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So I yelled at an usher at Winter Jam (and later apologized)

posted Feb 23, 2012, 8:00 AM by Sarah Brehm

I have never been much of a fan of Winter Jam. I like the idea of Winter Jam—several top Christian bands and artists getting together to play together for sold-out crowds. While the music is typically in the contemporary genre—something that I don’t normally listen to—this isn’t why I haven’t been won over by Winter Jam.


It’s the logistics of Winter Jam that bother me.


Years ago, before this concert tour was so popular, the fact that you didn’t have to buy a ticket wasn’t a problem because places rarely sold out. But that isn’t the case anymore. Eager patrons line up in front of the arenas hours before the show starts just to get a good seat. It takes forever to get through the line, and in some cases, hundreds of people get turned away. People waiting in line save spots for others, people cut to the front, and when the doors finally open people push and shove each other. Then, once inside the arena, it’s essentially a free-for-all for seats. Groups send out a “scout” who claims a block a seats, even though the Winter Jam website informs people that saving seats is not allowed.


As the crowd continues to file in, the search for seats becomes painful. Concert-goers wander to empty seats, only to find that those sitting there are in the restroom or buying merchandise. And even though the show was supposed to start at 6:00, by the time you get in, it’s only 6:15, but several acts have already performed.


Discontentment and frustration slowly rise and your blood begins to boil. All you wanted was to come to a show and listen to some music, but now you’re in a miserable mood. Without a seat, you stand at the railing (which clearly has a sign that says “No standing.”)


This was me. And when an usher told me I had to move, I kind of exploded. Where was I supposed to find a seat? I refused to move, and angrily he walked away. I realized he was going to get a cop.


Annoyed, I (and my mom) moved, found the usher and explained that everyone was saving seats in the section we were standing in.


To blow off steam, my mom and I walked around the arena, pausing every so often to watch a few minutes of the show.


I know anger was not the reaction I should have had, but sometimes emotions get the best of us.


After a while, my mom and I decided to find the usher again, but this time to apologize. We explained that it was wrong of us to yell at him—he was just doing his job. Our frustrations were with Winter Jam, not him.


“It’s like this every year,” he said grimly.


Winter Jam’s no-ticket-required business plan doesn’t work anymore. What good is it to create an atmosphere conducive to frustration and dissatisfaction?


The argument for not selling advanced, reserved tickets is that it would raise the price due to processing fees. I know I’m not the only one who would be more than willing to pay $20 or more for a guaranteed seat, complete with section number and seat number. Selling tickets would also allow youth groups to buy a block of seats together. I can’t imagine what it must be like searching for seats with a large group. Tickets would also eliminate the situation of people driving several hours to a show, paying for parking, waiting in line, only to be told they can’t come in.


Reserved seating would also greatly reduce the stress of the venue staff. Ushers wouldn’t have to deal with frustrated patrons, like myself.


And I understand that if I want guaranteed entrance and good seat, I can pay $50 to be part of Jam Nation. That seems deceptive to me—to say that’s just $10 at the door, but if you want to make sure you get in, you need to pay $50.


If Winter Jam doesn’t change its business plan and sell advanced, reserved seating, they’re going to see a decline in attendance because those who’ve had a bad experience (like myself) won’t go again, and they’ll tell others who ask that it’s just not worth the hassle and stress.