Sunday, November 18, 2007

I hope it's Neil Diamond

In the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "I, Borg," Geordi and Data cook up a way to finish off the Borg once and for all: an insidious computer program. What is it? Just a picture -- but one that is illogical and impossible to properly reconcile in real three-dimensional space, like an M.C. Escher drawing. The theory is that once the image is uploaded into the Borg's hive mind, the Collective will start trying to figure it out. When they can't, more and more combined brain power will be devoted to it. And when that doesn't work either, even more RAM will get eaten up by this thing, until the Borg's CPU Usage meter hits 100% and they get a Blue Screen of Death.

My brain works like that sometimes, as you probably know. I hit something illogical and impossible to reconcile, and I obsess about it until...well, until my cerebral hard drive locks up.

Check this out: local radio station 94.5 FM (or "The Buzz," as they'd like me to call them, I'm sure) is sponsoring a trio of concerts over the next month, all three of which are sold out. The first is Jonathan Davis, who you might know as the frontman for Korn. The second show features local Texas band the Toadies, who haven't had a hit in about fourteen years, but have a passionate following.

The band performing at the third show? I don't know. I don't mean that I haven't heard; I mean I don't know because they're not telling.

Tickets went on sale last week. Tickets for a concert for which no band had been announced. The tickets were fifty dollars. Again, fifty dollars for a ticket to a concert with no announced act.

The Buzz then declared they would name the band...after tickets had sold out!


There's an old adage in pro wrestling: if they announce that an upcoming event will have a "mystery guest," you're going to be let down. Why? Because if they had anyone worth talking about, they'd tell you to make sure you bought a ticket. If they've got a bona fide superstar that everyone would pay to see, they'd say so.

If they had a band worth a fifty dollar ticket, why wouldn't they just go ahead and announce it? What the hell kind of sense does it make to keep it a secret...unless they're ripping you off?

I've been bouncing this around in my head for the last couple of days, trying to piece it together. It's been a common topic of conversation among the bored at Pizza Place. The common theories:

1. "They're trying to build up buzz and excitement by keeping it a secret." Great -- except they're not announcing the band until after the tickets sell out. What good will any of that buzz and excitement do them? They'll already have all the money.
2. "It's a huge band that would normally sell out in seven minutes. By keeping it a secret, they slow that down, so everyone gets a chance to go." Except big fans of whatever band it is are still going to get left out, because they don't know their favorite band is playing! And again -- since they're not talking until tickets have sold out, what difference does it make how fast those tickets sell? They're the same price, whether they're sold out in seven minutes or seven days.

Not only does it not make sense from a business perspective, it doesn't make sense from a fan service perspective, either. Since the band is a secret, the people buying tickets are clueless. I mean, say My Chemical Romance puts on a show. Sure, My Chemical Romance sucks hardcore -- but there are people out there who like them, and they'll buy tickets to the concert. What you probably won't have are MCR-haters clogging up the seats and desperately trying to get rid of their tickets. And with the act a mystery, that's what you're guaranteed to have at this show. Even if the band is hugely popular -- like Incubus or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the two guesses that seem most popular at Pizza Place -- you're going to have a large percentage of people who would rather die than drop fifty bucks to see their show. And those people are going to feel completely screwed and ripped off by this scheme.

Want it to get more interesting? The tickets have sold out -- they sold out Saturday, as a matter of fact. Have they made the announcement? No! On Saturday, they stated that they'd make the revelation later in the day...and then, instead, delayed it until Tuesday. So now they're getting jerked around with the grand reveal, too? And keep in mind, the concert takes place on December 9 -- just a few weeks from now, giving the inevitable percentage of ticket-buyers who hate the Mystery Band precious little time to unload their ducats on eBay.

So: the scheme makes no sense from a business perspective, it makes so sense from the audience's perspective. Why the bloody hell would anyone do this? Well, I have a theory. And it draws back to pro wrestling again. (Hey, I used to work for a pro wrestling company; I have to use that business experience somewhere, don't I?)

In 1990, World Championship Wrestling introduced a villain to act as foil for their champion, Sting. He called himself the Black Scorpion, and addressed Sting decked entirely in black. A hood covered his face; his voice was distorted to further hide his identity. He tormented Sting for an entire year (!), all the while leaving fans guessing as to who he really was.

Why all the secrecy? Because WCW didn't have anyone. Their original candidate -- some schmuck no one had ever heard of -- fell through. So they just strung it along for as long as they could, keeping the Scorpion under his hood while they frantically tried to find someone to take the role.

I think that's what the Buzz is doing. I imagine the concert was a last-minute ploy, so last-minute they had to start selling tickets before the contracts were signed. And in true American style, their PR department came up with this "It's not a bug, it's a feature" scheme to make it look like an inventive idea.

Either that, or the entire company is on acid. Or they're really, really stupid. Or both, frankly.

Now playing: The Police - Synchronicity II
via FoxyTunes

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