For the DD fan community-at-large, Tuesday became an important day as presales began for the upcoming, recently announced shows at the O2 Institute in Birmingham. The gigs are just a mere three weeks away! While they indeed present a bit more than just the normal struggle for international fans outside of England to attend, the announcement of these shows have acted as a soothing salve for the a lack of live gigs during the past couple of years.
As always, presales mean the typical tap dance between website, link, password and of course ticketing agency. It is rare when everything works together smoothly. Links don’t always do their job, passwords sometimes don’t function correctly, and other times—entire websites go down.
This presale proved to be no less entertaining. Links didn’t work, a website did in fact go down, and fans were left trying to figure out how to buy tickets. While I most certainly was not up at 1am my time to participate in something I probably shouldn’t quite characterize as a “shit-show”, the stories are almost legendary.
While it would be easy to point fingers (and I did just type the words “shit-show”, so…), I can also find the humor. I mean, aren’t we all a little out of practice at this point? I know I haven’t done a presale in at least a couple of years. When I have bought concert tickets recently, it’s been long after they’ve gone on sale. There’s no stress at all for me when Duran Duran isn’t on the bill. I roll up to the computer whenever I feel like it (if not just scroll on my phone), pull up lawn seats (I’m cheap), and I’m done. Pretty simple. No stress. Cheap seats are great seats! This band, though? I go for broke.
As in, I am broke by the time I’m done ticket buying. I’m actually very talented at that!
Anywhoo…I haven’t done a presale for Duran Duran in ages. I’m not entirely sure I still know how. There’s so many fans, so few front row seats. I think I’d panic. (no comments about Girl Panicking.) I’m pretty sure the band, or DDHQ, or even just their webmaster, web server, etc…are as out of practice as we are!
The reality is, until you’ve run a website, and thank goodness this website doesn’t do presales, or sales for that matter, of anything, ever…you just can’t understand how much can go wrong. It is alarming, and sometimes, it even keeps me up at night worrying. I do my best, but when the site breaks on occasion, you can’t begin to know the panic. Google and YouTube are my best friends, and truly, everything I’ve ever done for this site is thanks to the thousands who *do* know what they’re doing enough to upload instructions. Otherwise, we’d have broken down and been deemed “unfixable” about a decade back! Over the years I’ve learned that the smallest things can render a site useless, and for some reason, I am very gifted at doing those small things.
One teensy semicolon in the wrong spot. One forgotten update, or even one misguided dollar sign ($) can screw up everything, and if you’re doing things quickly, as one might be doing in order to get a presale up and running, it happens. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure DDHQ isn’t a massive corporation. (I think we can all agree on that – just think back to the Instagram Live debacle from a couple months back or so. How well did that really go?)
My point is, they’re not Apple, Google, Amazon, or even BMG…even though they work with them. That just isn’t how it all works, even for bands like Duran Duran. There are no dedicated IT teams, no M.I.S. people hovering near their cell phones, waiting for distress calls. Likely it is someone like you (just not you, my friend Erin…I know you’re out there somewhere) or me, attempting to copy and paste code in just the right place to make it all work nicely together. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work, and typically, that happens at the worst moments. Yes, something will always go wrong when your website stays mostly quiet for years and then suddenly is flooded with traffic. That is the moment when you find out exactly what you’ve forgotten to check, what you should have updated and didn’t, or what links are faulty. It happens.
So then what? Well, in my experience, we take to Twitter. We complain. Loudly. I certainly have done my fair share, and I know I’m not alone. This time, while I know I’d be foolish to assume everyone waited patiently, I also saw the aftermath. I saw the countless “thank-yous”, along with triumphant declarations of “I got them!” Fans helped one another. Who’d have thought?!?
In particular, I saw more than a few tweets from fans who had announced that they’d gotten the password, or the presale link sent to them from other fans who had gotten it via email. In several cases, I saw tweets from fans who had actually stepped in and helped other fans go through the motions to buy their tickets. I’m not quite sure that this would have happened pre-Covid.
I just know that as a bystander, it warmed my heart a bit. I’ve been involved in presales for this fan community that have gone every bit as poorly as the one on Tuesday, as I’m sure has been the case with many readers. For US presales, for example, there would be thousands of us, vying for VIP, front row, and regular tickets to several dates and venues at a time. Fans would take to social media to describe their frustration, and I would see people openly gloat about their ticket success in return. I can characterize this community in many ways, but empathetic would not be the first word to come to mind. At least not until more recently, which is a welcome change.
