If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you’ll know that I love going to concerts, as soon as my favourite bands or artists announce that they’re going on tour then I obviously want to purchase tickets to see them. However, as a disabled person, this isn’t often as easy as going online and purchasing tickets, it means looking at access information online, contacting the venue to ask specific questions and basically playing a game of ping-pong via email and asking about their disabled access facilities, finding out the location of disabled access seats and asking whether they are able to provide assistance if I’m going with a friend with a visual impairment.
If it’s a venue that I haven’t visited before, I often have to sign up to their access scheme, fill in a form about my access requirements and send proof of disability. This is all absolutely fine, but it can be very time consuming when forms are not in an accessible format or if I’m constantly having to contact the venue over and over again.
I am also often unable to buy concert tickets online as the websites are often not very accessible with screen-readers, they have security measures that you have to go through that are not compatible with a screen-reader or the seating plan is a visual image or map, so I am unable to see where I am seated. This is why I much prefer to book tickets over the phone. However, some of the venues or ticketing companies have premium rate numbers, meaning that it costs an absolute fortune to call them.
Bands and artists often have pre-sales which give fans an opportunity to bag the best available tickets and sometimes to be the first to purchase VIP packages if they are available.
With pre-sales, there are often certain things that you have to do such as pre-order an album or a piece of merch, however information on accessible tickets for disabled fans are often never included in the information provided about the pre-sale. This means that we often have to contact venues to find out whether we are eligible to purchase tickets on the day of the pre-sale or not.
However, it’s very rare that that happens. Accessible tickets are either not available through pre-sale or are very limited, meaning that disabled fans miss out.
When you are a disabled fan, buying concert tickets is often a stressful ordeal, and we often come away empty handed, therefore, missing the opportunity to see our favourite band or artist live.
But what I want to talk to you about today is not just buying general concert tickets (I’ll probably do a post about that at some point), I want to give you some idea what it’s like to buy VIP tickets for a band or artist when you are a disabled person.
I would like to point out that I am talking from my own personal experiences, so this is not representative of all disabled people, or all VIP packages for a wide range of bands or artists, I’m simply sharing my experiences to raise awareness and hopefully this will highlight that there needs to be significant changes in this area.
Last year, I blogged about how I missed out on meeting Jessie J because I had disabled access tickets. Jessie is my all-time favourite artist so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, something that I had hoped for for many years.
You would think that I would be used to it by now, wouldn’t you? Let me be honest with you, I am not. The disappointment and frustration that I experience never changes, it makes me angry and upset every single time.
Every time that I have wanted to purchase VIP tickets (and this has only been twice in the last few months, I do in no way get these at every concert I go to) has been an extremely negative experience, meaning that I have missed meeting some of my favourite artists.
After missing out on the chance to meet Jessie J last year, you would think that I would be used to the upset and frustration now, but I am not. I can’t even describe to you how I felt after that experience last year, and it never even entered my head that it may happen again, oh how naive was I.
As a loyal and dedicated fan to my favourite artists, as soon as they announce a tour, and when some of them do VIP packages, I look into them like many other fans. However, this is where the battle starts.
As I am blind and have no useful vision, I either require a personal assistant to go with me to the concert and attend the meet and greet or need assistance from the venue. But this information isn’t online is it? Of course it isn’t, because disabled fans are either not thought of at all or are an afterthought. I have to contact the venue, who often tell me that they don’t have anything to do with the VIP packages and tell me to contact the promoters but often won’t provide me with contact details, I look online for the information myself but it is very hard to find, I either eventually find it and contact them only to not get a reply or I can’t find the relevant information online, it’s like a vicious circle!
Let me tell you about the most recent experience that I had when trying to purchase VIP packages for myself and Elin to attend Shawn Mendes’ 2019 tour at Manchester arena.
I contacted the venue beforehand to find out whether they were able to book one of the VIP packages for us during the pre-sale and provide us with assistance should we purchase the VIP tickets as we would both need sighted guiding.
The arena were great when we booked accessible tickets to see Shawn Mendes last year, and also provided us with excellent assistance.
Someone from the arena emailed me back with information on the VIP tickets and told us that they would be able to book them for us if we called the accessibility line on the morning of the pre-sale, providing that we had a pre-sale code.
I purchased Shawn’s new album on the official Store so that I was able to do exactly that and received my codes the night before.
Wednesday 16 May arrived which was pre-sale day! I called the accessibility line at Manchester Arena at exactly 10am. The arena get you to leave a message with your contact details, information on the gig you would like to attend along with any special requirements and they call you back which I did.
I waited around an hour until someone from the arena finally called me back.
She informed me that they could not book the VIP tickets for us like I was previously told so told me to contact AXS as they were the ones selling the VIP tickets to see what they could do. Our other option would have been to purchase them online, but we wouldn’t have known whether the seats would have been accessible for us until we had purchased them. The VIP packages were a lot of money, so we obviously didn’t want to risk that. The website wasn’t very screen-reader friendly either, which presented us with more issues.
I tweeted and emailed AXS and explained the situation to them, they tweeted me back and told me that I could only book the VIP tickets online which I said that I was unable to do because the website was not very accessible with a screen-reader and I would not know if the seats that we had been given as part of the VIP packages would be accessible for us or not. They told me that there was nothing that they could do and that was the end of the conversation.
