Let Me Choose My Seat

March 27th, 2008 · 11 Comments

Several months ago when I was in Cambridge, I remember launching an idea at John about how it would be so neat if TicketMaster let you choose your seats the way that airlines let you choose them when booking online. Aside from their busted browse and search and outrageous extra charges, I find the process of selecting seats on TicketMaster to be so frustrating.

First you choose whether you want to search by price range or seating area, or “best available.” Nevermind that you have no idea how much the best available is going to cost because you don’t know what’s available. And you don’t have any idea ahead of time what may or may not be availble. How many times have you gone through 6 steps on TicketMaster just to find out that there aren’t any tickets? A lot? Also, if you’re not familiar with the theater, you’re probably not sure where the seating is located based on a drop down. And why have a chart off to the right to match up seating areas with pricing? Why not do it in the action area?

TicketMaster Stinks

Next, you have to pass through some security that I can sometimes not read and therefore have to enter a few times.

TicketMaster Stinks

And then you get to a page that shows what tickets are available with a small map on of the theater. Have fun trying to match those up and try to guess where your seats are. Oh, and if you want a bigger map that you can actually read, that will cost you another click.

TicketMaster Stinks

My idea was based off my experiences at United.com. When you’re booking your flight you can choose your seat. There’s a nice image that shows every seat available and you just choose. I don’t have any flights booked on United right now, so I am using this image from More Than Points.

United Seating

Why couldn’t Ticketmaster just show a map of the theater with the open seats marked an let you pick what you wanted? Easy peasy, right? But no one does that when you book tickets.

I thought.

Until yesterday when I was getting tickets to a play at Steppenwolf.

Steppenwolf lets you choose “best available,” if you’d like, but they also let you select your seats. As you choose seats, there’s a little drawer on the upper-left that shows the tally, so you know how much you’re paying. It helps that all the tickets cost the same in this theater, but I think even if tickets were different prices there’d be ways to indicate them.


Not only that, Steppenwolf takes it a step farther and lets you see what the view would be like from select seats before you buy them. Here you can see the camera icon.


After you click the camera it shows what the view is like from that seat.


I found this whole experience to be so refreshing and delightful. I was sort of freaking out. I’m so glad someone is doing this and I hope it catches on for other sites. I realize that a small theater can do a lot more than a large ticketing site that has thousands of theaters to keep track of…. but there has to be a way to let users pick their own seats off a map. Or, at least to improve the current busted up process.

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11 Comments so far ↓

  • Jenn

    It would be great if Ticketmaster began letting people pick their seats like airlines do. That would be so convenient and I’d probably buy more tickets if I had more control.

    It’s great that Steppenwolf is making it more user-friendly.

  • Ia


    Great minds think alike. I was *just* bitching about this last week to my friends. I hate TicketMaster, those bastards. I’m glad to see a system that not only allows you to choose your seat, but the view from there, too. AWESOME.

    Hey TicketMaster, take notes.

    — I

  • Crissy

    Diamond Head Theatre in Honolulu has this feature, too, although I believe their “view from your seat” is more of a seating AREA thing than a specific seat thing (i.e., if you’re sitting in a general area, your view will be like this; it’s not that they have a different photo for every seat). Still, it’s far better than what Ticketmaster provides!

  • Will

    There are several venue ticketing software products that let people choose their seats on the web. Have a look at the Barbican Centre in London’s web site. Typically Arts venues which believe in looking after their customers in the interests of building long term relationships with them take advantage of the functionality, but commercial venues and ticket agencies do not as their priority is simply to sell the seats. Also the legacy ticketing applications that sit underneath wed sites such as TicketMaster’s simpy cannot offer this functionality. They are set up to sell seats in what the systems manager has decided is the best sequence, ie the computer picks the seats that each customer is offered in the interests of speeding up the sale. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

  • Ryan

    Spoken like a true GUI Designer. Watch Ticketmaster implement some of these suggestions…

  • James

    (1) I hate hate hate ticketmaster.com. (2) I am totally guessing here. (3) But I totally agree with Will — essentially, it’s not on their priorities list, but it is on the airlines’ priorities list.

    TicketMaster cares about the venue first and foremost, and the performers/entertainment second, and the ticket buyers third. People will keep buying tickets, even if the web site sucks, because TM has an exclusive lock on Hannah Montana tickets, so they don’t have too much incentive to improve, cuz it’s not like you can go to steppenwolf.com to buy HM tickets. (You can always fly a different airline.)

    Also, they are probably trying to prevent you from buying seats 1, 3, 5, and 7, because nobody goes to see Bon Jovi solo, so who would want to buy seats 2, 4, or 6, so then they have to sell these to HotTix for cheap and then they’ve lost money. (People fly places solo all the time.)

    There’s probably an anti-scalper angle in here too, but it’s too early in the morning for me to think that through. (Airlines don’t have to fight scalpers.)

  • Casey McKinnon

    You, madam, are a genius… I was trying to buy tickets to see O in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago and could choose “Best Seats Available” but couldn’t choose specific seats, it was SO ANNOYING!! Glad to hear about Steppenwolf, looks great!

  • veggieoption

    The Taft Theatre in Cincinnati also uses this feature, and as a result we go to a lot more shows there than we do elsewhere.

    I really hate TicketBastard.

  • C

    Seeing that TIckemaster is the devil, I won’t hold my breathe for this to come to pass but it would be utterly brilliant.

  • Zulkhairi

    Hi, try this http://www.ticket2u.biz, It is a Malaysian site though but we allow u to choose seats.

  • mike

    whats the difference…sure that would be fine… all the good seating goes to people with connection and scalpers with connections…it has all gone to shit. but i totally agree.. it is not right how they pick your best available…especially when you are online picking….but especially if you have to phone…. i was trying to work today while on hold while waiting to connect to ticketmaster for tickets. Tickets on sale at 10:00 stop working …sit on hold…wait.. i just want tickets….my friend was online so he picked best available…..which were far left of stage not neccesarily a good view.. we will see. Regardless ticketmaster site is really annoying. but they have us by the balls if we really want to see the show….who is willing to wait untill scalpers have all the seats and then charge us triple the price… it is complete shit…the artists really need to address this problem. Only these scumbag scalpers are the ones making $$$ from this system.. the pigs are only concerned about busting people at the door with a couple joints…while scalpers rape the fans…people who actually make these musicians lifestyle possible….with all the whining about consumers downloading free music yet the scalpers make real $$$$$ cash from these shows…..it is not right.. people are starting to be charged for downloading free music…and this goes on and everyone knows it…..c’mon…$%^#&@*& lets change this shit.

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