Brokethicist: Should venues let you watch a sold-out show?

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The stage at The Knitting Factory, as seen from the front bar. Via BrooklynVegan.

“Sold out show” is the micro-concert-economics version of a caste system. The Haves get in, thanking their lucky Favstars they were smart enough to buy tickets months ahead of time. The Have Nots crowd around the entrance, hoping someone will throw them some scraps of extra tickets, most times resigning themselves to having a sad Spotify concert for one at home. A few weeks ago, some friends and I were attending a sold-out Foxygen show at Knitting Factory, rocking along to the band’s awkward stage banter. If you’ve been there, you know the front half of the Knit always has a particularly fishbowl feel, with wide windows behind the bar showing off the stage behind.

I popped out to the front bar for a breather and was surprised to find that, while we were all cramped in the sell-out crowd in the back, the front bar not only had its window blinds open, but was broadcasting the entire concert over its loudspeaker. Which was a shock to me. Is this fair to the ticketholders who paid full price? Is it fair to the band even?

The bartender that night told me the venue does this only for sold-out shows. The sound in the front bar was good, and the view of the band was still better than you’d get at other shittier venues. The front bar was playing baseball on the flatscreens while broadcasting the concert on the loudspeakers. There were only a handfull of people there, but anyone off the street could walk in for free.

The bartender said no one has complained so far. And by no means do we want to get the Knit in hot water: it’s a solid venue, which has always treated fans right (see: Hannibal Buress’s free weekly comedy show and hungover afternoons playing Super Mario in the TV in the corner).

But still, this comes off a bit odd. If more venues did this, it essentially disincentives you from buying a ticket early, or even buying one at all, if you had the knowledge you could come in at the last minute and watch it from the comfort of a spacious front bar, for free. It discourages bands from playing those small venues too, if they realized fans who didn’t pay could still enjoy the show without paying a dime (in fact, it’s the venue that’s making extra money off its front bar from those extra people buying booze). Sure, as a fan trying to attend a sold-out show, I’m in favor of this, but what about the ones who paid for tickets?

Give us your take in the comments here. Do you think this is fair? If you’re in a band, we particularly want to hear from you: would you care if you played a venue that did this? If you work at a venue, would you ever do this? If you’re in Foxygen, hiii.

Follow Tim, who will only attend shows at Terminal 5 from now on, @timdonnelly

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  1. totally in favor of this. This is a win for everybody: A) cheapos and last minute fans get to see the concert for free B) the band gets more fans/mp3 sales/merch sales by giving people a good experience and C) the people who really want to be *in* the show get theirs.

    In Brazil there is a theatre (Teatro Popular in Niteroi) that does basically this. The venue has an indoor seating area that they sell a few hundred tickets for, but the back of the venue can open up so an audience of 20 thousand can also see the show.

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