Charlotte, we’re a city of procrastinators.

We may be a “can-do city.” We may be a city in demand. We might even be a “world-class city” (although the use of that appellation alone is worth 10 more editorials). 

But, we’re also a last-minute, “when I get to it,” “we’ll see when the time comes,” “let me think about it,” “let me check my calendar,” procrastinating city, especially when it comes to buying tickets for events.

Recently over a couple of beers with artist and community organizer Dammit Wesley (co-founder of BLKMRKTCLT, DuRag Fest, “It Takes a Village” and so much more), the subject of Charlotteans not buying tickets until the day before or day of an event came up. What he had to say on the subject just had to be shared: 

“I have floated in the sphere of nightlife and entertainment for over a decade in CLT and the one consistent behavior I have seen is the city’s lack of urgency when it comes to announcing its presence.”

Charlotte hates RSVPs and despises buying tickets in advance. And the result of those behaviors has led to a lackluster market for music and entertainment. Kanye West in his prime barely sold out Spectrum. It was great for me being a broke 20-year-old since I could upgrade my seat from nosebleed to lower bowl. But this environment has made Charlotte a toxic city for entertainers. Why go to Charlotte when you can go to Greensboro and secure a sold-out show?”

A Black Hole for Ticket Sales

Those sentiments were echoed by Tim Scott, a nationally recognized musician and producer in Charlotte. He told me that Charlotte is known to big musical acts as a “black hole,” a place that is nearly impossible to predict when it comes to ticket sales. Musical acts of every shape and size don’t like that. It’s easier to look past Charlotte to somewhere else on the map and know, “I’m going to sell out there.”

As an event producer in the Queen City for over 20 years, I can back Tim (Scott) and Dammit up all day long. The fact of the matter is that Charlotteans wait until the last minute to commit to anything involving a ticket: games, concerts, plays, films, panel discussions, you name it. There’s just something in the air here, and it isn’t mercaptan or a weather inversion. 

“This is why we can’t have nice things.”

In the grand scheme of societal problems, last-minute decision-making may not seem like a biggie. But, it is a reason we often can’t have nice things … and the trickle-down effect is devastating to cultural events (large or small), in particular. 

Last-minute ticket sales impact how events staff up, allocate resources, market themselves, forecast expenses, generate word of mouth and more. It informs how large a venue you need, how much catering you need, how much parking you need, how many seats you need and how many days you can reasonably run your event without losing your shirt.

It doesn’t matter if an event is free or not, knowing how many people to expect at your event impacts everything. (P.S. We’re going to get into the impact that getting tickets for free has had on Charlotte soon enough.)

That’s one chaotic dinner party

Think about it this way. You want to throw a dinner party at your house. You hope 20 people will come, so you prepare food for 20. When five show up, you’re having leftovers for weeks. Or, you plan for 20, only five say they’re coming until the day of when 25 more let you know they’re on the way. That’s a recipe for a wacky episode of The Brady Bunch. [Hijinks ensue.]

Of all the obstacles that must be overcome to produce an incredible event that leaves people excited and satisfied, procrastination on behalf of ticket buyers should be the easiest to overcome. But, it’s the insidious little virus that finds its way into every facet of a producer’s world. Ultimately, it can be the difference between a good or bad event or, more importantly, a profitable or unprofitable one.

It’s the reason events are able to return for a second year or not. It’s the reason people involved get paid or not. It’s the reason sponsors choose to sponsor or not. It’s the reason Kanye comes back to Charlotte or heads to Greensboro.

Buy tickets for the show now … it’s an investment in the next show

So, let’s bottom line it here: If you love cool events in Charlotte, let’s all commit to reversing the curse. When you see something that excites you, buy your ticket immediately. Don’t wait. Vote on the things you love with your dollars so producers, artists and event managers know how to prepare. Vote early, and let some event producers sleep better at night.

And, take a chance on something. Charlotte creatives across artistic disciplines are doing amazing work. And, organizations like Blumenthal Performing Arts and others are opening their stages to a wide array of work. It’s great that Hamilton sells out in hours. But, that should be the rule, not the exception.

Put another way, here’s Dammit again: “CLT needs to grow up. Act like a real city, and TELL PEOPLE YOU ARE COMING TO EVENTS (BY GETTING A TICKET) LONG BEFORE THE DAY OF THE EVENT. Thank you. Dammit Wesley out.”

What more is there to be said? [Mic drop.]

Tim Miner
Charlotte Is Creative