Glastonbury 2023 Tickets officially sold out in 1 hour and 1 minute. By precisely 10:01am on Sunday, 6th November both SeeTickets and Glastonbury Festival reported that all tickets were sold. But, I bought 2 tickets at 10:17am and there are thousands of others reporting the same.
- 6th November 2022 – Glastonbury 2023 Ticket Sales Day – Our Story
- What the hell Happened?
- But how did this let people buy tickets after it sold out?
- Another Theory – SeeTickets Dirty Tactics?
- How to go to Glastonbury 2023 if you don't have a ticket
First off – congratulations to everyone who managed to secure themselves a ticket to the greatest place on Earth! If you’re a first timer – man, are you in for a treat! If you’re a veteran – everything is all good, you can relax for a while now!
This ticket sale certainly didn’t feel like any of the others. Granted – we’ve had a 3 year break thanks to the C-word, but something still felt different this time. SeeTickets sent a vague tweet about ‘technical issues’ and thousands of ticket hopefuls were reporting on Social Media that the website crashed at various points.
How did this happen? Let’s re-cap on that ever-so eventful Sunday morning and discuss possible theories as to what happened.
6th November 2022 – Glastonbury 2023 Ticket Sales Day – Our Story
Ah, Glastonbury Ticket Sale day, one of the most stressful annual events in a festival-goers calendar. Gone are the days where you can rock up to a record store to pick up a ticket for a few quid or find yourself a guaranteed route in over/under the fence (although, it’s not hard to find successful stories in recent years, but I digress).
These days, Glastonbury ticket sales day needs military-level precision and organisation. Groups of people have pre-registered in advance, they team together with every computer, tablet and phone they can get their hands on the maximise their chances of getting a golden ticket.
This process happens at 9am on a Sunday Morning in October (or, November as it was this year) with a smaller number of coach packages being sold a few days beforehand on a Thursday evening.
As anyone who has ever attempted this will know, it involves staring at a ‘holding page’ in a constant state of refresh until the registration form loads.
If luck is on your side and that page actually loads for you, you’ll need to confirm all your registration details and then pay. Many things can – and will – go wrong.
Part 1 – The refresh game (09:00 – 09:36am)
I started by refreshing the page on my 2 laptops and my phone which was connected using 4G. There was no sniff of the page where you enter your details for the first 36 minutes. Not a sniff.
Squeeky bum time, Glastonbury has sold out in less than 36 minutes in the past. This was the first time I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.
But then, against all odds, on my phone – there was a the registration page.
Oh. My. God.
Part 2 – Failed Attempts (09:36am – 09:52am)
Stay calm. Registrations entered. Proceed.
The next page loads. Phew.
A cursory glance showed the registration details and postcodes I entered were indeed correct.
Tapped the confirm button.
Up came the wheel of doom. It spun, and spun, and spun. Then it spun some more.
503 Service Unavailable. F**K.
Back. Try again.
Error – timed out.
This routine basically continued for just over 10 minutes until it kicked me out back to the beginning. It was 09:52 by this point. I really thought it was all over.
In the meantime, neither of my partner’s phones, nor any of my computers go any further than the dreaded holding page.
Part 3 – Technical Problems (09:52am – 10:01am)
My mother – bless her heart – sent me a screenshot of SeeTickets tweet about technical problems. This tweet was about as useful as it was vague.
We’re working on a technical problem. If you’re trying to book @glastonbury tickets please bear with us – we’ll be back up and running soon— See Tickets (@seetickets) November 6, 2022
Technical problems or not – the ticket scramble was definitely still happening.
Many others who were suffering during this ordeal took to social media to complain, but I didn’t see this in real-time because I was too focussed on getting tickets.
But, all across Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and Instagram it seems that many people had tickets in the bag only to have them snatched away by these ‘technical problems’ (whatever they were…)
Yeh got through to payment from page four times and ‘failed’ .. Annoying to say the least https://t.co/mRFpApbwtB— Lady Holly Bessey (@HollyBessey) November 6, 2022
Part 4 – Sold Out (10:01 – 10:14am)
I was sent news of the “Sold Out Tweet” by WhatsApp at 10:04am. There it was – plain as day – 3 minutes ago. Sold out.
Tickets for @Glastonbury Festival 2023 are now SOLD OUT. Confirmation emails are going out now. Congratulations to everyone who got tickets this morning. We’re sorry to those who missed out or had issues trying to book.— See Tickets (@seetickets) November 6, 2022
But.. my phone was still refreshing the holding page?
This isn’t right? I know this process extremely well, I’ve secured tickets after being told “all available tickets have been allocated” and variations of that, I know that it ain’t over until the page displays “event not found”
My laptops were also refreshing the holding page.
