Ten Club Ticket History

by Jessica Letkemann on April 5, 2003

What greater perk could a band’s fan club provide to its members than first dibs to tickets, the best seats in the house at that? Rock band fan club memberships come in all shapes in flavors, but Pearl Jam is among the very few major bands whose affordable yearly membership (now $15) not only gets you goodies in the mail (newsletters, a special holiday single) but also makes it possible for you to buy really good concert tickets without taking an expensive crapshoot at Ticketmaster. From a teeny 1991 promotional club date right up to the present, the 2003 Riot Act tour, the 10C ticket system is constantly evolving and every time a tour rolls around there are new questions about how these golden tickets were handled in the past and what that means for this go round. Two Feet Thick now puts the past and present in perspective.

Skip ahead to: Pre-History | 1991 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1998 | 2000 | 2001-2002 | 2003

Pre-History

Dialing the wayback machine to 1990, Mother Love Bone’s fan club, the Love Bone Earth Affair, transitioned into the mailing list for Stone and Jeff’s new project, Mookie Blaylock. They even kept the Love Bone P.O. Box: number 4570, Seattle, WA 98104. In 1991, after Mookie Blaylock became Pearl Jam, the mailing list became the official PJ fan club and was rechristened ‘Ten Club.’ Members of this list received the “first” Ten Club membership letter, which introduced the band and included the offer to join the Ten Club for the rock-bottom cost of $5 – a price which stood for several years.

1991

Ten Club made its first foray into ticketing with a PJ show at New York’s CBGB on November 8, 1991. We’re not sure just how fan club members were contacted, how much the show cost, or who was invited, but because of CBGB’s tiny capacity (200 approx) and New York’s high density of press and record company folks, it’s unlikely that more than fifty lucky Ten Club fans got a pair of tickets. To put that in perspective, just remember that while “Alive” was on the radio, Ten hadn’t quite hit yet and if the number of fan club singles pressed that year are any indication, there were less than 1,500 members worldwide at that time. Further subdividing meant that probably only a small fraction of these fans of a new, west-coast band lived in New York.

1994

It wasn’t until early 1994 that Ten Club, whose ranks had swelled to 40,000 members on the success of Ten and Vs., tackled handling concert tickets in earnest. Right before the second leg of the Vs. tour, Ten Club sent out letters to selected members in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and New York announcing that Pearl Jam would be playing fan club shows (shows mainly for fan club members) in their city and offering them the chance to buy either one or two tickets to their hometown show. 10C gave those members a month to send in their money orders or cashier’s checks (yes, this money order thing harkens back to the 10C old days). The $19 tickets ($18 plus a $1 handling fee and $.45 per order service charge) were mailed to the lucky fans a few weeks before the show. The fans sat right up front at these shows — Chicago’s New Regal Theatre on 3/13/94, Detroit’s Masonic Temple on 3/19/94, Boston’s Orpheum Theater on 4/12/94, and the tour ender at New York’s Paramount Theater on 4/17/94. There was also a percentage of tickets made available to the general public through radio contests and very limited on-sales. No one’s sure how 10C decided which fan sat where, but we suspect it was either random or first come, first served.

1995

At the dawn of the new year, on the heels of the exit of drummer Dave Abbruzzese, the entrance of Jack Irons, a cancelled summer ’94 tour, and of course, the beginning of Pearl Jam’s beef with Ticketmaster, the band went out of it’s way to reward its now 17,896 member fan club. The week of the shows, selected Seattle, Portland and Vancouver area fans were unexpectedly mailed a letter wrapped around a pair of free tickets to one of two general admission “fan appreciation” shows on February 5 and 6, 1995 at Seattle’s Moore Theater. But soon after, PJ had a present up their sleeve for the whole US Ten Club.

While no fan club shows or tickets were offered for the February/March South Pacific tour, with the summer 1995 U.S. tour came full-scale fan club ticketing. Rather than planning more fan club shows, 10C opted to offer fan club tickets — all the best seats starting with the front row — to all of the band’s regularly scheduled shows. The week that the tour dates were announced on April 4, 10C mailed a flyer to every North American fan who was a current member as of March 31st. That flyer offered the recipient the chance to buy either a pair of tickets to one show or single tickets to two different shows. All you had to do was mail in the form with your check or money order to ETM, the non-Ticketmaster ticketing company the tour was using. The tickets were $18 – $21.50 plus fees for a range of $20.45 to $25.45 each – and the orders had to be received by ETM by April 18.

