How Buying Grateful Dead Tickets is Like the Stock Market

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.”

Everyone Loves Cookie: A Dog’s Tale

About 13 years ago, my wife found (which she is apt to do) and brought home an inner-city dog that had been roaming the streets looking for food. She named the dog “Cookie” because this dachshund-corgi mix was very cute and resembled a dog that you might see in a Disney film. Well, it turns out that “Cookie” was a most appropriate name because this skinny dog was always hungry and would eat anything.

Cookie soon became a little corpulent adding 15 pounds to her small frame. Throughout her life, Cookie’s veterinarians have classified her as obese and have urged us to put her on a diet. But she would never cooperate. You see, Cookie is an incredibly smart dog and has always found a way to get extra food during the day.

Cookie is also very friendly and has ingratiated herself to our gay neighbors next door. Early on, she discovered that by spending more time at their house, she could con them into feeding her an early dinner. So everyday Cookie wanders over to our neighbor’s home and gets an early dinner. Then, she comes home around six p.m. and demands her regular dinner from us. The children in our neighborhood also love Cookie. Everyday come rain or shine (or snow), several kids congregate to take Cookie for a walk. Everyone loves Cookie.

But Cookie is now an old dog; her age is estimated to be between 14 and 16 years old (or about 100 years old in human years). And as we all know, old dogs and old people can have big health problems. We are pretty certain that Cookie has a tumor in her colon causing her to lose control of her bowels (often inside of our home).

Last Sunday morning, my wife fed Cookie and all of her breakfast (that is, Cookie’s) started to fly out of her back end. To make matters worse, we discovered she also had an accident in our home the previous night. This problem had been happening more often and getting worse. We were at our wit’s end and called the vet. Sadly, we made the decision to put Cookie to sleep.

My wife informed our next door neighbor about our decision, and he promptly rushed over crying that we cannot put Cookie down. Unbeknownst to us, he called some of the children in our neighborhood and told them about our decision. And the children told their mothers. Suddenly, our phone was ringing off the hook with Cookies’ admirers asking –no, begging– us to reconsider Cookie’s fate.

Well, all I can tell you is that my wife and I reconsidered and granted Cookie a stay of execution. But we know that the end is near for her, and we have agreed to no heroic measures or having expensive tests done.

I will discuss the latter two issues and their financial implications in my next post.