HERE'S THE TICKET THERE'S NO WAITING IN LINE FOR ON-LINE CONCERT CONNECTION BY ED MASLEY, POST-GAZETTE STAFF WRITER
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) - Sunday, June 11, 1995
I remember when rock was young.
Elton John was bald then, and scoring the best seats in the house meant camping out on the sidewalk a night or two before tickets went on sale, praying they didn't send the whole front row to the other Kaufmann's.
Now, it's more about getting on -line than waiting in line, at least since DiCesare-Engler went into Cyberspace a few weeks back and says it became the first concert promoter in the country to offer a full-service Internet storefront, The Concert Connection.
What that means for the local sleeping-bag industry is anyone's guess. What it means for local rock fans is one less reason to ever leave home again.
The way Ed Traversari of DiCesare-Engler sees it, buying concert tickets on-line may be the latest in a never-ending series of waves of the future.
"We decided, 'Hey, why don't we develop this because it seems like this is the future,' " he says. "A lot of bands are going on-line. Everyone's doing it. People are looking for this kind of thing."
And while it may lack the romance of those old rock 'n' roll slumber parties under the stars, it is fast.
Adam Burg, the 21-year-old University of Pittsburgh student who created and developed the Web site, thinks the speed factor may be The Concert Connection's biggest selling point.
"It's just so simple," he says. "If you're at work, you don't have to go out and wait in line. Let me order tickets real quick. Click, click, click, done. You can buy tickets in three minutes if you know what you want."
And if you don't know what you want, that's OK, too. The Concert Connection comes complete with a feature called Selectaseat, which allows fans to take in the layout of the actual venue and choose a seat accordingly.
Tickets, which carry a standard $3 service charge, go on sale at the Interactive box office the same time as the more traditional outlets.
Selectaseat uses customers' credit cards, which are encrypted for safety, and Traversari characterizes the seats as "not necessarily better, just different. There will be a block of tickets that are set aside prior to the shows going on sale, just like the other outlets. And they're of average quality, like a lot of the outlets, but the convenience factor is there."
As much as it signals a breakthrough in the way tickets are sold, The Concert Connection is more than a glorified, high-tech box office. Since its April 24 on-line debut, The Connection has provided users with a list of upcoming DiCesare-Engler concerts and festivals, as well as biographical information on the artists. Fans also can download photographs and CD samples if that's what they're into.
"It's the same information, in a way, that you would get if you were to read the newspaper and see an ad or if you were to listen to the radio," says Traversari. "But now, we can also give you a sample of the music, a biography of the band. These are things we can't offer on radio or in the newspaper."
And then there's the potential for real interaction with the concert-going public via e-mail.
"I think it's going to be a tool where we can ask, 'We're thinking about bringing band XYZ here. What's your thought?' " Traversari says. "I like that idea, because it's an immediate response from the people, and you can't get that from a newspaper or radio."
Of course, that sort of limits DiCesare-Engler 's perception of public opinion to rock fans who have access to the Internet. Burg, however, insists that for certain shows, that is the public.
"Any sort of club show, I would say 80 percent of the people have access," he says. "Any show that's gonna hit a demo between 18 and 25 is a big Internet show, whereas a show that caters more toward the older crowd, like if you're talking about Earth, Wind & Fire or Gordon Lightfoot, you're looking at maybe 20 percent."
E-mail response has been overwhelmingly positive so far, Burg says.
"I thought it would be a lot slower," he says, "but everything is just phenomenal, people saying, 'Thank God someone's finally putting stuff on the Internet.' "
Still, not everyone who's visited the site has come away a Concert Connection cheerleader.
Rob Dillon, a Regent Square Internet enthusiast, jokingly refers to the DiCesare-Engler Web site as "Web Lite."
"It's the Cowsills' version of the Worldwide Web," he says.
Most annoying, Dillon says, is the way certain items, when selected from the menu, don't go anywhere, apparently because DiCesare-Engler hasn't secured an artist bio yet in most cases.
"It's like sitting down with a newspaper that says 'story continued on page 9' and there's no page 9," he says. "Or you get to page 9, and there's no story."
Traversari chalks it up to the perils of the formative stage. Burg says he's working on it.
"I would've just closed down the whole site and put 'under construction' until I got everything," he says, "but we just get too much e-mail from people checking it out and saying it's great. It just doesn't make sense to me to shut the whole thing down."
Although he's excited about the possibilities it represents, Traversari doesn't foresee The Concert Connection emerging as the new box-office standard.
"It's just another marketing tool," he says, "another avenue of disseminating information to the public in the computer age, if you want it. If you don't want it, that's fine, too."
Burg has other ideas.
"I'd like to think this will be the wave of the future, and no one will have to wait in line for concert tickets anymore," he says. "It's not really up to me, but I'd like to see that. It's kind of scary to think about it, but in five years, 10 years, you really won't have to leave your house for anything."
Unless, of course, you plan on actually attending the concert.
The Concert Connection can be accessed through the World Wide Web on the Pittsburgh Net under Activities & Culture. The Uniform Resource Locator for Pittsburgh Net: http://www.Pittsburgh.net.