DERRY, NH – For a couple of years now, I’ve heard anecdotes about how folks are always trying to get into Derry After Dark, the annual brewfest following Derryfest, and the lengths they’ll go to acquire tickets.
So highly valued, a pair of Derry After Dark (DAD) tickets might as well be Golden Tickets to the Willy Wonka factory tour, the way people talk about them.
“Like a lot of great things that go on in Derry, a big segment of the public is just unaware until it pops up on social media as the event gets closer and then EVERYONE wants in!” Town Councilor and Farmers Market organizer Neil Wetherbee said in a text message. “I think that it coincides with Derrryfest and has basically become kind of the adults’ after-party is a factor too.”
Curious about what all the fuss was about, I purchased a couple tickets as soon as they went on sale in November 2019. Each general admission ticket cost $30.
The festival didn’t happen in 2020, so the tickets were still good for 2021, but I couldn’t attend due to a previous commitment. So, I decided to try and sell the tickets online.
Not knowing how much the value inflated in the intervening time, I reached out to DAD organizer Andy Day to get some sense of what they were going for. He told me that a four-pack of VIP tickets was auctioned off for $375, with a chunk of that (plus a match from Day to total $750) going toward the Viviana Irene Leon Memorial Fund.
“We are thrilled to bring this community event back after a hiatus last year,” Day said. “You can feel the energy and excitement as we get closer to Saturday!”
Compared to some other beer festivals in the state, DAD is relatively small. Organizers block off Manning Street from the Derry courthouse down to East Broadway, and there are booths featuring anywhere from 40 to 60 different breweries and food vendors.
Day said there are about 1,800 tickets in circulation for this year’s event. Aside from the few VIP slots they had left to auction, the Derry Homegrown Farm and Artisan Market also had a few tickets which they raffled off on Wednesday.
Wetherbee said they raffled six different ticket packages; three pairs of general admission, a pair of VIP, a single VIP and a pair with a general admission and a designated driver.
Armed with this knowledge, I decided to try a little experiment to see just how popular these tickets are. I set a high price of $200 and posted a photo of the tickets on the Bringing Derry Together Facebook page on Monday, just five days before the Saturday event.
“Got these two tickets to Derry After Dark for sale,” I wrote. “DM if interested.”
$200 is an outrageous price, but I started high to test the price tolerance and I was open to being negotiated down if anyone tried.
After my post went live, I received 11 direct messages in the days that followed. (Four people didn’t follow directions and just commented on the post, expressing their interest. I only responded to direct messages.)
To my surprise, I found a buyer willing to pay the $200 price! We had arranged a meeting place in downtown Derry to conduct the trade, but just a couple hours before the appointed time, the buyer backed out.
“I’m sorry I won’t be able to purchase,” the buyer said. “My husband just tested covid positive so we won’t be able to go. Sucks im so sorry.”
I wished them a quick recovery and updated the post to let people know the tickets were available again. After that, finding a buyer proved difficult.
There were many times I was tempted to lower the price preemptively, but I wanted to keep the experiment intact and not affect the results unless I had to.
Most prospective buyers were savvy. They knew what the tickets cost originally, and many balked at my opening offer of $200.
“Ahh, ok yea not looking to pay that. Thanks,” said one person.
“Weren’t they $30 each?” another person asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Ok thank you… I’ll definitely pass.”
Others kicked the tires, asking if they were VIP tickets, if I had the physical tickets, if they came with a commemorative pint glass. No, yes, no.
I was surprised that virtually nobody wanted to negotiate. I would tell them the price was $200 and they would simply move on.
Only one man came back with a counteroffer of $100 for the pair. I rejoined, “How about $150?”
It didn’t go any further. I wasn’t making the hard sell, just going through the motions, so I could have been talked down.
Clearly, there was a strong demand for these tickets, but few were willing to pay more than the face value price. What was going on?
On Tuesday, I spoke with Day and let him know about my little experiment. He informed me that if any tickets are resold over the face value price, he’s requesting the profit be donated to a cause.
“I am fighting scammers and scalpers and have been sticking to that mantra,” Day said.
I agreed to add any profit I made off the tickets to one of the charities Day is giving to, but I didn’t want to tell anyone that lest it spoil the experiment. If the idea was to test the demand, a generous buyer may be partly motivated by the knowledge that extra proceeds will help a charitable cause, and corrupt the data.
But Day may have done his job discouraging scalpers a little too well. The community wasn’t having it.
“When we set out to do DAD, we wanted to take everything we love (or don’t love) about a beer festival and do the best job we could. We wanted it affordable for everyone,” Day said. “The event is a community event that benefits small business and charitable causes. When I see tickets being sold beyond face value, it’s discouraging because those people have missed the point of what we’ve been trying to do.”
So by Friday morning, I still hadn’t sold the tickets. By then, I was willing to end the experiment and make sure they were put to good use.
The experiment wasn’t a complete loss. After all, I found at least one person willing to pay $140 over the original price, and another who was willing to pay $40 over.
And the flurry of messages my post attracted speaks for itself.
Moreover, I learned that simple supply and demand dynamics alone are not enough to account for the price of a thing. No matter how valued or sought after the DAD tickets may be, there is a sufficient anti-scalping culture around this event that short circuits any attempt to make a quick buck. And that’s widespread enough to undercut any scalper with fairly-priced competition.
While I was offering my two tickets for $200, other folks were offering pairs for $60 to $80. Others still were donated, such as those raffled at the Farmers Market.
So, how to get rid of these tickets now? I first reached out to some of the folks who messaged me early. It’d be only fair that they get the right of first refusal, I figured.
Most of them had found other (presumably more reasonable) sellers. A few didn’t respond.
By 1:45 p.m. Friday, I found a buyer and sold the pair for $60, exactly what I paid for them.
We couldn’t meet up so I left the tickets with the nice people at one of the local breweries for her to pick up.
Hope they have fun!
Derry After Dark takes place from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Here are some instructions to follow.
Aside from the $750 to the Viviana Irene Leon Memorial Fund, Day said they will also be writing a check of $2,600 to the New Hampshire Brewers Association and another donation from the night’s proceeds to a third recipient to be announced.