But why? 🤔🤷♀️
I’m not about to give up. I carried on refreshing the page on both my phone and on my partner’s phone, which somehow ended up in my hand at this point.
Both phones were connecting via 4G, mine on EE and my partner’s on O2, bot with 2-3 bars of signal. I got into a ice rhythm of alternating between refreshing the page on each phone.
No harm in trying, right?
But then – despite having it in the back of my mind that it had officially “sold out” – there it was.
The regstiration details page appeared on my partner’s phone.
OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD.
I’ve got another chance.
Part 5 – Buying my tickets (10:14 – 10:17am)
Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod it’s asking for payment. It’s asking for payment.
Ok. calm. My partner’s card number was stored on the phone, it just needed his fingerprint to verify it.
My hand was shaking as I held the phone out for him to tap his fingerprint.
There came the spinning wheel next to the ‘pay now’ button – 3 of them in fact.
Suddenly… Booking confirmed. BOOKING CONFIRMED. We’re going back to Glastonbury.
I let out a little cry. Composed myself.
Oh my god – we just got tickets to Glastonbury after it officially sold out!!!
Part 6 – Elation & Confusion (10:17am – 11:00am)
In my excitement of securing the tickets with my partner’s phone in my hand. It’d failed to notice that my laptop screen had also loaded the regisration page while I was busy checking out on the other device.
But… SeeTickets AND Glastonbuy Festival officially said that it was sold out, almost 20 minutes ago by this point.
But I bought two tickets. The confirmation email was in my inbox within minutes and the transaction was successful and showing up on my partner’s banking app.
What the hell Happened?
I’m only able to vouch for my own experiences here – but I scoured Social Media, Reddit and eFestivals Forums to find out what experiences others had.
It seemed people had issues with:
- Not being able to get past the holding/refresh page (this is normal)
- Seeing a message that said all tickets had been allocated (this is jarring – but normal, you can still get tickets – more information on this here)
- Not being able to continue after entering correct registration details (this happened to me when I got the 503 error and the ‘timed out’ error)
- Being kicked out and sent back to the beginning after clicking ‘proceed’ or ‘confirm’
- The payment page timing out with the spinning ‘wheel of doom’ or multiple ‘wheels of doom’
- Payments being declined
- The payment page asking for a bank verification code – which is entered correctly – but the payment page countdown timer times out (I believe this is the key piece of information in figuring out what happened here)
SeeTickets “Technical Issues”
SeeTickets never really mentioned what these technical issues actually were.
I’m acually a website developer myself, bu without further information, I’m purely speculating what these issues may or may not have been
It could have been…
Load balancing configuration failure?
Load balancing is a huge part of the SeeTicket infrastructure.
This could have easily be checked but I was too damn busy getting tickets, but I understand the DNS ‘A’ record of the glastonbury.seetickets.com subdomain is rotated periodically with 5min TTL, I’ve never checked this myself during the live sale because I’m usually a bit too busy to check when the actual ticket sale is happening.
I did read about rumours of DNS issues during the Coach ticket sale a few days earlier, but these are unconfirmed.
Payment gateway issues?
Glastonbury and SeeTickets use Stripe as a payment processor. Stripe is extremely well equipped for handling this volume of transactions, but the connection to Stripe’s servers can sometimes fail, for reasons beyond anyone’s control
Poor 3D-Secure implementation?
3D-Secure is a fairly new requirement by many card issuers, which needs authorisation via a banking app when paying online. Glastonbury/SeeTickets were using 3D-Secure on the site, but it seems was implemented in a way that only certain card issuers support, allowing some to bypass the 3D-secure process.
We’ll delve into this topic in a lot more detail shortly (skip ahead) as I strongly believe this was the cause of allowing transactions after the “sold out” message
Bad front-end or back-end code?
Poorly written, sloppy or untested code may have been responsible for SeeTickets “Technical Issues” – it may have been possible to check this, but I didn’t visit the ticket site with DevTools open because I was focussed on actually getting a ticket.
Maybe someone unplugged the wrong cable? Who knows?
Other Infrastructure Issues?
With any website, there’s a whole array of things that could go wrong. Sometimes things happen beyond our control, but that would be surprising in this case as SeeTickets have been a long-standing ticket sales processor for Glastonbury and many, many other large events. They can cope with the demand.
Unfortauntely, the specific nature of the “technical issues” remain a mystery.
3D-Secure Payment Authorisation Debacle
I firmly believe that this was the reason why I, and thousands of others were able to successfully checkout and secure our Glastonbury Tickets after the now infamous 10:01″sold out” Tweet from SeeTickets.
