We had come off a semi-successful Roller Derby season in 1972, but in the fall a gas crisis hit and it was not because of high prices; there just wasn’t enough..it meant long lines at gas stations, alternating days to get gas (based on odd or even numbers in your license plates) and most unfortunately for our tour, Arenas shut down because of lack of heating oil.
Usually we had Playoffs in the SF Bay Area and then shut down until the road trip started in January. Because of financial difficulties, we were forced to schedule our Eastern trip starting in September 1973 with the hope of picking up additional receipts. Because of football and other fall sports our telecasts (which were solely responsible for attendance at the games) were often pre empted in various cities and the viewership was down that time of year. The tour started off badly but we were looking to make a huge killing with our tournament scheduled at Shea Stadium in New York.
We were on television every week on WOR channel 9 and had over 1 million viewers in the Tri State area. We promoted the multi-team tourney on our Connecticut, Philadephia, and New Jersey spanish language station. It looked like our attendance was going to be in the low to high 50,000 fans range.
The week before the event I checked ticket sales with Ticketron, our exclusive sales agent. We were at 21,000 and sales were surging everyday. Then on subsequent days I had trouble reaching my rep to see the progress, but as I was traveling I felt everything was moving in the right direction and we had three telecasts in the area that weekend promoting the games.
On the date of the match I arrived in New York and was able to reach someone in the Ticketron office. When I asked for the sales figure I was told that the computers were down and I couldn’t get it then. I finally reached my rep and asked what our sales were and he informed me it was 21,000; I was shocked! How could that be?
He explained the Ticketron computers had been down for 5 days on the whole Eastern seaboard. I said that means if someone has gone into Macy’s or any other outlet they were told tickets weren’t available. I told him that if I had been advised instead of their hiding it from me, we could have at least distributed hard (pre-printed) tickets to all of the outlets.
He had printed tickets for the box office sales, but the weather was not great (oh the advantages of selling tickets ahead), and we ended up with about 27,000 people. good, but not sufficient to give us the money we needed.
Things only got worse, and by December I found it necessary to shut Roller Derby down for good (or so I thought). We were out of money. Hal Silen (my long-time partner and attorney) filed action against Ticketron for our loss and we had to settle for a few thousand dollars.
Our revenge? Hal and I started BASS Tickets in San Francisco Bay Area and successfully competed against Ticketron. Then when Ticketmaster was starting up we joined them and I became Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing nationally, and using the guerilla marketing techniques I knew from Roller Derby, we were able to eliminate Ticketron from the marketplace.
That will teach them!
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