Royal Albert Hall: conducting the perfect on-sale

© Andy Paradise

Opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall is London's most iconic venue. 

Famous for its classical orchestral concerts, the Royal Albert Hall also hosts residencies including the English National Ballet, Cirque du Soleil and, of course, the BBC Sir Henry Wood Promenade Concerts  – better known as "The BBC Proms". Pop and rock, too: in just the last couple of years, it has seen the likes of Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue and The Who grace the stage in its famous auditorium.

The CrowdHandler team is proud to say we have worked with the Royal Albert Hall for many years.  Which is why, when we relaunched CrowdHandler during the pandemic in 2021, we included several new features – including multiple waiting rooms, autotune and countdown scheduling – that had been directly informed by our work with this great British institution.

Multiple waiting rooms with countdowns

As well as sellout concerts by global superstars and classical performances in its 5000-capacity main auditorium, the Royal Albert Hall also hosts around 1000 non-auditorium events a year. Not to mention afternoon teas and visitor tours!

On a typical Friday morning, the Royal Albert Hall tends to launch on-sales for three or four big performances. 

Thanks to CrowdHandler, however, those popping online to book a backstage tour, a classical coffee morning or a table in one of the restaurants will never have to queue behind 20,000 clamouring pop fans.

That’s because the Royal Albert Hall is able to pre-schedule lots of waiting rooms, with each waiting room set to open at a different time. Using CrowdHandler, its single ticketing system now serves several diverse audiences, intelligently splitting traffic and allowing each event to have its own dedicated queue. Once one queue subsides, all of the bandwidth is reassigned to whichever queues are still active.

The Script at the Royal Albert Hall, March 2019 © Andy Paradise

Countdown mode – another feature that was added during our 2021 relaunch – is extremely important to a venue like the Royal Albert Hall. Previously, users would start arriving on the website and "camping out" in the ticketing path before tickets went on sale, which meant a lot of manual work for the site developers. Countdown mode takes care of this by keeping everyone in the waiting room and giving everyone a fair chance when the sale is launched.

“We love that we can set up individual waiting rooms with countdowns for all on-sales,” says Marc Sheppard, Head of Ticketing. “The random allocation into the queue prevents people from sitting on a page waiting for an event to go on sale. A huge benefit of protecting individual on-sales like this is that if customers are not booking for a busy event that has just gone live, they can book as normal and not be impacted in any way.”


Another feature that the CrowdHandler team added when we relaunched was Autotune: the ability to constantly adapt and optimise the rate based on actual performance. 

Although Royal Albert Hall runs a heavy load test every year, to measure the rate of checkouts that the site can typically handle, different types of concerts and different types of upsell put different pressures on the ticketing system.

“For something like the BBC Proms, people might book 10-15 concerts in a single checkout,” Marc explains. “For a gig like Robbie Williams, on the other hand, fans just want to get in, buy a couple of tickets, and get out.” 

So, rather than setting a rate for the mean use case, Autotune sets each waiting room rate separately and constantly adjusts. This maximises the throughput day-to-day and ensures that queues last a lot less time. 

Proms success

The BBC Proms is an annual summer season of classical music concerts and other events that has been held, mainly in the Royal Albert Hall, for more than 120 years. 

With a huge – and hugely dedicated – fanbase, the BBC Proms concerts were always going to be a big challenge for the website. Throughout the eight-week season, traffic spikes regularly as ‘day promming’ tickets go on sale each morning. 

Thanks to CrowdHandler, however, the Royal Albert Hall is now able to schedule waiting rooms in advance for every one of the Proms on-sales. With Countdowns set, and Autotune optimising the flow rate, the Royal Albert Hall sees huge, but fast-moving queues – with nothing but praise for the user experience.

Users on social media praised the BBC Proms booking process

“We really appreciate that CrowdHandler understands and responds to the real-world needs of a site like Royal Albert Hall’s,” says Marc. “Introducing the ability to run multiple waiting rooms so effortlessly was a game-changer. CrowdHandler has helped us to deliver on-sales in a way that doesn't just make things easier for our teams, but offers users a much smoother experience.”

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