Conversely, and more typical of the experience I’ve had over the years, there are plenty who scoff at the entire mention of shows. They cite current UK Covid numbers as easily as I rattle off my own telephone number, making comment of how “selfish” the band is for playing a concert for their fans.
It is difficult for me to ignore those comments. I probably should…but you know, I’m not this time. I’m too angry. For one, if you don’t “trust” the safety of the venue or the band, it is easy enough to decide not to go. It won’t affect you personally if other people—who will have to prove their own Covid status before entering the venue—choose to go to the gig. Yes, I know Covid spreads. I know there is a Delta variant. I suspect that if we are waiting for the virus to be completely eradicated, we might be sitting at home for the rest of our lives. That said, it is our own choice to attend or not.
I really don’t see the point of what is essentially throwing rocks at the band, or the fans who want to see them, unless that point is simply self-serving: “If I don’t think it’s safe, then NOBODY should go. Since I’m bitter that I’m not comfortable traveling, and/or attending, I’m going to make everyone else feel bad about their choices.”
I know what Covid is like in my area. It would be a great mistake for me to say what it is like anywhere else, regardless of what numbers show up on my computer as I do a search. Additionally, I only know my own personal situation and health status. What is going to be right, or okay for me is not necessarily the case for anyone else. The audacity of some to assume they know better than anyone else about what should, or should not happen is astounding. My own decision to not fly to the UK and attend the show has no bearing whatsoever on the happiness I feel in my heart for everyone else who is going. I’m so grateful that the band is going to be playing live again. Isn’t that what we’ve all wanted? Sure, of course I wish I were going! If my vaccination card would have been acceptable for the venue, I would be traveling to Birmingham to go. Alas, at this time, that is not the case. I felt that for me, that was the sign to just wait. So I am.
I don’t think Duran Duran is selfish. In fact, reading that criticism makes me so angry I can’t see straight. Last week, I watched a video of my other favorite band, The Killers, playing their first live show in I can’t remember how many days (over 600? 800? I can’t remember now), with Brandon Flowers openly wiping his tears as he walked across the stage. That isn’t selfish, it is pure joy, and likely, a lot of gratitude.
As a fellow musician, I know that feeling. I get those same feels each and every time I sit down in my chair at our bandshell in the park on Tuesday nights. We might not have the same fancy lights or huge screaming crowd, but I’ll tell you—I sit in the front row of the community band and see all of the older people who come to see us play each Tuesday night. I watch as they react to our music. They sit in their lawn chairs, bundled up against the cool, breezy, evenings as they wait for us to play. They smile when we play songs like “Malaguena”, or just about any Souza march. The higher notes the woodwinds play, the happier the audience is, that is for sure! They cheer for us when we break into any tune Chuck Mangione has ever written, and I’ve seen people wipe tears when we finish “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. These are people whose ages range from well, probably mine, to well-beyond the age of retirement. One of them approached the safety zone in front of my chair to tell me on Tuesday night, “We don’t have time to wait for Covid to be over before we enjoy the simple pleasures of life again, so thank you.” I understood exactly what that person meant. I stood there smiling as I listened, my bottom lip quivering just the teensiest bit. I am humbled, and grateful, to be able to play for an audience each Tuesday night.
Oh, I’m sure someone might think that the difference between my experience and that of the band must be money. Duran Duran plays for money. While it is true that my community band isn’t exactly paid for our Tuesday night concerts, we do take donations. In fact, we run based on our donations as a non-profit organization. That said, we depend on that money in order to survive. So yes, we need to play in order to “pass the hat” each week. Make no mistake, money matters; but, not nearly as much as joy and gratitude. I have no doubt that we’d play even if we didn’t make a dime. I can’t speak for the band as a whole, but I know musicians in that group that love music enough to do it for free. Music matters that much.
I think we’ve hit a low point when the feeling of gratitude is smeared by the word “selfish”. Well, count me in on being selfish then. I’d rather take what doesn’t feel like much of a risk, and bring some joy to myself and other people through music, than live forever and be bitter. These are tough times, and I am very much hoping that these Birmingham shows will go forward as planned. Before long, we’ll be reading triumphant tweets from those who attended. I hope the gigs are amazing for everyone. Music is healing, and we all need a lot of that.