For over two decades now, Phish has given fans access to tickets via a lottery, so that they may fulfill many of their ticket needs in one fell swoop while also avoiding the frustration of dealing with Ticketmaster. And yet, Phish’s lottery leads to quite a bit of its own frustration, as anyone who’s ever come within 50 miles of Phantasy Tour can attest.
Part of the complaining is a simple result of fans not getting the tickets they wanted. But another piece of it is the lack of transparency. Ticket lottery conspiracy theories abound: some believe that East Coast lottery entrants get hooked up every time; others, that all the tickets go to those who order full tours, or that buying the optional T-shirt that’s offered with each order assures you tickets, and so on.
I’ve always been curious about whether there’s anything to any of these theories. So I decided to figure it out. As soon as Fall Tour lottery results started rolling out Tuesday afternoon, I published a survey. Over the following day and a half, I collected exactly 2014 responses from those who’d entered the lottery — about what they ordered, what they received, where they’re located, and more.
The data tell us a lot, and we can split this information into two main categories:
- What we can discern about this tour.
- What we can discern about Phish’s lottery algorithm.
In this article, we’ll cover item 1: this tour. We wanted to get this out so people could gauge demand before the public on sales begin. The second part, which appears later in the week, will answer questions like whether your geographic location impacts your results; whether you’re more likely to get an entire 3-night run or if you’re just as likely to get a single show; and, of course, the T-shirt question. Plus a whole lot more.
But for now, let’s take a look at all of the results for this tour (click to enlarge). [I'll make the data publicly available later this week, after Part 2 is published, for any of you crunchy folks who want to crunch the numbers more than I have.]
There are a few things we can definitively determine from the results, and a few things we can conjecture.
1. Most And Least Requested Shows
We can definitively say that Halloween was the most requested show: more than 75% of total orders included Halloween. 11/1 and 11/2 were not far behind, with around 70% and 65% of orders including requests for those two shows, respectively.
There was a huge drop-off after that, with just over 25% of all orders including requests for each of the Santa Barbara shows, and just under 25% including each of the San Francisco shows. Chula Vista, the least requested show, was still on about 10% of all orders.
(The average order was for just under 4 shows. Just under 25% of all show orders were filled. Obviously this varied widely on individual orders, depending on which shows were requested.)
2. Most Difficult Shows
The rejection rate was about the same for Halloween (82%) as the Santa Barbara shows, due to the sizes of the respective venues. In other words, way more fans requested the Vegas shows, but way more fans also received them, because there were way more seats for Phish to give them. Or, for you economists out there, supply and demand are both higher in Vegas than Santa Barbara. Which provides a Chicago Piper->Halley’s-esque segue into…
3. Supply And Demand.
Gauging demand generally is much trickier. The reason? Fans are not dumb. They realize that Ticketmaster offers some advantages for certain shows. Take Chula Vista, for example. Largest venue of the tour, and yet, no “Pavilion Only” option for Phish’s lottery. That means that if Phish fills your order, there’s a good chance they’ll be lawns, which you could easily get on Ticketmaster. Compare that to Matthew Knight Arena — not only a smaller venue, but Phish provided the option to select “Floor Only.” Choose that and get rejected, and you still have a chance to choose seats via Ticketmaster that may be better than the ones Phish randomly selected for you if you’d chosen “Best Available.”
The point, which will be obvious to those who’ve followed the lottery for years, is that if a show is expected to be an easy ticket, fans will be less likely to request it via mail order.
On the other hand, the numbers for Santa Barbara, which was expected to be a tough ticket, suggests that it really will be. 500 of our survey respondents requested each show, and many of those certainly requested multiple tickets. Given that our sample represents a small percentage of the total number of lottery requests, it’s possible that more tickets were requested for each of these shows than the total capacity of the venue (5,000).
The numbers from Las Vegas are a bit murkier. Yes, for each show, under 30% got the tickets they requested. But for a destination show like this one (Halloween, in Las Vegas, on a weekend) many fans will place extra orders because they anticipate high demand. Others placed orders to use the tickets as trade bait. It’s conceivable, then, that demand is overestimated, and the tickets will not be as difficult as they currently seem. Or maybe not.
In summary, when it comes to total demand for these shows, there’s not a huge amount the lottery results can tell us. And truthfully, until all the trades and travel plans shake out, we won’t know for sure. So if you were thinking about snatching up lots of tickets for trade bait, do so with caution.
4. Floor Only vs. Best Available
Are you shooting yourself in the foot by choosing Floor Only? Depends. The highest hit rate for floors was Inglewood, where 31% of those who requested Floor Only got it (myself included). Not horrible odds, and not a hell of a lot worse than the 59% who requested “Best Available” and got their orders filled.
In the middle was Vegas: for the three shows, Floor Only gave you a 7.4%, 10%, and 11.4% chance, respectively, of having your order filled. Not great, but not too much worse than the Best Available odds of 18.6%, 24%, and 28.4%.
The really strange numbers come from the Pacific Northwest. While 8.8% of Floor Only orders for Eugene were filled, 37.7% of Best Availables were. An even greater discrepancy was found in Seattle: 7% vs. 55.9%. Now some of the issue here may be the small sample size for these shows: under 100 of our respondents requested Floor Only for each show, and under 10 got them. So there’s a wide margin of error. But it seems possible that Phish had a relatively low allotment of floor seats for these shows.
So what can we draw from all of this? Hopefully these numbers make it clear how hard you’ll have to try for certain shows on their general on sale dates — and how easy others will be. Maybe the figures will help you decide which shows to request for the next tour, or whether to go for floors.
All this said, the really big stuff is still to come in Part 2 — where I’ll discuss whether the number of shows you order, your geographic location, and similar factors affect your success rate. From some initial analysis, I can say that there is a lot that we didn’t understand about how the lottery works that these data will allow us to understand. So stay tuned for that article later this week.
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