AXS have a premium rate number so after being on hold for 45 minutes, I was cut off. I also managed to find a standard rate number but had no luck with that one either, as no one answered the phone.
I called the arena back and explained that there was nothing that AXS could do so I wondered if they had any other suggestions. They told me that they would contact AXS themselves and pass my contact details on to them with my permission and they would hopefully contact me the following day. They also then said that they could call me the following day for them to try and help me purchase some VIP packages in the general fan pre-sale online, providing that I gave them my code which I was very happy to do. They did tell me that I should try to purchase some myself, but I explained that this wasn’t possible due to the fact that the website wasn’t accessible with a screen-reader and myself or my friend are unable to see the seating plan without sighted assistance. I felt a bit more positive about the situation and hoped that I was getting somewhere.
The arena did not call me back the following day, I contacted them to ask why I hadn’t heard from them and they said that they were unable to help me purchase them, so we missed out yet again because of the arena. I did not hear from AXS that day either. I told the arena this and they said that they would see what they could do. They then called me back later that day and informed me that they had contacted the promoters to see if they could do anything for us.
Friday arrived and I had still heard nothing from the promoters or the arena. On Friday afternoon, I received a call from a lady who worked for AXS, I explained the situation to her and she said that she was going to try and get to the bottom of the problem and she said that she would contact me later that day.
She called me at around 5.30pm and told me that she had been unable to contact the promoters, however she was working at the weekend so would try again then and call me to tell me on Saturday.
I did not hear from AXS on the Saturday as promised. The arena said that they were still waiting for the promoters to contact them or myself directly and they said that they kept chasing them, but nothing was moving fast or seemed to be getting done.
The following week, I had still heard nothing so called the arena again. I managed to find out the name of the promoters from them, they told me to try and contact them myself which I did. After a lot of researching for the next few days, I managed to find a number for them so called them to try and find out what was going on. The lady said that she would look into it for me. A couple of minutes later she called me back and said that two VIP packages had been put on hold for us, but they were trying to work out how we would pay for them. She told me not to worry and that someone would contact me as soon as possible. Obviously, myself and Elin were extremely happy, but I still felt like it wasn’t going to happen as I didn’t have any confirmation and we hadn’t paid for the tickets yet.
Nearly two weeks later I had still heard nothing, I kept calling the promoters and I kept getting told that the people who were dealing with it weren’t in the office, but I shouldn’t worry as everything was in hand.
On the 5th June, I had a call from AXS, the lady informed me that she had been passed my details and had been asked to double check which VIP packages we wanted, and whether we wanted personal assistant tickets as well or not. As the arena said that they would be happy to assist us, we didn’t require personal assistant/companion tickets, so they wouldn’t be necessary on this occasion. I told her this information, and she said that she would go back to the promoters and inform them, then she would call me again to make payment.
I hoped that it wouldn’t be too long and thought that we might finally be getting somewhere.
A week later, I had another call from the same lady at AXS, she had been asked by the promoters to check whether we wanted wheelchair spaces, or just accessible seating. I told her that we just needed accessible seating and yet again hoped that I would be able to pay for the tickets soon. The promoters had already been given this information several times, so I had no idea why they were unsure regarding this.
I didn’t hear anything after that for over two weeks. On Tuesday 26th June, I received a call from another person at AXS who said that she had been asked to call me so that I could pay for the VIP packages. She said that I had been allocated one VIP package and one personal assistant ticket which this wasn’t what I requested, I have lost count on the amount of times that I told them this.
She said that she would look into it again and then call me back. She called me back later on that day and I finally purchased them! I then called Elin and screamed down the phone that we were meeting Shawn Mendes because y’know it has to be done right?
I can’t even explain the relief that I felt once I had finally purchased them for us. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and neither of us wanted us to miss out because of our disability.
Although I am over the moon that we will be meeting Shawn and I am extremely happy (I can’t quite believe it), I am still so so angry about the ordeal that we have experienced to purchase the VIP packages. This experience really puts me off from doing something similar in the future and I shouldn’t feel this way. It has taken us over a month to purchase these packages whereas for everyone else, it took a few simple clicks. Why is that when you add a disability into the mix things become so much more complicated?
Disabled people aren’t thought of when it comes to things like the chance to meet their favourite band or artist, we miss out on these opportunities. If I hadn’t have continued the fight for the Shawn Mendes packages, I know that we would have missed out and this isn’t fair at all.
There needs to be changes, disabled people deserve access to these opportunities just like non-disabled people. There is serious work that needs to be done to ensure that disabled people are given equal opportunities and do not face such barriers.
I’ve wrote this post because I want to highlight the issues that us disabled people can face when getting something so enjoyable such as VIP packages to meet our favourite band or artist. For me, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but I feel like we are having that opportunity taken away from us. This has happened twice to me in the last year so that definitely highlights the fact that there needs to be changes made.
I feel like things need to change in terms of disabled people accessing such things and opportunities need to be made equal for everyone, we deserve the right to have these opportunities like everyone else, despite our disability!
Have you had a similar experience? If so, let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.