Kraftwerk's forthcoming retrospective eight-night residency at New York's Museum of Modern Art is a dream for fans -- partly because of the appeal of the group playing their last eight albums start to finish, and partly because of the venue. The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium is around a 700-capacity, extremely intimate considering Kraftwerk's worldwide appeal, rare tours and the promise of a one-of-a-kind 3-D visualization for each night.
It's also a dream because actually acquiring tickets for any of the April shows was nothing but a nightmare. A huge percentage of people who "queued up" at exactly noon yesterday (Feb. 22) were kept there eternally. And according to MoMA's ticket seller ShowClix, only about 1.2% of those who tried got tickets.
It comes with the territory. Pretend that 700 tickets were actually made available for each night, times eight is 5,600 tickets total. Imagine that fans were going after their favorite or most popular albums -- "Autobahn," "The Man-Machine" or "Computer World," maybe -- and that's some serious competition, especially with a two-ticket maximum per customer.
That would explain the hundreds of tiresome Kraftwerk puns that erupted on Twitter and Facebook yesterday.
What was infuriating fans in this instance was not just being unable to win a lottery that seemingly lasted a minute, but dealing with a ticket-buying system that buckled under the demand, and kept interested parties in a queue for sometimes longer than an hour. I didn't try to buy Kraftwerk tickets yesterday, but I do know the frustration of not getting tickets I want, and seeing them go instantly into the hands of a secondary ticket marketplace. Ticketmaster may screw you with fees and competitive concert ticket-buying experiences, but at least they let you know you're screwed pretty quick.
ShowClix has issued an apology to fans in an open letter today, and have vowed "to work hard to prevent such a debacle from happening again in the future." Not much solace for fans today, but not scoring the tickets you want is never any fun. With all the innovations in online buying, so-called "safeguards" from scalpers and the appeal of seeing an intimate show when artists so often prefer the cash of a large venue take-in, it's another lesson learned: ticket buying still, and probably always will, suck. ShowClix probably knew their demand -- such metrics are easily had -- and should've prepared. Here is the text from the post:
Dear Kraftwerk fans,
Sorry it took me a day to write this, but it was important for me to first understand all of the facts so they could be properly communicated. First and foremost, we are deeply sorry for the frustration and massive inconvenience that yesterday's on-sale for Kraftwerk caused for many of their great fans around the world. I recognize that so many of you spent hours in front of your computer watching a spinning wheel—or watching the page go blank. Please allow me to explain what happened and what we'll do to correct this for the future:
MoMA has been a really great partner of ShowClix for over a year now, and we've worked with them to move tens of thousands of tickets successfully. They leaned on us to help them with this on-sale, which was a special event for them, and we let them (and you) down. ShowClix has successfully executed many very large, high-demand on-sales over the past five years that we've been in business. Most of these on-sales have a high demand, with a great deal of inventory to sell. Kraftwerk's eight-night performance on-sale was a very unique situation. While we're not able to disclose the number of tickets that were available for these performances, what I will say is that of the tens and tens of thousands of die-hard Kraftwerk fans from around the world that logged on at exactly noon EST yesterday to get these tickets, the venue capacity restrictions would only ever allow approximately 1.20% of them to actually be reserved. As you might imagine, this is an extremely large technical hurdle, particularly because of the tiny fraction of supply versus the demand.
Still, this is no excuse. We should have never advised MoMA to allow the tickets to be sold in the fashion in which they were, because in the end—even if everything were to go smoothly—many people would have been very disappointed. ShowClix didn't set the proper expectations from the beginning, nor did we properly prepare our load balancing servers in order to prevent the queue from timing out. Ultimately, we failed many of you.
Since yesterday, we have discovered that a single setting within one of the lower levels of our queuing system's middleware bubbled-up under the heavy load and caused frequent timeouts. There were also some issues with the broadcast system which allows us to communicate with ticket buyers while they're waiting in the queue. We should have both of these problems resolved by the end of this week. However, even with these problems resolved, it is my belief moving forward that we should not perform an on-sale all at once for an event or venue that has such small capacity restrictions versus potential demand. Instead, we will advise our clients on various alternative methods to fairly sell tickets to an event that has such a small fraction of inventory available versus the potential demand.
There were certainly technical problems around this event. Contrary to some reports, however, our servers never crashed or went offline, and none of our other clients or their events experienced a problem during the Kraftwerk on-sale. We always keep high-demand on-sales separate from all of the other activity happening on our server. It's also important to note that there were online sales successfully processing the entire time, and all eight of the events sold-out in approximately 60 minutes.
In closing, regardless of what the technical problem was—or how we plan to solve it in the future—we haven't overlooked the incredible amount of frustration many people felt from the on-sale. We take full responsibility. This company was founded and continues to be run by a big team of live entertainment and technology addicts. We feel for you, the fans, and our partner, MoMA, and vow to work hard to prevent such a debacle from happening again in the future.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.