I’m proud to say that I’m a “Deadhead” and have been for over thirty years. Back in 1973, I was dragged to a Grateful Dead show by a friend whom I viewed as a “nutty Deadhead.” Before then, I liked the Dead, but I did not love them and that was merely because I had never seen a live Grateful Dead show, which was more an experience than a concert.
Needless to say, I was really excited to learn that the surviving members of the band would be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Grateful Dead. “The Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead” is a three-night event at Chicago’s Soldier Field during the Fourth of July weekend, almost twenty years to the day of the last Grateful Dead show at the same venue.
There is only one small obstacle to my going to these concerts and that is securing a ticket. There were three options to buy tickets: mail order (which I didn’t do); buy a package that included lodging and tickets; or buy tickets. I decided to try the second option which was to go online and buy a package. I figured that because the packages were pretty expensive, I would have a better chance of securing one. Boy, was I wrong! I logged on at the precise time sales started, put my order in, and to my chagrin, all the packages/tickets were gone. I tried five more times with the same miserly results.
The next day, I decided to try purchasing tickets at face value on Ticketmaster’s website. Unfortunately, millions of other people had the same idea, and I was shutout once more from purchasing tickets to the show. I gave up but kept thinking about why the tickets sold out so quickly. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t lose this battle for tickets to other Deadheads. Rather, I lost the war to businesses with superior firepower and randomness–dynamics very familiar to the stock market.
You might be thinking how I can compare buying tickets to the stock market. Let me explain:
• Randomness. In his book “A Random Walk on Wall Street,” Professor Burton Malkiel explains how stock prices are chaotic and cannot be predicted. Whoever secured Grateful Dead tickets online did so through pure luck of the draw.
• Superior Fire Power. When we buy or sell a stock, we need a partner and usually that partner is a large institution or a group of rocket scientists (I kid you not). These groups have more brainpower than any individual. In other words, soon after Dead tickets were “sold out,” StubHub had seats for sale for around $3,000. I’m not sure I’d pay that much money for a concert even if Jerry Garcia was resurrected.
• Initial Public Offering (IPO)/Secondary Market. The Dead’s final concert ticket offerings acted very much like an IPO of a hot stock. When this happens, the “hot stock” price takes off soon after it is offered to the general public and the price soars (more often than not) to an unsustainable price like the Dead’s $3,000 nose bleed seat. Incidentally, about 85% of IPO’s prices crash and burn soon after the initial offering.
My quest for landing Grateful Dead tickets almost makes me nostalgic for the days of camping out for concert tickets and scarfing down grilled cheeses. I can only imagine what Jerry Garcia might say about today’s ticket buying experience: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”