My theory is based on what I’ve seen and read on Social Media, and my knowledge of ecommerce website development.
It’s important to understand how the transaction works. Once you are on the payment screen, a countdown timer appears. You must complete payment BEFORE that timer runs down. While the timer is running, the tickets are ‘reserved’ for you.
The payment screen means those tickets are yours PROVIDING you can successfully checkout and pay ON TIME.
The issue is – people DID checkout and pay on time using 3D-secure on their banking app. But the the SeeTickets page DID NOT RESPOND after doing that CORRECTLY.
Real shit luck.
The Wrong 3D-Secure Payment Callback URL
I strongly suspect an incorrect callback URL on seetickets end. It’s either that or the sheer volume of transactions causing a backlog, which is unlikely but not impossible.
It would not be possible for me (or any other developer) to check the callback URL in the web browser because this part of the transaction happens on the server, and the callback URL contains encrypted information so as users and developers, we cannot see that part of the process.
Only SeeTickets technical engineers will know the truth.
I may be totally wrong – but I strongly suspect that 3D-Secure is the root cause of the problem.
But how did this let people buy tickets after it sold out?
Thousands of people were ON the payment page and WAITING FOR THE CONFIRMATION SCREEN TO APPEAR while SeeTickets sent their “sold out” tweet
Because SeeTickets’ systems would have said that all the tickets were not only allocated, but SOLD.
Allocated and sold – we’ve established in previous ticket sales that these DO NOT mean the same time.
So as far as SeeTickets were concerned – all the tickets were sold.
But, if my theory is correct (and I could totally wrong) – thousands of 3D-Secure authorisations TIMED OUT on SeeTickets’ end, due to some communication issue (incorrect callback URL?) between the payment processor and SeeTickets.
Which meant that thousands of tickets went back into the ‘allocation’ phase.
Shit, shit luck for those that were affected by this.
Leaving them all to be snapped up by hardcore ticket-buyers who didn’t give up, assuming that hoardes of people did give up after see the “sold out” Tweet, the odds were just tipped in our favour.
Another Theory – SeeTickets Dirty Tactics?
There’s always the possibility that SeeTickets sent that tweet out on purpose, knowing that it would reduce traffic to the page as people eventually gave up trying.
Related: What is TWFTPU at Glastonbury? 🤔
How to go to Glastonbury 2023 if you don’t have a ticket
If you were unsuccessful – fear not. All may not be lost and you may still be able to go.
There’s Always Another Chance in April
If you were unlucky on this occasion then all is not lost. No. You shall go to the ball. Well, the muddy fields full of awesome music, people and entertainment.
Some people pay their £50 deposit in October and something happens between then and April meaning they can no longer go – since selling the tickets is not allowed as they’re personalised with your photo – these tickets go back into the resale for you to snap up. The date of resale varies every year but it is usually about a week after the balance payment deadline.
Keep an eye on the Glastonbury website, eFestivals and social media for news of the date. You can also register with your photo in the meantime if you forgot to register the first time.
Yeah OK, this is for the very wealthy amongst you. Fly Glastonbury (now Winding Lake) is the company that provides helicopter transport to and from the festival. They also provide luxury accommodation for the festival. They also sell tickets… they sell tickets to people who are staying in their accommodation facilities as they are allocated a certain number of genuine tickets by Glastonbury Festival themselves.
Tickets sold via Fly Glastonbury are only available for those who buy an accommodation package. It’s very expensive.
Get a paid or volunteer role at the festival
Shortly after the tickets sold out for Glastonbury 2023, Oxfam tweeted this:
Missed out on #Glastonbury tickets? Come along as a volunteer with @Oxfamfestivals! With just 3 shifts, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the festival & catch loads of live music. Plus, you’ll be raising funds to support Oxfam’s poverty-fighting work. https://t.co/dLuE56jd7t pic.twitter.com/ky06aw5MSs— Oxfam (@oxfamgb) November 6, 2022
There are also tonnes of other opportunities to work at the festival, Google is your friend!
Have a look at the other festivals happening in the UK next year
Yes, Glastonbury is the original, the biggest and in some aspects – the best – but there are hundreds of other large, medium and smaller sized festivals taking place across the UK and they’re getting more diverse and unique every single year.
If you’ve never been to Boomtown then that is an absolute must for any festival-lover. There are also great communities surrounding Shambala, Greenman, Bestival, Noisily, Kendal Calling and the Isle of Wight Festival. There is probably a festival for everyone’s taste, UK Festival Guide is a pretty comprehensive guide to upcoming festivals of all sizes.