Secret Dave Chappelle show at the Paramount

Dave Chappelle

Being able to react quickly and capitalize on an unscheduled opportunity is a critical skill every venue should have, especially if tickets to the surprise event are instantly in extremely high demand. That scenario occurred just a few hours ago at the Paramount Theater in Austin Texas when a secret performance by comedian Dave Chappelle suddenly happened.

So how did the Paramount Theater handle it? Some Monday morning quarterbacking is in order...

Located in downtown Austin Texas, the Paramount Theater was built in 1915 making it the oldest theater in Austin. After nearly 100 years, the theater is as vibrant as ever, enriching Austin with culture, entertainment and fun. Unknown to many, the Paramount is a 501(c)(3) non-profit venue underwritten by the state of Texas as a historical landmark and through charitable donations.

The venue’s long history doesn’t mean it cannot move quickly, as we’ll see with the Dave Chappelle performance.


6:00 AM

Rumors started flying that wildly popular comedian Dave Chappelle was going to perform an unscheduled show somewhere in Austin. Tweets were numerous, speculation rampant. Chappelle fans are a boisterous bunch so there was no lack of questions being asked across social media.

9:00 AM

Rumor and speculation turned into factual announcements when the Paramount Theater’s website updated with details of the Chappelle show in addition to the all important “Buy Tickets” button. As one would expect, tens of thousands of simultaneous page loads hampered the theater’s server. A few hiccups with slow loading web pages didn’t impede ticket sales...

10:51 AM

All tickets sold out. Elasped time less than one hour.

The local Austin news channels updated their own announcements, saying the show had sold out in approximately an hour. It was upon the sell out achievement the Theater expertly started managing expectations for those who failed to get tickets. More interestingly, Paramount staff was even answering the questions from the people who had tickets to the show that was usurped. Genuine and polite, the Paramount did everything right given the incredible demand within such a tiny window of time.

As Austin Chappelle fans bought their tickets, here was a torrent of tweets, Facebook status updates and photos being shared - all perfect examples of the first chapter of the shared experience - Anticipation.

Hyper compressed shared experience

Normally, the timeline of an event’s shared experience story is fairly protracted, weeks, even months. The “normal” timeline  allows event organizers and venue owners to accumulate that data and carefully examine it to help manage ticket buyer expectations, answers questions and plan the needed event resources ( You do that too right? ).

But the sudden, impromptu nature of the Chappelle performance was a very unique exception - the shared experience timeline was radically compressed to mere hours. The entire first chapter of the story elapsed at a hyper accelerated rate, requiring the Paramount to go into overdrive. The theater’s website says they were caught off guard just like everyone else:

Thank you all for bearing with us this morning for the surprise Dave Chappelle announce.

Paramount Members and Patrons: We found out right before you did! This is a surprise show by all accounts. We just got the call from Live Nation at midnight last night asking if we could make this happen, and we did!  They also let us send an e-mail to our database and post soon thereafter on our social networks to show a little love to those that support our theatres.

As non-profit venues, while we would love to have the means to have complete smooth sailing on such a big show with such a quick and widespread announce, we must work with what we can and we thank you for understanding. Even the largest venues are, at times, crashed by events like this.

Note the honesty and the sincerity. Frank and open communication to everyone, ticket buyers and non-ticket buyers alike.

Are YOU ready?

Given the surprise nature of the Dave Chappelle performance, both for Austin area fans and the theater itself, was are very impressed with how it was handled. We applaud the Paramount Theater owners, managers and staff for meeting the challenge and exceeding expectations. Bravo.

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