Why we are nostalgic for ticket queues

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-and how the Big Day Out perfectly capitalised on that. Originally published in The Music Network, August 2012

DISCLAIMER: Adam Zammit is the CEO of Big Day Out. He is also the publisher of The Music Network, which makes him our boss. However, this article isn’t a self-congratulatory piece about the Big Day Out’s wonderful marketing strategy, it’s a love letter to the experience of queuing excitedly for events, and to a lesser extent, about pretty-looking holographic tickets. And they are pretty.

It is both amusing and less-than-surprising that long queues of kids stretching around the corners of General Pants outlets in every city stirred up feelings of nostalgia for pre-Internet ticketing, a time when demand for a product or service was measurable by excited, dubiously-dressed lines swamping entrances and snaking around city blocks. There was a genuine buzz on the streets yesterday, and photos and videos from the event more than confirm this.

Naysayers might argue that to drive masses of people to a physical outlet, and do so through a clothing store is a kick in the teeth for the drowning record store industry. However, as the marketplace stands at the moment, JB Hi Fi is the only retailer with the national reach to facilitate such an enormous undertaking. Sales through scattered independent record stores throughout the country would have been a logistical nightmare, and considering JB Hi Fi is often seen as a big contributer in the death of the local record store, jumping into bed with them would have made the entire undertaking an easy target for cynics.

There is no denying that moving first release ticket sales from anonymous online systems onto the streets was a masterstroke for the Big Day Out. Online ticket releases selling out in minutes is so commonplace these days, it’s yawn-inducing. Touring artists such as Lana Del Rey selling out shows in five minutes through these systems seems more a symptom of the times than a cause for celebration. No festival over the last five years has escaped the fury regarding online queues crashing, idling, or simply being inaccessible. It’s this lack of control that infuriates most. Plus people online really enjoy whinging, which is why you shouldn’t read the bottom half of the Internet.

Yesterday, the people voted with their feet. Queues of people excitedly waiting and hoping and slowly sliding closer to the Wonka-esque ‘limited edition’ holographic tickets was a genuine event, and helped both build hype and goodwill for the Big Day Out. It’s no surprise tickets sold out within hours. In years to come, these kids will recall fondly that time they lied to their parents and camped out on that inner-city footpath in order to buy tickets to a festival whose lineup they only learnt of hours earlier (I’m staying at Beccy’s house, she’s staying at mine). This has been going on for twenty-one years now, and the shift back into physical ticketing and genuine street buzz is a thrilling one. The Big Day Out is an institution, but it is also a rite of passage. The more elements of it that can be purely experienced the better. Even if you forgot to bring a jumper.

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