Ticketmaster May Not Be What Arthur C. Clarke Had In Mind

You don’t have to value culture and be a sci-fi geek to appreciate the 1:34 second video featuring a conversation from 1974 with visionary author Arthur C. Clarke; although it does make it that much more awesome. Sure, Clarke accurate predicts home computing and the internet decades before they entered mainstream society but the fascinating bit is the reference points Clarke offers while imagining how things will unfold.

The real highpoint is at 0:33 where in the course of listing off the sort of everyday tasks people will accomplish through networked computers, Clarke casually tosses off “theater reservations.”

Clarke was an optimist’s optimist so I don’t know how thrilled he would be at the state of today’s online ticket buying experience but setting that aside for the moment, I’m curious to know what you take away from this video. Does Clarke’s casual reference mean anything within the context of today’s culture debates? If so, what?

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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0 thoughts on “Ticketmaster May Not Be What Arthur C. Clarke Had In Mind

    • Minor tangential point — it’s still that noisy, it’s just that the noise has been sequestered in shopping-mall-sized datacenters that we access through increasingly dumb terminals. We don’t get the noise anymore, but it’s still there. It’s hard to have a conversation in most rack-heavy datacenter spaces, or even network centers. The cooling requirements are insane, and either a majority or a significant minority of the power requirements of such centers go to cooling, which is always noisy.

      Computer noise is a bit like factory farming in that the more we centralize, the more remote the unpleasant realities become. 🙂

      I remember when the net first took off — the instant it became even a possibility to conceive of such a thing, everyone I knew was immediately complaining that they couldn’t sign up for classes, order tickets, order pizza, or buy things over it.

      The biggest part of it has of course been the gradual erosion of the line between consumer and producer. The net allows most anyone to have a strong creative presence and has enabled niche production and consumption on a level that never existed before. Another type of de-centralization I suppose, a cultural one, where everyone doesn’t get their meat products nor their music from the same few corporate sources. Many things in our culture seem to have gone from decentralized to highly centralized and back again. Now that I think about it, it’s an interesting parallel.

  1. Remember that Ticketmaster was started just 2 years after this interview by 2 music grad students and their business friend at Arizona State University who just wanted to simplify the logistics of selling tickets at Gammage! Then they applied and expanded it to other venues. Whatever your opinion of the fee-hell model they use and other aspects of their current business, it’s undeniable that created a system that certainly changed the way we buy tickets. Something closer to what Clarke envisioned anyway.

    As far as the mention of theater tickets implying some level of high cultural importance, Franklin Roosevelt mentioned in his “second bill of rights” speech in 1944 that everyone should have a job that provides money “enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.” How many political talking-heads today would include recreation activities anywhere near the same echelon as food and clothing?

    It’s too bad modern society often forgets that life is hardly worth living if you never get to enjoy it.

    • LOL, I guess the blog topic really acts as a blinder for some of my comments in each article. I was looking at Ticketmaster solely through the arts org perspective as opposed to the overall impact on the service on how patrons interact with presenters. Nonetheless, I certainly agree with your point of view but between that point to how the company treats its users has been a long and less than ideal path.

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