Hear me out: Bring back camping out for concert tickets


If Taylor Swift can’t get tickets into the hands of fans, maybe it’s time to return to overnight slumber parties on the street.

The concrete was cold, the toilets were hard to come by, the snacks and drinks were BYO, and the screech of tyres, the honking of horns and the outbursts of strangers would last all night, meaning anyone trying to get some shut-eye was shit out of luck. 

But the camaraderie was instant. Back when fans used to queue up, IRL,  for concert tickets, they would sit in the cold, stare up at the stars, pass around mugs of lukewarm tea and hot chocolate poured from a thermos, then share yarns about all the other times they’d sat in this exact same spot, for the exact same reason: to get tickets to some of the world’s biggest shows.

In Auckland this would most likely be at Real Groovy’s old Queen Street site, with orderly queues of music fans winding out the door, down the street and around the back. They’d arrive early, a folding chair under one arm, a well-used sleeping bag under the other, to claim their spot then sit there, shivering, waiting for 9am to roll around the following day.

Those fans formed bonds, built friendships and made memories that have lasted a lifetime. Do you know what else they got? Tickets. People who were game enough to camp out for the chance to see their favourite artists live almost always got tickets to those shows. Those shows would have been extra special, because they went the extra mile to get there.

Even as ticketing sites moved their operations online, Real Groovy and the Aotea Square Ticketek office still sold tickets in this way as recently as 2016. (Real Groovy’s Chris Hart says they only stopped doing it because the $0.87 they received per ticket sold was “a joke”.)

These days, true fans aren’t guaranteed tickets to anything. For proof, you only need to look at what happened in the US when tickets went on sale for Taylor Swift’s 2023 Eras tour last week. Fans overloaded Ticketmaster in record numbers, swamping the service and causing panic-inducing meltdowns among fans, and parents of fans, despite many of them taking time to become “verified” and supposedly enjoy priority booking.

Instead of camping out under the stars, they sat in digital queues alongside bots and scalpers for hours, patiently refreshing their browsers when the system crashed, then rejoining those online waiting rooms, only to be told they’re last in line.

It’s hell. I’ve sat in those waiting rooms too. Ticketmaster’s ticket buying system has become a weird, disjointed and stressful experience. To secure passes to Billie Eilish’s recent Auckland shows, my daughter watched nervously over my shoulder as I clicked through multiple browsers, only to receive the exact same screen. 

No, Ticketmaster. Just no.

It’s transactional, impersonal, and frustrating. Clearly, if Taylor Swift can’t fix this, we’re in big trouble. We need a new system, a bold plan to get concert tickets back into the hands of real fans. My answer? Bring back the overnight slumber parties. 

Why not? It would, as Marie Kondo likes to say, spark joy. Look at how happy these AC/DC fans are. Camping out for AC/DC tickets on Queen Street in 2009, they found their old school uniforms, dressed up as Angus Young and co and pretended to rock out like they were 14 again. News agency Getty showed up to honour this moment for eternity.

AC/DC fans
AC/DC fans dressed up for the occasion when they queued for tickets in 2009. (Photo: Getty Images)

When do they get to dress up now? When does anyone? Halloween? It’s not the same. Camping out and bonding with like-minded fans sure beats staring at a screen for six hours, chewing your face off as you try and permeate clogged ticketing systems. I hate Black Friday, but I braved the masses and purchased one thing in preparation for this moment: a new sleeping bag.

Your move, Ticketmaster.


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