Holds are a reservation of seats or capacity which renders them unavailable for sale to the general public.
A hold might be a temporary measure used at the beginning of an on-sale period, or it might be permanent and in place throughout. It could apply to specific individual seats, entire rows or sections of a seating map, or a fixed capacity within a General Admission section.
Unsold capacity within a hold (i.e. any seats or capacity still reserved for which tickets have not been issued) will often be "released" either manually or automatically at some time prior to the event date. Releasing the hold allows the remaining seats or capacity to be purchased by the general public again as if they hadn't been placed on hold.
Holds will typically be set up for the benefit of the venue, artist, or promoter. It's worth noting that whilst these holds are often used to issue complimentary tickets, they're just as effective at reserving capacity for a specific group who may be purchasing tickets at full price, or even at a discounted price with a promo code. All of the hold types described below can be used both for comps and for regular ticket sales.
Venue holds (sometimes be referred to as "house seats") will often be included as standard terms in a venue hire agreement. These holds allow venues to reserve capacity at events for their own staff, partners, or sponsors.
They may even be provided to future potential hirers of the venue so they can evaluate whether the space and services will be suitable for their own events.
Artist holds will often be set up to provide tickets to friends & family of the artist (or artist management). Especially in cases where performers are touring they may wish to invite friendly support to be there on the night, or to say thank you to friends for hosting them while they're in a city or town away from home.
Putting seats on hold for issuing tickets to those supporters is a common way of ensuring the artist has access to that ticket inventory when they need it.
Promoter holds are often set up for the same reasons as artist holds. In addition they may also wish to provide tickets to event sponsors, other artists the promoter works with, or even other event promoters and industry contacts. The promoter is hiring the venue and generally taking on most or all of the financial risk of the event so they can put as many tickets on hold as they want, for any reason.
Promoter holds might also be set up if an event isn't expected to sell to the venue's full capacity. In this case the promoter might want to remove seats from sale (usually the seats furthest from the stage), with the ability to reconsider selling them later in the on-sale period if demand is greater than expected.
Rather than create a new seating map with the reduced seating arrangements, holds allow the promoter to make use of a standard map. This has two benefits – they won't be charged by the venue or ticketing company to create a custom map for their event, and they won't require any map changes should they decide to put some or all of the tickets on sale at a later date. All they need to do is release the hold (or some of the hold) and those seats will be on sale.
As mentioned above holds are frequently used for complimentary tickets ("comps") in which case those tickets will be issued by the venue, ticketing company, or promoter using the ticketing company's backend systems.
Holds may also be used to reserve capacity for regular sales, and in those cases tickets will either be issued through a box office or through the use of promo codes. A box office operator with sufficient authority to sell tickets from a hold (in some cases this will only be a box office supervisor) has access to seats on hold when selling tickets. They would identify the ticket purchaser as someone eligible to purchase from the relevant hold and then work through the box office sales process with them as usual.
Seats or capacity on hold can also be unlocked through the use of promo codes, allowing recipients to purchase those tickets themselves through the online sales process. This combines the functionality of holds with that of promo codes potentially enabling discounts, pre-sale availability ahead of the general public, volume constraints per purchase or across the event, etc – or even any combination of these functions.
The main problem to watch out for with holds is to ensure they're released if they've not been used to issue tickets. Especially for a sold out event, it can be hugely frustrating to realise there are areas of empty seats that could have been sold. Holds are often physically located together on a seating map so besides the negative impact to box office revenue, having blocks of empty seats can be detrimental to the atmosphere of an event for both the attendees and performers.
If possible it's wise to set an automatic release date when creating holds. This avoids the issues above should anyone forget to release unsold holds manually well before the event date. Of course this creates another potential problem if issuing house tickets has been overlooked for an event, so consider this possibility – but discovering you're unable to issue house tickets, whilst inconvenient and potentially embarassing, is often likely to be a less serious problem than explaining to a promoter why their sold-out show has rows of empty seats!
Mighty Tix is a SaaS-based ticketing system enabling organizers to generate more profitability for their events than would be possible with a traditional third-party ticketing company.