This warehouse frightens me. . .

I am a member of “The Warehouse” which is billed as “The Official Dave Matthews Band Fan Association.” I am not a member of said fan club because I need the gratification of being in the official fan club. In fact, I avoided joining the fan club during the first two years of its existence because it seemed useless to me. However I joined the Warehouse when it became apparent that the band was becoming too popular. By too popular I mean that it is practically impossible to obtain concert tickets from Ticketmaster and forget the box office since with most venues the tickets go on sale via Ticketmaster long before the box office opens. The Warehouse offers advanced ticket pre-sales to fans, which is supposed to allow members to avoid the Ticketmaster hassle.

The Warehouse sends out annual packages to its membership. These packages contain mostly useless garbage (stickers, pictures of the band, postcards) and one very valuable item, an exclusive live CD of Dave Matthews Band tracks, often mixed and mastered by the band’s longtime engineer, John Alagia. Today I received the 2004 Warehouse package and the Warehouse 5 Volume 4 CD. Shockingly, these packages were released before the end of the year. The Warehouse has been notoriously late with these packages in the past.

My first gripe is that this year they decided to do something “nice” for the senior members of the fan club and send them a CD with 8 tracks (“Warehouse 8”) instead of 5 tracks. This is all nice and good except that I am SUPPOSED to be a fourth year member, but due to a dispute after my first year (Warehouse claims I didn’t renew in time, I claim that I did) I am only a third year member according to them. This snub leaves me with a shorter CD, which is annoying. Although not as annoying as consistently being shafted in the ticket “lotteries.” More on that later, first lets focus on this year’s Warehouse fuckup, the holographic mouse pad.

This year’s gimmick is a holographic, or more accurately a motion card, mouse pad, showing one of two images of the band in concert, depending on the angle you look at the pad. This is all fine and dandy until someone actually tries to use one of these things, only to discover that they don’t work with an optical mouse. Just try moving your mouse around on the surface and watch your cursor jump about the screen like a fly on speed. It’s not pretty, and even worse to try and use. Good job Warehouse, way to test these out. You sent out over 100,000 of these mouse pads in the past two weeks and only about 10,000 will actually be useful to their recipients. Another job well done.

You see, this isn’t the first time that the Warehouse has figured out a way to disappoint 100,000 fans. Let’s not forget the 2003 Warehouse package, which included a carabiner key chain along with the year’s CD. The 2003 CD was a memorable disc, not just because of the song selection, but because half of the CDs arrived to fans cracked. It seems that sending a keychain and a CD in a cardboard, non-padded sleeve, with the CD in a dinky cardboard sleeve and not a jewel case, is a recipe for disaster.

The Warehouse’s earlier screw-ups are relatively minor. In 2002, the disc included tracks that had already been on a labor day radio show, and widely distributed among fans several months before the release. The 5 songs chosen were supposedly the result of a fan poll on the Warehouse web site, but the resulting tracklist does not seem to show it. (It’s well known that the song “When The World Ends” is not a fan favorite by any means). In 2001 the disc included absolutely no music and instead was a video CD containing clips of the band during the creation of the Everyday album. Most of these clips were freely available on the album’s web site and it is no secret that Everyday is the fanbase’s least favorite album. It seems that the Warehouse set themselves an extremely high standard with the first release in 2000, which contained five very special tracks from the December 1998 tour.

I keep referring to this organization as the Warehouse, but the company is actually just a phone number at the offices of Musictoday, a wholly owned subsidiary of Coran Capshaw’s companies, Red Light Communications, or Red Light Management, or MMF, or whatever its called now. It’s Coran’s company, based in Charlottesville. The merchandise machine that’s responsible for such memorable innovations as the Carter Beauford soccer jersey and the remarkably stupid "I LUV DMB" t-shirt. I feel the need to call and complain when I am treated unfairly so It’s no wonder that all of those companies seem to hate me. I feel like a light must go off in their offices every time I call them to complain, and oh do I have reason to complain.

As I mentioned, I frequently get shafted in the ticket “lotteries” that the Warehouse has. These so-called lotteries are supposed to be equal opportunity for all members but this is most certainly not the case. There are people who manage to get great seats regularly while I often get no tickets for shows. For example, for the Dave and Tim 2003 tour I put in requests for four shows, and I got declined for all four, yet there were plenty of people who got tickets for multiple shows. It used to work that more senior members had seniority in getting tickets but a few years ago they changed the system so that all members have an equal chance of getting tickets to shows but senior members are supposed to get priority seating. In my own experience this all seems like a bunch of bullshit.

The Warehouse ticketing policies and algorithms are extremely secretive. No one has any clue how they work. For $35 a year, I think we deserve more than that. Would it really be so hard to explain to members the odds that they have of getting tickets? Shouldn’t we be allowed to know exactly how many members requested tickets to each show and how many tickets are available, so we have an idea about what our odds are? Right now we are given no explanation for why we do or don’t get tickets and are expected to just sit there scratching our heads and accept it. Well maybe the fact that I don’t accept it is why they don’t like me down there in Charlottesville. I'm pretty sure that once the Warehouse sees this blog entry I'll never be getting tickets again. No surprise there.

So people have often asked me, why do you keep paying the $30 (now $35) fee? Why keep renewing if you hate this fan club so much? The honest truth is that it is so extremely difficult to get tickets to shows and while the Warehouse has slighted me on tickets in the past, my tickets have still been better than what I've been able to get through Ticketmaster for the same shows. Unfortunately if you're a DMB fan and want to see multiple shows each year, the only way to do it is to join the Warehouse.

It's not like I'm demanding something for nothing here. I pay my annual membership fees, and what do I get for it? A cracked CD and a useless mouse pad. It's not as if the tickets from the Warehouse are any less expensive than those from Ticketmaster. Its actually often a hassle to obtain your tickets since the Warehouse only sends tickets via Fedex, requires a signature, and waits until a few days before the show before mailing out the tickets. So if no one is home to get your tickets then you're just screwed. The Warehouse claims that these actions are to prevent ticket scalping but I don't agree with that. I pay my dues and as a member of the organization I feel like I have the right not to be treated like a criminal. Apparently Coran thinks otherwise.

I have often been critical of the band's actions with their marketing and such. I usually refrain from criticism of their music simply because I am most often quite impressed with that (most important) aspect of the band. I guess my interest in the music is what makes this all so difficult. I just want to see the band in concert, a lot, but the Warehouse seems to be set up with the sole intention of exploiting my want. I'll be sure to let everyone know how my ticket requests turn out for next year's tour. For some reason I don't think I'll be making many shows next summer. . .