When a chunk of the membership didn’t get their flyer until after the deadline, so 10C extended it to May 20 to make sure everyone got in. Everyone’s tickets started arriving in the mail two weeks before their respective shows. 10 never explained how seats were assigned, but on comparing notes with a number of fans, it seems that the sooner your order was received at ETM, the better your seats were.

Alas, there were a number of problems on the ’95 tour completely unrelated to fan club tickets, including a rain out in Utah, a last minute switcheroo from Boise,ID, to Casper,WY, a pair of San Diego cancellations ordered by the overzealous Sheriff’s Department, and the ill-fated San Francisco gig where EV was both food-poisoned and exhausted. The rest of the tour — save for a trio of Chicago and Milwaukee dates — were put on ice until the fall, but fan club members were offered the choice of a refund or tickets to a rescheduled show.

The long-awaited 1995 tour also coincided with the beginning of the exploding popularity of the Internet. This being the first tour after the PJ usenet newsgroup Alt.Music.Pearl-Jam was created, and also a time when fans on college campuses and home AOL and Prodigy accounts were getting online in droves, word of that being a member of the Ten Club got you the ticket perk spread far and wide. The combination of Pearl Jam’s immense popularity, the relatively small number of shows they were playing, and difficulty of scoring seats at all meant that being a Ten Club member was a golden ticket. And then there was also the bonus of fans who knew each other only online gathered together at the front of the venue. Many a friendship and tour partnership has been formed ever since.

1996

Pearl Jam’s Ticketmaster boycott continued in 1996, but they managed to mount a fall tour whose dates were announced on July 24th, just about a month before the release of No Code. North American fans who were current 10C members as of July 22 were offered the choice of either up to two tickets to any one show or single tickets to up to two shows. The 1996 flyer was mailed on August 8th, and members had to mail their checks, money orders, or Visa/Mastercard numbers to that tour’s ticketer, FTT, to be received by August 28th. The tickets were $18.50-$22.50 plus fees ($21 to 28 total), and arrived by mail two to three weeks before the selected show(s). 10C was once again mum on how they matched a member up with their seat location, but asking around among fans made it fairly clear that it was again first come, first served. Just like 1995, if your order was among the first received for a given show, you got a front row seat. Again, all of the seats were the best in the place, in front of everyone who bought their tickets through non-fan club channels.

The 1996 tour saw none of the problems of 95. All of the ÿ96 shows went smoothly, and there was only one glitch with fan club tickets. A significant number of fans were either shut out of the 9/22/96 at Toledo’s Savage Hall or received nosebleed seats. In Rumor Pit #19 on PJ’s official website, a 10C representative apologized and explained that they had “miscalculated. Forgot Chicago and Detroit were so close. We actually held twice as many [seats] as ever before and had five times the requests. Unfortunately the building is only so big. We try, but we are not perfect.”

The Fall 1996 European tour dates had also been announced on July 24, and this time around, European fan club members got a flyer of their own which offered them 10C tickets.

1998

With the release of Yield imminent, PJ announced a Hawaii show and an Australian tour on November 11, 1997. The band’s website spread the news that all current fan club members were eligible to buy up to four of the $26+fees tickets to the 2/21/98 Hawaii show if they mailed or emailed the 10C expressing interest. All members who had contacted them by November 28, 1997 (a deadline later extended to January 1, 1998), were sent instructions on where and how to send payment. In early December 1997, Australian and New Zealand fans were mailed a flyer offering them either one or two tickets to the show nearest them only.

The Summer 1998 U.S. tour announcement came the day before Valentine’s Day 1998, and four days later 10C mailed Newsleter #12, which contained the 1998 ticket offer flyer. This time around, folks who were current members as of February 1st could order one or two tickets to one show; no more ordering singles to two different shows. For this first full-scale arena/amphitheater headlining tour ever, PJ had returned to using Ticketmaster, but tickets remained an extremely cheap $23 plus fees ($25.30 – $32.30 total). Fan club members mailed in their money orders and personal checks to be received by March 16, and starting in late April by show date order, got their ticket(s) in the mail. Seat location yet again seemed based on the order in which your payment was received (i.e. the sooner it arrived, the better your seat starting front row just like in ’95 and ’96), but 10C didn’t ever officially explain how they did it. The 1998 tour (and the 10C tickets that went along with it) were a real treat, especially after four years of shorter tours.

