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What Are Pit Tickets?

A view of the stage from orchestra pit seats.

If you want your concert experience up close and personal, pit tickets are the way to go. These tickets buy you a spot in the orchestra pit area just in front of the stage. No doubt you'll hear the music and have a great view of the performers, but the tickets may cost you dearly and the experience won't please everyone.

Heard But Not Seen

Pit tickets are a feature of rock concerts but the name has roots in ballet and opera, where an orchestra provides music. The orchestra musicians are positioned in a lowered area, or pit, in front of the stage to keep the view of the performance unobstructed. If you buy a pit ticket to a concert, you may or may not be in a lowered area, but you certainly will be right in front of the stage. These tickets sometimes are called orchestra or front-area tickets.

Where the Action Is

Music fans buy pit tickets because the area in front of the stage is where the action is -- an adventure waiting to happen. Once in a great while, a venue puts seats in the pit area and expects pit ticket holders to stay seated like everybody else, but most often, it's a place where people stand up, press toward the stage, dance about with arms upraised and scream lyrics at the tops of their lungs. Pit tickets are favored by the young but also purchased by die-hard fans of any age.

Festival Seating Not for Everyone

Don't look for a seat assignment on pit tickets. They usually are standing-room only and/or "festival seating." This means seats or standing spaces are fought for rather than assigned -- sometimes creating stress and occasionally chaos. Perhaps the worst incident relating to festival seating occurred on December 3, 1979, at the Who’s concert at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati. Ticket holders rushed the stadium doors to try to get the best positioning. The pushing, shoving mob left 11 fans dead of asphyxiation and dozens injured. As a result, Cincinnati banned festival seating for several decades.

Buying Pit Tickets

The procedure for buying and using pit tickets varies among venues as do the prices. If separate pit tickets are offered, they likely are expensive. For some events, such as Country Fest in Cadott, Wisconsin, you purchase a Pit Pass and exchange it for an armband at the festival. No food, drink, bags or chairs are allowed. For others, such as Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball Tour, pit tickets (called "forward barricade area" tickets) are awarded on a lottery system. Anyone with a general-admission ticket may enter once he swaps his ticket for an armband. Armband numbers are selected before the show and the winners line up in the order called to enter the pit.

Mosh Pit

While some music fans swear by the pit as the ultimate concert experience, others prefer the relative serenity of an assigned seat. Still others -- generally punk rock or heavy metal fans -- head for the mosh pit, a place where you can listen to music while dancing and bumping against other dancers. Don't be surprised to find people shoving, punching, kicking and slamming into one another in a mosh pit, so stay out if that's not your scene.

About the Author

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.