Earlier this month tickets went on sale for this year’s edition of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). It did not go 100% well, to put it mildly. Many people did not get tickets and scalping seems to have become more prevalent. Now that the furor and anger has been vented and died down, it is time to figure out how to make this ticketing for GABF work better. This will mean that all sides of the equation learn to accept and compromise and make changes accordingly. Not something that Americans are really known for but here goes….
1. Festival Organizers – You need to manage expectations and get your story across. I know that sounds political but you need to play offense and defense in the world of PR. That is how you win games. You can’t play one and forget the other. You need to let the entire craft beer world know that tickets are becoming a more and more valuable commodity with each passing year and that despite best efforts (and you better be making a best effort) there is only so much space that you can cram beer lovers into and have an enjoyable festival. This needs to be talked about ALL YEAR LONG.
Then if something goes wrong make a good faith effort to fix it and let people know that you are trying. Staying silent only allows for the weirdo conspiracy theories to race around the internet unchecked like a Higgs-Bosun in Switzerland. Most people who go to GABF simply do not understand the logistical complexity of running this event. The world needs to know how many man (and woman) hours it takes to make GABF a reality. Let them know what you do well and what you are trying to fix.
Next, you have to change the month tickets are sold or accept that people will buy plane tickets and secure hotel accommodations before tickets go on sale and you have to provide easy access to options for those people who cannot get into the festival. The first step would be two or three page PDF of everything else craft beer related you can do in Denver that weekend, which is A LOT. Some customers are too thick or too lazy to do research. Provide it and they might not fire off an angry Facebook post. Don’t leave it to me or other Facebook posters to tell people to go to Denver anyway. You have the reach and knowledge of the area to promote craft beer culture in Denver, Fort Collins and Boulder to all those without festival tickets. Use that opportunity. Don’t just say “Sorry” and leave it at that.
DO NOT SIDE WITH TICKETMASTER either by not saying anything or being positive about them. No one in America likes Ticketmaster. They may have to be used for such big events because no one else has the bandwidth to handle such large ticket sales but you need to tell the craft beer geeks that you are grudgingly using them. Ticketmaster doesn’t care what anyone says or they would have changed their onerous pricing and become a better corporate citizen by now. Seriously, they will not pass up the opportunity to gouge more fees. You can feel free to call them every name in the book. I would say (again, all year long) that “unfortunately Ticketmaster is the only company that can provide ticketing services for such a large gathering and as you can see with what happened in 2012 they screwed up and will probably screw up again in 2013. But we have no viable option, imagine a smaller company (even with the best intentions) trying to handle this load if Ticketmaster can’t”
Now that everyone is venting at Ticketmaster you need to use that consumer voice and wring some changes from Ticketmaster and sites like E-Bay and StubHub where these tickets can be tracked. The best way is to do what airlines do. No transfer of tickets. You have to put down the name(s) of those attending and make changing that name too difficult either mechanically or financially to stop people from doing it. Keep the (4) ticket maximum and match ID’s to tickets at the door. The amount of people who will be pissed off about this will be smaller than the ones who can’t get tickets because of scalpers.
Lastly, yell at StubHub and E-Bay for selling scalper prices. Do it a lot and then do it more. Call them worse things than I saw being directed towards you on your Facebook page. Join the rabble in calling for their heads. Then bar scalpers from the convention center. That may cost money in security but if you toss one scalper out and one person sees it then you have re-established your street cred.
2. The Festival Goer. First and foremost, you have to realize that craft beer is huge. And adjust accordingly. Stop talking about the “good old days” when you just happened to walk in to the convention center and talked with Sam Calagione and Garret Oliver and Tomme Arthur for an hour over Wesvletern 12 and had your choice of whatever beer you wanted with no lines at all. Now get in the time machine and come back to the present day. Things are different now. Should I say it again? There is limited space and more and more craft beer drinkers. The trend each year has been faster sell out times. You may not be able to attend every year.
Secondly, do not buy from the scalpers. I see the protests on the interwebs but you know most of the scalped tickets will probably sell. If the scalpers have to take a loss, they won’t scalp. You think that craft beer consumers would understand this concept by now what with Black Tuesday and Kate the Great and other Dark Lord being problems every year. But apparently the lesson those uber rare beers has taught hasn’t taken hold. Oh, and you need to protest StubHub and E-Bay too.
Lastly, don’t behave like asshats once in the festival. Cut the yelling if someone drops a glass. You should learn something from the fact that plastic glasses are the norm. You are telling the organizers how to treat you. And then you get angry when they treat you bad. How about showing the organizers of GABF that you are a classy, craft beer loving crowd that doesn’t take to service fees and giant corporations and not some obscenity spewing yokel who should have a sippy cup and a bib. I am not saying that you shouldn’t have fun but if the great beer isn’t fun enough, then why are you in Denver? You can get hammered for a much smaller amount of money. Buy a case of Natty Light and go crazy at home.
These suggestions may be harsh but I think it is high time some tweaks and major changes are made to keep this great festival going strong in the future.