Headlines regularly proclaim sellouts in minutes, or even seconds. But what’s really going on during the onsale?

Danish technology firm Queue-it, which supports many ticketing sites, explores the “instant sellout” myth after helping the biggest names in ticketing run onsales for 10+ years.

It’s just not possible to sell out in something like two minutes – This myth hides important nuances to the onsale process. It signals a fundamental misunderstanding of how onsales work. These misunderstandings can lead to poor customer experiences.

All tickets aren’t bought in the first go –  It could be that the tickets available are at the wrong seating or pricing level. The user might select the tickets just to have something in the cart, but then bail before purchasing them.

More commonly, though, users will open the ticketing process in multiple browsers, or on multiple devices. Or, if they’re in a group with family or friends, everyone could enter the ticketing flow from their own device, coordinating their action plan over the phone or with online messaging. If everybody in the group successfully adds for example 4 tickets to their cart, then selects the best option of tickets ‘reserved’ within the group – everyone else then abandons their carts. By doing this, users are temporarily locking those tickets for everyone—until the cart timeout expires.

The event prematurely appears sold out – Let’s say an onsale begins at 10am, with a cart timeout period of 10 minutes. In the minutes immediately after 10am, all the available tickets will quickly be locked by users as explained above, meaning that maybe at 10:08 there are ‘no tickets available’. However, many carts containing tickets will be left to expire. So, at about 10:10am, all those expired tickets will be made available again for purchase, starting the second generation of ticket buying.


This process repeats itself until the event is actually sold out.


To find out more about Queue-it’s research into the “instant sellout” onsale myth, read the full article here.