Toward the end of 1998, fan club mailings and member merchandise orders started arriving not only with the member’s expiration date — which had been included on 10C mailing labels since around 1993 — but with another number: a membership ID number that seemed to have popped out of the blue. It wouldn’t be until 10C ticket procedures for the 2000 tour were announced that we found out that that number signified your seniority in the fan club, i.e. the order in which you joined. For example, if your number was 84324, that meant you were the 84,324th person in the world to join the fan club by 10C’s records, keeping in mind that at any given time, not all of the people with lower numbers (or higher ones for that matter) had continued to pay their dues and keep their membership current. It was a concept that had never been mentioned or even hinted about before, but it was soon very important. More on that later.

2000

The next time that fan club tickets came into play was with the February 15, 2000 announcement of Pearl Jam’s first European tour in four years. On Feb. 29th all current European 10C members were mailed a flyer offering the chance to reserve one or two tickets to any one Summer 2000 European show. Euro fan club members who reserved tickets picked them up and paid for them on the day of the show at the venue box office. Since the vast majority of the shows featured general admission, 10C didn’t have to devise a way to assign seats, they saved up all of their energy on that front for a complete revolution in the distribution of Summer 2000 North American tour 10C tickets.

By 10C’s own estimation, the European fan club ticketing system for 2000 was largely a bust. “Only about half of those fans who reserved tickets actually picked up their tickets, causing us to have to eat those tickets” Ten Club manager Tim Bierman posted to Tenclub.net on June 18 (this message is archived on the Ten Club page of Synergy). “We lose money on the European tickets reservations in the first place, and now we are losing even more because you are not holding up your end of the deal. We now have to re-evaluate our policy for the future.”

The North American tour was announced just a month after the European, on March 17, but the real news came with the March 29 mailing of the Summer 2000 10C ticket flyer to all 30,000 folks who had been current members as of the 15th. Once again, fans could order one or two tickets to any one show, but this time 10C posted an online explanation on 3/28 (this message is archived on the Ten Club page of Synergy) that your seat location was dependent on seniority. In essence, the longer their records showed you’d been in the fan club, the lower your member number, the better your seat. It was basically a reward for your long-term continuing interest in the band, remembering to renew year in and year out. Additionally, instead of receiving actual tickets in the mail before your show, fans this time were sent confirmation numbers which they’d need to bring to the box office on the day of the show, along with ID, to pick up the tickets. This measure was put in place to make it next to impossible for scalpers to get their hands on fan club tickets.

Interestingly, the March 17, 2000 Rumor Pit #40 (on official site Synergy) mentioned that the 2000 fan club tickets were originally going to be sold online, but technical problems got in the way and the 10 Club ultimately went with their old standby, regular mail.

And so over 15,000 fans (by Tim B.’s informal count, see April 30 entry in link) got their money orders, checks, and credit card numbers in for the $26-30 + fees tickets ($30-50-39.50 each total) by the April 28th deadline, watched for their confirmation numbers to arrive by mail or email (which they did starting in mid-June), and waited eagerly to see just how this new seniority system would play out.

The ticket flyer had arrived without venues listed because, unavoidably, venues had not yet been finalized, so fans chose their show based on city and price rather than exact location, whether it was an arena or amphitheater, or whether it was general admission or not. It is common for members to avoid GA because they don’t want to squander the chance to get really good seats when seats aren’t assigned. Venues were announced on 4/28, the day 10C orders were due. Additionally, Portland,OR and Austin, TX were nixed on April 27, one day before the order deadline, requiring fans who chose those shows to choose again. Months later — on Sept. 1 — Portland was added back in, but 10C gave fans who’d originally picked it a chance to switch back.

