each and every seat, and to prevent secondary platforms from hurting our shows.” The girls noted “there is little time to sell and we never ask our fans to go to secondary sites.”  
Fans are asked to line up at the venue in the evening, with “rush seating” for the open seats to begin at approximately 8:15 p.m. – 15 minutes after the show is scheduled to start. The announcement says that after analyzing secondary ticketing sites, the band “may have over 200 seats to fill at the last minute tonight,” though they can’t guarantee seat availability. 
The announcement adds, “We will be continuing to work on this frustrating problem this week and will keep everyone posted on rush seating and ticket availability to upcoming shows.”   
With a strategy like this still new, one wonders what would happen if the secondary ticketing platforms displayed empty seats in a certain section, leading Tegan and Sara’s team to give those seats out on a donation-basis, but a fan bought a ticket via the secondary market at the last minute and showed up to claim a seat that was given to a fan paying cash at the door. 
Bobbie Gale, VP of media and strategic development at Warner Records, told Pollstar that donation-based seating being available shortly after a show’s start is similar to how fans can buy last-minute tickets for empty seats at theater shows in London.
She added, “Obviously people do show up late; I think everybody feels strongly that it will sort itself out. … I do think the girls always approach things from [a standpoint of] what would be best for their fans. So fingers crossed this works.”
Gale clarified that the idea for the ticket experiment came from Tegan and Sara, who “are very, very savvy and they’re always thinking of their fans.”

A few hours before the San Francisco show, which was promoted by Another Planet Entertainment, tickets were available on StubHub for as low as $6. Tickets for the show sold via San Francisco’s City Box Office – which utilizes a ticketing system provided by accesso – were originally priced between $49.50 and $199.50. 
Another Planet Entertainment president Sherry Wasserman told Pollstar “perhaps 30 made donations for approximately $400 to [the Tegan and Sara Foundation] as ‘seat fillers.’”
When asked if this was the first time the promoter had worked with an artist who had done an experiment like this, she said, “Yes, as we have never had an issue with empty seats at any of our shows. We didn’t have an issue [at Sara and Tegan’s show] either.”
The experiment comes just weeks after The Black Keys used Ticketmaster’s new Safetix technology at the band’s Sept. 19 underplay show at Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theatre to turn off the transferability on tickets’ rotating barcodes in an effort to fight scalpers. Hundreds of fans showed up at the venue to find their tickets were deemed invalid, and the band, Ticketmaster and secondary ticketing sites all found themselves defending their roles in the debacle.  
Just like The Black Keys show, the big question is who gets to decide what happens with the seat – is it the person who bought the ticket or the artist who’s putting on the show?
The Sydney Goldstein Theater show is part of Tegan and Sara’s “Hey, I’m Just Like You: The Tour,” in support of the twins’ new memoir, High School, and new album, Hey, I’m just Like You. The events feature acoustic, stripped-down performances from the new album and collection of songs from the duo’s older records, as well as old video footage from their teenage years. 
The twins will also be reading selections from the memoir and telling stories from their adolescence.  Along with the “pay what you can” donation tickets, Tegan and Sara are donating $1 from every ticket sold on the tour to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which supports economic justice, health and representation for LGBTQ girls and women. 
Based on the abundance of tickets on the secondary ticketing platforms and how Tuesday’s ticket experiment goes, Gale says Tegan and Sara may be employing the strategy at their next shows in Portland and Seattle.