Who said TicketMaster were masters of ticket sales?

Feb 4th, 2005   9:17 am

At the time of writing, I’ve had If you are receiving this notice the current demand on the site is too high to allow you to continue at this moment. in my web browser after clicking on Tickemaster’s option to purchase U2 tickets. Also, at the time of writing, I’ve yet to hear of anyone who has purchased a ticket online successfully.

Ticketmaster started selling U2 Dublin gig tickets at 8.00am this morning. In the hour after that (by which time all tickets for both dates had been sold), online users were greeted with a host of problems. From 502 Proxy Errors, to infinite “we are busy” messages, to 404 Page Not Found.

So if around 100,000 tickets were on sale for each of the 2 performances, and if we take a conservative estimate that the average transaction was for 2 tickets. So that is 100,000 sale transactions. Take another conservative estimate that 75% of those were attempted online. So that is 75,000 simultaneous transactions. Sounds big? It is. However, there are a lot of websites that have to deal with that sort of volume. Google, for example performs flawlessly with massive volumes of requests. They have invested in appropriate hardware; Ticketmaster clearly have not.

For a 6 Euro service charge, I would have expected that Ticketmaster would have the hardware to back big sales like this. If not, then why not implement a workaround. I can’t figure out why, with all the global Ticketmaster offerings they can’t come up with a shared “farm” for such high-volume demand events like this. It is clearly a question of lack of investment, throwing more hardware at it does solve the problem!!

So they refuse to invest in more/better hardware. Why not implement a better software solution?

For example, have Ticketmaster accounts where one could store all your address/CC details, and even tick a box saying you want X number of U2 tickets. So that would be a bit unfair, because it’s not fair on new users. OK so have users login, and request X number of tickets, after they go on sale, that is first-come-first-served, which is fair. So that is 2 transactions that need to be performed on the high-demand first hour of the sale. Login check, and a serve-me flag setting. One DB read, one DB write.. nothing extravagant. So what if the user’s CC fails authorisation later on that morning (when they are batch processed)? Have users declare their intent to purchase at least 1 day before the sale, and pre-auth the amount before hand (by batch the night before, for example).. then once they login and confirm, batch charge the following night. That’s one workaround; not the ideal, but it does easy resources for processing more transactions quickly.

So why don’t Ticketmaster do that? Greed. I’ve yet to read anything that suggests otherwise.