Roller Derby 2016, a look ahead


A facebook friend whom I have known for 6 years had an image come on his page which was from Key Arena in 2009, where the whole lower bowl was filled with 7000 fans for Roller Derby for the Rat City League.

It seems as though that was a high point for fan interest in games for most leagues.  Today many leagues have moved down in the size of the venues (and if they haven’t, they should check their average attendance and realize they are not in operation to pay high costs to venues), and are they really assessing the strength of their attraction to a paid audience.

Let me make a point here that always seem to be contentious to those who developed the modern flat track game.  I take no credit for what you have developed and have spread virtually worldwide.  In the past, I have been the subject of resentment (by a very few) because of my family’s creation of the banked track game.  I am sorry for that, but I think most know that I am only interested in the skaters and the success (however measured) of what they are doing.

I as a promoter and as a spectator really liked the game in 2009…obviously it has changed since then and, except in a few exceptional areas, attendance has declined. That should tell you more about the reality of the situation than anything else.  Once you open the doors and charge admission, you are in competition with all other forms of entertainment (whether you want to call it that or not), and what you present is how the public judges if it is worthwhile to spend their time and money there.

So there’s the rub; most of those who have entered the world of skating do so because it fills a special need in their lives and they enjoy it: “Roller Derby saved my soul”.  I would ask you evaluate your league and its objectives very realistically:  if what you are doing satisfies all the participants, then don’t go crazy try to make it a success as a paying sport…..obviously, you must get more dues-paying members and find other ways to fund.

Bob Noxious and I present a seminar annually at Rollercon, and we will address most of the problems you are facing….and not just on a marketing basis.  Bob has written some great features on Derby on the Community page on Brownpapertickets.com, including methods to promote, to gain new recruits, to operate as a business and more.  And obviously I have many years background in promoting Derby and other sports.

Look to the leagues that remain successful…what is the key to what they are doing. Communication is the key here; everyone should not feel she has to reinvent the wheel.

Derby is not going away….with over 1800 leagues in 58 countries, more men’s and junior leagues, it has a real foothold in the more than decade it was developed.  And we at Brown Paper Tickets will help in any way we can.  I am jerry@brownpapertickets.com.

what about ticket scalping for Adele, Springsteen, Rollercon MVP passes, etc?


Perry G. Brown is pissed.

He went through the process of trying to get tickets through Ticketmaster for a popular show, and in spite of being on line at the start of the sale, got a sold out status. But tickets were immediately available through secondary market (shall we call them legal scalpers?)

And all of you know this from your own experience.

I included Rollercon MVP passes above to grab some of you; even though they are sold out now you still have a chance and won’t pay over the preset fee, and I will explain here later.

Many of you know I have been in ticketing for years and years. I started BASS Tickets in northern California and later became Executive Vice President, sales and marketing, for Ticketmaster in its formative years.

BASS and Ticketmaster were part of the initial distribution for venues, sports, and producers. The beauty of the systems was that you could restrict the amount of tickets any individual purchased; screened the outlets (i.e. record stores, etc) to see if the procedures were being violated and more. Should have been perfect.

Well, the system worked when promoters like Bill Graham were involved. When an event went on sale, almost no tickets were held back, except a limited amount by contract with the bands, record companies, etc; and never the first ten rows; those were for the fans. On one famous occasion Bill went in line to where Grateful Dead tickets were going on sale. He wanted to make certain that those in lines were fans and not hired buyers. So he asked those  people to name three Dead songs, and when they couldn’t he pulled them out of line. He also required that none of our employees or store managers, etc, could buy first.

But not everyone was Bill. Promoters throughout the country held back tickets and would sell them to brokers at a price above the face value, and in most cases report them to the agents and acts as sold, and hold back the excess. (Promoters of very popular acts worked on a percentage of the revenue and would look for ways to increase their revenue).

Today things are completely different, and I will try to explain. And none of these pertains to Brown Paper Tickets as they operate on an entirely different basis.

When Ticketron (not all remember) was the national ticketing company promoters were charged a small “inside” fee on each ticket sold, and the consumer paid a relatively small service charge. When Ticketmaster came into the marketplace, promoters and producers were offered a different deal: most would pay nothing (depending on their size and importance), again based on potential volume of an exclusive arrangement for all tickets sold away from the venue or promoters box office, they might receive full computerization, ticket selling machines, and a rebate based on anticipated ticket sales. Thus the ticket company became like the concessions at a ball park or arena: in order to have the contract, a certain amount had to be guaranteed to the venue (ever wondered why you pay $10 for a beer or hot dog?)

And eventually the agents, acts, etc wanted a piece of the service fee, so today you may find ticket prices of $150 with a service fee of $30 or more (sometimes, much more).

And instead of having a few hundred stores and phone room selling tickets when a performance goes on sale, now you have tens of thousands of potential buyers who can order on their pcs, mobile devices, etc. So you depend on the luck of your attempt to purchase. And to further complicate the buy, now the primary ticket distribution system in most cases (Ticketmaster) owns Ticket Now, a secondary ticket seller (Bill Graham is spinning in his grave) and there you go. So if you have $1500 or $2000 to spare you might get an Adele ticket.

And let us talk about the way that MVP tickets are sold through BPT. Between now and July tickets that can not be used will be listed through Rollercon for other buyers as all are presently sold out. And they will be resold at face value, and since the pass holders are required to show identification at Rollercon (driver’s license), the passes cannot just be sold to someone else as each one has the buyer’s name on it.