The new seat assignment by seniority system itself also underwent some revision before the tour started. On July 27th, a week before the N.A. tour started, Tim B. posted to Tenclub.net that 10C fans should “show up early [to pick up their tickets], but not too early. The quality of your ticket is based on your seniority in the Ten Club, not by how early you show up at the ticket window.” On

August 3, the day the tour started, “PJ Ticket Gal” posted to Tenclub.net a detailed rundown of how the system was a combination of seniority and first come, first served. (Both Tim’s and PJ Ticket Gals’s messages are archived on the Ten Club page of Synergy) “I start with the first [closest] seat in the orchestra seat [i.e.front row] and go through them as they are numbered,” she wrote. “They are broken into four to six sections depending on how many fan club tickets there are. Today (Virginia Beach) the tickets were separated into four blocks: Orchestra pit prime seating [the front most rows] reserved for membership numbers 48196-133855; 1st block after Orchestra, membership number 134312-172265; 2nd block 172457-190346; 3rd block 190365-199657. Please note that the membership numbers will vary each show as each member can only purchase two tickets. Each block will be given out in order, so if you are the first person in your block to pick up your tickets, you get the first [best] seat reserved in that section…. You do need to bring your membership number or confirmation letter and a photo ID to pick up your tickets…. This is how tickets will be done for the duration of the tour.”

Now fans truly found out what those membership numbers were for. The Ten Club hooked members up with seats that were the best, closest seats in the place, but many fans began trying to figure out the best plan for maximizing their seat location. As it happened, 10C fans often arrived at shows early to secure a good place in line to get the best tickets in their block that they could, while plenty of other fans took their chances and arrived at varying other times later in the day. The Ten Club ticket line usually snaked on for hundreds of yards even after the window opened (usually at 3pm, but sometimes at noon or one), illustrating just how many people are in the fan club.

All in all, there were only a couple of snags in 2000 worth mentioning. At New York’s Jones Beach on 8/24, a confused venue staffer standing in for the10C rep. mistakenly gave the best tickets (block one, most seniority) out backwards: the longtime members who arrived early got the seats in the back of the block (around tenth row), longtime members who showed up late in the day got front row. At Seattle’s Key Arena on 11/5, the distribution process took hours longer than at any other time on the tour possibly because of the high number of fans who’d ordered 10C tickets to that show. The result was that a lot of people in the 10C line couldn’t get into the venue in time to see Eddie open the show with a solo rendition of “Throw Your Arms Around Me” or part of the opening band, Supergrass. Everyone made it in in time to see all of Pearl Jam’s set.

2001-2002

For the October 2001 Groundwork show and the December 2002 benefit, both of which were at Seattle’s Key Arena, the Ten Club opted to run a lottery for the limited number of available Ten Club tickets. On August 7, 2001, 10C announced Groundwork and on August 29, they announced online that interested current members 13 years old and older should email 10C their name and information, those emails constituting entry in the lottery. Those entry emails had to be received by Sept. 5. The chosen 40 entrants (one ticket per “winner”) were notified by Sept 10, and asked to mail their $50. Tickets, which were for seats in the small 10C section near the front, were mailed. Seats were randomly assigned.

On October 23, 2002, 10C once again used their website and Synergy’s to spread word that a new lottery was afoot for 1000 seats this time for a Key Arena show on December 8. You had to be a current member as of 10/22/2002, emailed entries needed to be in by October 28, and winning entrants were notified by 10/30. When a significant number of “winners” turned down the offer, 10C contacted a second wave of “winners” to fill their slots. This time, 10C winners had to mail in the money order for $36 per ticket (two tickets max.) by November 15. Seat location was allotted randomly within the first 25 rows of the arena floor (except row 12, which was sold to the public). Day of show, there was no line at all as the allocation was random. Fans simply went to the box office and were handed an envelope with their name and member number pre-printed on it, two tickets inside.

2003

Riot Act was still a week away from its release date when 10C emailed Australian members on November 5th 2002 with instructions on how to order their pair of tickets for one show of the five announced Australian gigs on the 2003 South Pacific tour. Aussie fans had to be current members as of November 4th, had to mail Australian money orders for the $50 ($85 Australian) tickets to an Australian P.O. Box by 11/13/2002, and were strongly encouraged to choose the show in the city nearest to their mailing address. With Roskilde still all too fresh in everyone’s mind, the Australian shows had reserved seating rather than the general admission free-for-all of years past. And this time around 10C doled out seat location based on seniority, with the longest members being the closest to the front. Members picked up their tickets at the box office on the day of the show using the confirmation number the 10C had sent them upon processing their order. The seniority by blocks system apparently was at work again.

