published Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Phillips: Why procrastinating can put venue owners out

Let's go ahead and clear the air, Chattanoogans: When it comes to hearing live music, you all tend to be a bunch of lazy procrastinators.

Instead of buying tickets in advance, you rely on paying at the door because "I've never had a problem getting in before, so why bother?" As a special-forces-grade procrastinator, I understand, but we're all contributing to the steady hair loss of local venue owners.

I mean, I get it. Who wants to commit to a concert in advance when better options could come up? Your application to space camp might finally be approved, or you could win a trip to fabulous Branson, Mo., for the same night. A celebrity might invite you over to eat foie gras and laugh at your lessers. (Reality check: None of those things will happen -- well, maybe space camp, but even that's a stretch.)

That point remains: Trying to predict attendance is a maddening exercise for venue owners.

"About 10 or 12 years ago, I finally calmed down, [but] people used to not be able to get near me because I stressed out so hard," said Rhythm & Brews manager Mike Dougher. "We're gambling; that's what we do."

Dougher said that for every advance sale he gets, he can expect two additional tickets from walk-ups. The formula isn't 100 percent accurate, but it's proven itself over the years, he said.

Even at traditional ticketed venues such as Memorial Auditorium, Tivoli Theatre and Track 29, managers have to play the guessing game.

In the year since Track 29 opened, co-owner Adam Kinsey said, deciding how to staff a show is one of his toughest jobs. Overestimate, and he wastes money on unnecessary help. Underestimate, and people wait in long lines at the bar, as happened in March when walk-ups far outnumbered advance sales for the North Mississippi Allstars show.

In the last year, however, a growing number of sell-out concerts may force a change of habit.

Since opening, Track 29 had full houses for Needtobreathe, Lauren Alaina, The Avett Brothers, Jack White, Gavin DeGraw and Jake Owen, with several others that were close calls.

Memorial and Tivoli had almost as many, including Straight No Chaser, Don Williams, Heart Strings for Hope, the Indigo Girls performance last week with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera and both of Alison Krauss' shows.

If that trend continues, procrastinating for a highly anticipated show could result in bitter tears of disappointment, such as those shed by people who waited just 35 seconds to jump on tickets for The Avett Brothers last December.

With that in mind, here are some more upcoming shows you might want to get a jump on:

• Today at 10 a.m., Track 29 will start selling tickets for Puddle of Mudd (Aug. 28), Arrested Development (Sept. 6) and Eli Young Band (Nov. 10). Prices at www.track29.co.

• Lauren Alaina will play the Northwest Georgia Trade & Convention Center on Oct. 5. Tickets are $15 and are available at the box office on weekdays or any time at www.daltontradecenter.com and 800-298-4200.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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