So you say, why doesn’t Brown Paper Tickets handle these events with its no charge to producers, 99 cents service fee plus 3 1/2% to cover the credit card (on the $150 ticket described above, the BPT service fee would be $6.24). So why don’t these venues use BPT that has all the ticket selling capabilities of Ticketmaster? The answer is money; BPT decided a long time ago that they would help the producers and ticket buyers (see our doers, our community projects like blood drives, etc) and not put up huge sums (some venues get guarantees of $1,000,000 to handle their tickets exclusively). and all the Roller Derby Leagues, clubs, festivals, etc and etc that have made the company one of the world’s largest (and better customer service than any) was a risky way to go for President William S. Jordan and CEO Steve Butcher. There is a satisfaction in what is being provided. And everyone in the company follows the same path.

And although I am not a very religious person, I feel I am finally doing penance for my part in the whole mechanism…..thank you Brown Paper Tickets for giving me happiness in the ticket world.

first of all, Happy Holidays, i.e. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, and Saturnalia


I have a lot to be thankful for in my life.

But today I will confine it to Roller Derby.

It has been a great thing for my life. I took over the game my father invented, and further developed it as a great entertainment for America, Canada, and Mexico. It was a business built to entertain the public, but along the way I met and employed some of the greatest men and women athletes that I could have known, was a real fan of the game and enjoyed with the audience the fury and excitement and speed of these great banked track skaters.

And I made a living! Actually not as good as when I became part of the ticketing industry, but at 26 I worked for myself and employed a hundred people, and saw America and met so many people in so many regions. Our games were seen on 110 tv stations, we played at (and sold out) all the major arenas and some of the major stadia. And I made one huge mistake: running this enterprise as a family business with no partners and when the economy sunk us, I had no one to turn to for additional resources, so I had to shut it down.

I am proud that all the skaters and employees were paid; we supplied all uniforms, skates, per diem and medical injuries coverage (paid while off), transportation and hotels when on the road….a decent salary for the 60’s and 70’s, and probably the first sport to have profit sharing for the employees…..when we shut down, the skaters and employees (to their surprise) received a payout of anywhere from $5000 to $60,000, depending on their pay scale and length of employment And our ticket prices: $1 to $3. Larry Smith started his business with his pay out…..some blew tens of thousands of dollars partying…and this was 1973.

So I went into the ticket distribution business (never scalping), and what I learned in promoting Roller Derby carried over into BASS Tickets and eventually Ticketmaster. And including Brown Paper Tickets (the best!), that covered the next 40 years of my work life.

So 10 years ago Gary Powers, after starting (and maintaining) the National Roller Derby Hall of Fame, hosted the 70th anniversary of Roller Derby dinner in Chicago, and who showed up for the evening but dewy-eyed Val Capone and the fledgling Windy City Rollers, and we all saw their game the next night, and that started a period of revitalization of my life and association with Roller Derby.

I felt so welcome and was invited to Rollercon in Las Vegas (and Judi provided over 300 pair of her Bonjour Fleurette flower slippers,featured on Sex and the City and Oprah), and Loretta Behrens and I addressed the attendees about the old and new days…..then I was invited to WFTDA nationals in Portland (my home and the home of my father, the creator of Derby and once again the welcome mat was out.

I was invited to the Bay Area Derby girls games and went when I could, and of course to Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sacramento for area games. And the nationals in Chicago (where I had gone to college) were a real treat.

Then the bottom kind of dropped out with weird instances that I have no desire to relate. I found I was resented (and even hated) by some (most I didn’t know) because I represented THAT Roller Derby, I guess. When I got over the incident, I just continued on seeing and supporting the people in the game, and they know who I am and how I relate to today….I have over 12,000 friends and followers on facebook and twitter and many more on my blog.

But this is not about me and my travails. I have seen very specifically in the last few months statements by at least one person that I completely respect, that modern derby has no relationship to Leo or my game, and was created by the women as a flat track game that empowers women in sports…..and guess what, I have no argument with that. I have no claim on the game as it exists today. For whatever reason if that is important, then I gladly acknowledge what you believe……I guess I am surprised that the name Roller Derby was attached to the game.

But I am an individual who loves the sport my father created. I am a fan. If there are aspects I don’t enjoy, I will say them. Understand, I have no power to influence or change anything, but I do have the right to express myself.

roller derby is on the greatest growth spurt in recent years; the issue in many leagues appears to be decreasing attendance. I am not the enemy. I advise skaters. I would love to help everyone increase attendance and other aspects of the promotion of the leagues. That is one of my functions of work and the seminars at Rollercon. and why Brown Paper Tickets encourages me to work on community projects like the blood drives (in three major areas next year!).

You have every right to not like me or want to be a friend…but please make sure you are not tilting at windmills. I love you all.

rules of the game, 1970

Give blood, get a free haircut, and help Roller Derby Leagues save lives!


How can you pass that up? and you will get a super size skate cookie from Brown Paper Tickets!

In Northern California Sports Clips is giving coupons for free haircuts to blood donors at upcoming League blood drives including Ressurection Saturday, September 5 in Rohnert Park; Peninsula also Saturday, September 5 in Redwood City; Undead Bettys Saturday September 12 in Antioch; and the BAD girls Saturday, September 19 in San Francisco.

Not included for the haircuts, but saving three lives for your donation: Mass Maelstrom, Sunday September 13 in Fitchburg Mass.

To see all drives and to register ahead, go to http://www.redcrossblood.org, keyword “Derby”.

These drives by The American Red Cross, Brown Paper Tickets, and Roller Derby Leagues are part of our sports great community involvement.

Please donate.