Around the time that the Australian shows were announced in early November, the 10C and official PJ site Synergy began hinting that it was a good time for folks to make sure their 10C membership was up to date. On January 23, 2003, PJ announced their summer 2003 US tour dates. The next day, 10C announced that in order to be eligible for fan club tickets for 2003, you had to be a member by midnight that night Pacific Standard time. 10C also somewhat covertly posted (in the Goods section but not the main page until later) the intricate instructions on how all 40,000 or so current members could order two Summer 2003 fan club tickets to as many shows as they wanted starting…. IMMEDIATELY. Between the membership deadline and the ticket instructions, the 10C website must have gotten more traffic than it had ever handled before, and within hours it had partially crashed. Meanwhile, Ten Club doubled their effort to get the word out by sending a flyer with the same 2003 ticket offer via the regular mail to all current members.

As many shows as you want? No dealing with Ticketmaster? Great seats to as many shows as you want? Despite the pressure of the ticking clock, fans were excited. And so began the scramble to arrange getting the money, money orders, postage, time off work/school, and, er, index cards. Yep, index cards. Like a grade school exercise in reading comprehension, The Instructions — a necessarily 1000+ word long opus — required close reading, and re-reading. Write your name, member number, what show the order is for, and how you want your confirmation number sent on an index card. Make sure you use a different index card for each show your ordering. Buy a US money order for the amount of that one show, oh yeah, and you have to buy two tickets per show, no singles and yeah, it has to be a money order. Put each index card plus corresponding money order in a separate envelope that has the 10C address and the show being ordered written on it. Repeat these steps for every show you want. Get it to the 10C as fast as humanly possible.

The payment deadline was February 11, a good two-plus weeks away, but then again, 10C had pointed out that tickets were first come first served, meaning that if even if you got your order to the 10C by the deadline, if so many other fans got theirs in before you that the 10C had no more slots to fill, you might not get tickets to that show. So time was clearly of the essence, particularly for anyone requesting the Madison Sq. Garden shows, which everyone guessed would be popular, and a sentiment repeatedly mentioned by 10C’s Tim B. via the Synergy message board in the days that followed. The Instructions initially mentioned that you could Fed Ex your order, but most folks quickly realized that FedEx does not deliver to a P.O. boxes. So in droves that Friday and Saturday and on into the following two weeks, index card and envelope wielding 10C members descended upon local post offices everywhere, buying money orders often for hundreds of dollars (the tickets were $35-38 base each; $38.50-$50.25 each including fees), and figuring out the ins and outs of Priority and Express mail. At least one Seattle area fan actually got in his car on Saturday morning and drove to the 98104 post office to hand deliver his orders right into the 10C P.O. box.

Next came some panic. Argh, did I remember to write the show date on each money order? What should I have written on the outside of an Express Mail envelope containing multiple show orders? What’s my real member number? I’ve seen three! Help! Did the 10C get my letters? Will I know if I got tickets before they go onsale to the public? AAhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! It was a time of communal fretting, with answers coming intermittently via 10C manager Tim B. on the Synergy board or 10C site.

Confirmations for the first show of the tour, Denver, started arriving in email inboxes on Valentine’s Day. Confirmations were meted out in chronological order by show date from there on out, and as of late May, confirmations for all shows except the second Madison Square Garden show had been sent, though some of the later Leg 2 show confirmations are still coming in.

Two weeks after the order deadline passed, there was an unexpected turn in the road with how seats would be assigned. The Instructions had said, “early arrival to the box office will not improve the quality of your seats as seat selection will be predetermined.” Many fans logically interpreted that to mean each member would have seats designated specifically for them by exact member number, no more blocks. In early March, a fan who asked how tickets would be assigned on the message board of Synergy, one of the official Pearl Jam sites, got the surprising response from one of the board’s moderators that 2003 10C tickets would again be handled by seniority in blocks. There were a few days of confusion among fans apprised of the situation, and then on March 10, the moderator posted that after double-checking with 10C manager Tim, they were sure the system would indeed be seniority by blocks again: “The Ten Club intended and would have liked to distribute the tickets by exact seniority but because of the overwhelming response to the ticket offer, it simply became impossible.”

