The soon-to-be lost art of concert ticket stubs


The music world offers a litany of paraphernalia on which the quirks of particular styles and cultures get etched on to forever. You'll see this on liner notes, beer coasters, fanclub pins, gig posters and ticket stubs. It's that last one that I'm worried is disappearing before our eyes.

With live music's descent into a vertically-integrated rent-seeking perpetual motion machine complete, the humble ticket stub no longer serves as a visually distinct artifact of the local club issuing them. If you have the displeasure of attending a show where the vendor is Ticketmaster, your ticket stub is now entirely digital; a listless, screenshot-resistant bar code that looks the same regardless of the artist playing or the location they're playing at.

It sounds a bit corny to say, but ticket stubs told a story. The basic metadata isn't complex: it lists the venue, the price, and the artists on the bill. But it's more than that. It serves as a representation of what the band sounded like in that period. The venue name reminds you of the other great artists that have played there; the CBGBs, Alexandra Palace, The Roxy, Danforth Music Hall....some of these places don't exist anymore, either lost to the tide of ever-rising commercial rents or unrecognizable in its modern incarnation, for the former reason.

My Ticketmaster account is rapidly filling up with a list of past shows that have no mementos associated with them. The web app is slow and unreliable; half the time, I'm unable to get it to display the (now-useless) ticket stub for a quick screenshot.

I want to believe that there is a business need for unique ticket designs, but I can't really envision people wanting to show each other colorful designs of past shows they've attended. This sort of 'media' tends to stay inside people's private collections, peeking out into the public eye only via the occasional nostalgia tweet. I just hope that we haven't already entered a world where this wonderful art will only ever re-appear in a Taschen coffee table book.