Revenue / 12.10.19
Images of Tickets’ Past Linger in This Deadhead’s Memory — and on Her Website
Deadhead is the name given to fans of the legendary psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead. During the 1970s, a growing legion of these fans started traveling to see the group in as many shows or festivals as they could. With large numbers of like-minded people attending strings of performances, it was inevitable that a community developed. Deadheads would go on to develop their own slang, their own sayings, their own expressions … and their own way of ticketing.
Their way was mail order, and for 32 years ending in 2015, Frankie Accardi-Peri was a part of and eventually led a team of Deadheads who fulfilled the band’s many mail-order ticket requests. Looking back, she acknowledges that the system was “antiquated” at best. But she — and the fans — would not have had it any other way.
“In 1984, I was asked to co-manage the office, which I did until [Grateful Dead frontman] Jerry [Garcia] died in 1995,” she says. “And then the band signed over the ticket office to me and three others.” Two eventually left “on their own trips,” Accardi-Peri recalls, leaving just her and another woman named Calico to fulfill subsequent ticket requests. When Calico passed away several years later, Accardi-Peri was the sole person running the operation for a while.
“It was a fun job, but it was hard work,” she says. “We had to work a lot of hours, but I feel very privileged to have done what I did for so long. The hardest part was not being able to give tickets to people. These were all fans who wanted to go to the shows, and I understood that.”
So, how did this mail-order system come about? Back in the early 1980s, Ticketron was not only assessing its customers a service charge, they were charging the Grateful Dead itself a nickel for every ticket sold. According to Accardi-Peri, “Our manager at the time, Danny Rifkin, said, ‘Well, then, we’re going to sell our own tickets!’ So, we thought up this mail-order business that evolved through the years. When computers came in, we decided to keep the mail-order business so we could keep track of our customers. We wanted to maintain a personal touch to them and not just lose them in cyber land. We made the bold choice to stay as we were, and that proceeded all the way through to 2015.”
That sat well with the Deadheads. “Oh, they knew what was required to get tickets,” Accardi-Peri says. “Use 3 x 5 index cards, No. 10 size envelopes, postal money orders. They became trained very easily, very early on … or else they didn’t get tickets!”
And Deadheads being such an artistic bunch, many of the envelopes that Accardi-Peri and her staff received were adorned with amazing fan art. A few years back, she compiled many of them into a book. Today, some of these colorful envelopers are posted on her website. “We got 20,000 pieces of artwork with our last run,” she says. “Of those, I would say at least 6,000 to 7,000 are just outstanding! They’re museum-quality pieces, just really incredible art.”
She continues, “There is indeed a book available, but not of these latest ones. Unfortunately, people don’t really buy coffee-table books anymore. Eventually, I’m just hoping to put them up on the website. We had a huge display of them at the Field Museum in Chicago when we played those last shows there for three days. The envelopes were right next to Sue the Dinosaur!”
For her efforts over the years, Accardi-Peri won the International Ticketing Association’s (INTIX’s) Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. “I was so proud I won! I was just blown away. I’d been up for it several times, but I think the Grateful Dead was considered just a little bit racy. When I finally won, it made me feel really good about all of those years I put in.”
The Grateful Dead’s ticket designs over those years were also noteworthy art. Not surprisingly, the group had their own ticket designs. “We started out with sparkly tickets,” Accardi-Peri says. “And, boy, I would come home from work covered in sparkles every night. Then, we went on to more sophisticated methods because there were counterfeits at every one of our concerts. This was way before bar scans or anything like that. College print shops were the worst offenders. So, we had to come up with more and more clever ideas. We worked with the ticket companies to make foil tickets, which are really hard to duplicate. Those were raved about among the fans, by the way. We also chose certain artists to design tickets. Some great art, some great memories.”
And for Accardi-Peri, there are the personal memories that she carries with her and always will. “I once saw Sting in a towel!” she says, chuckling. “Seriously, though, the camaraderie we all had remain some of my best memories. We were just so privileged to do what we did, and we knew it. I remember one of my teammates, a customer service rep, who once said, ‘This is a great job! We get four weeks off for vacation, we get lunch, we get medical and dental. We even get bonuses three times a year … and the only time we see our bosses is when they sing to us!”
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Tags: Music , Leadership , Women in Ticketing