Three days shy of the tour opener in Denver on April 1st, TenClub.net/PearlJam.com gave the lowdown on day of show ticket pick up, explaining that “the Ten Club will call windows will be divided up by member number.” Sure enough, in Denver and every show since, each venueÿs box office has had two to five windows set aside for Ten Club ticket pick-up with one to three blocks represented at each window. Handwritten member number ranges for each window are posted about fifteen minutes before the distribution starts, usually around 3pm. The large fan club member contingent at every show has had the effect of giving most shows a very communal buzz.

During the first half of the tour, only a couple of venue staff related glitches out of the 10C’s control cropped up. The non-10C box office sold a few tickets on the very ends of rows 1-3 in Uniondale, NY to the public. Ironically and fortunately, it was mainly fan club members who snatched them up. In Charlotte, NC, many fans found all parking closed so they circled in their cars and made a chaotic run for the windows when the gates finally opened just before the distribution started. But the new “unlimited show” and “seniority by blocks” system has run smoothly and the seats have been amazing, with those who joined the longest time ago sitting right up front in pick-throwing distance, and those with less seniority, in order, still scoring floor seats. At several shows, those who joined fairly recently have even landed seats in the elevated sections more or less right next to the stage. And it only takes one listen to any official ÿ03 boot to hear how having tons of psyched fan club members in the audience enhances a show.

One challenge currently being played out finds the 10 Club stretching to accommodate all of the many, many of orders they received for the second show at New York’s Madison Square Garden on July 9. On May 17, the 10C emailed members who’d ordered that show and explained that “the fan club seats to this show have been oversold, and in an effort to keep from refunding ticket money, we are offering a limited number of tickets to the July 14th show at PNC in Holmdel, NJ. We don’t have a lot of tickets for PNC, but they are great seats.” Those opting for PNC tickets were reminded that 10C only has limited PNC tickets making their availability first come, first served (seat location is still by seniority). A significant number of fans took the Ten Club up on the PNC offer, while many stuck with MSGII by not responding to the email. A lot of those who chose PNC wondered if they had secured their tickets, and those who stuck with MSG wondered about their own chances. Within hours, Ten Club’s Tim Bierman posted a message to the Synergy message board titled “please don’t panic” that assured fans “I think we’ll get enough people to go to PNC… The next step is finding enough tickets for the rest of the people requesting to get into the show. We will figure out a way to do it. We always do. If anyone doesn’t get into the MSG show on the 9th, it will be those who got their requests in late.”

As of late May, 10C is doing some extra things to hook up fans in Mexico to head off long lines in the high request cities of Las Vegas and New York. In Las Vegas, the ticket distribution will take place in the MGM’s Studio Ballroom, near the entrance to the arena, instead of at the box office. And 10C urges fans to “please resist from showing up too early, as the venue is not set up for long lines.” As you probably already guessed, the two New York shows are the most requested shows of the tour and the most current rumor pit has let on that the 10C is trying to arrange it so that fans can pick up their tickets the day before the first show. Details on how this plan will work have not been announced as of the posting of this article. 10 Club has also made special arrangements for Mexican members to order 10C seats to the pair of July Mexico City dates added in mid-May. Pearl Jam hasn’t played in Mexico in eleven years.

Fan club members attending the June 2 show at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, CA received a treat when they received their tickets. A free ticket for the June 3 show! Each member that picked up their fan club tickets in line that day received a free lawn ticket for the following night’s performance.

As leg two continues, venues, fans and the band alike are preparing for the summertime run of Ten club ticket pickups and one thing is for sure: every arena and amphitheater the tour rolls into is stunned by the fan club’s sheer size and obvious dedication, and every show is all the better for it. See you there!

Jessica Letkemann ( Twitter: @Letkemann )
TFT co-editor Jessica Letkemann is a New York based digital music journalist & editor. She's currently VP & Editor-In-Chief of Digital at Fuse Media (Fuse.tv) and was previously managing editor of Billboard.com. She has also been on staff at Spin and Premiere magazines. Her first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 2, 1992.

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