Resource locking

Changed in version 2023.8: Our locking mechanism changed heavily in version 2023.8. Read this PR for background information.

One of pretix’s core objectives as a ticketing system could be described as the management of scarce resources. Specifically, the following types of scarce-ness exist in pretix:

  • Quotas can limit the number of tickets available

  • Seats can only be booked once

  • Vouchers can only be used a limited number of times

  • Some memberships can only be used a limited number of times

For all of these, it is critical that we prevent race conditions. While for some events it wouldn’t be a big deal to sell a ticket more or less, for some it would be problematic and selling the same seat twice would always be catastrophic.

We therefore implement a standardized locking approach across the system to limit concurrency in cases where it could be problematic.

To acquire a lock on a set of quotas to create a new order that uses that quota, you should follow the following pattern:

with transaction.atomic(durable=True):
    quotas = Quota.objects.filter(...)
    lock_objects(quotas, shared_lock_objects=[event])

The lock will automatically be released at the end of your database transaction.

Generally, follow the following guidelines during your development:

  • Always acquire a lock on every quota, voucher or seat that you “use” during your transaction. “Use” here means any action after which the quota, voucher or seat will be less available, such as creating a cart position, creating an order, creating a blocking voucher, etc.

    • There is no need to acquire a lock if you free up capacity, e.g. by canceling an order, deleting a voucher, etc.

  • Always acquire a shared lock on the event you are working in whenever you acquire a lock on a quota, voucher, or seat.

  • Only call lock_objects once per transaction. If you violate this rule, deadlocks become possible.

  • For best performance, call lock_objects as late in your transaction as possible, but always before you check if the desired resource is still available in sufficient quantity.

Behind the scenes, the locking is implemented through PostgreSQL advisory locks. You should also be aware of the following properties of our system:

  • In some situations, an exclusive lock on the event is used, such as when the system can’t determine for sure which seats will become unavailable after the transaction.

  • An exclusive lock on the event is also used if you pass more than 20 objects to lock_objects. This is a performance trade-off because it would take long to acquire all of the individual locks.

  • If lock_objects is unable to acquire a lock within 3 seconds, a LockTimeoutException will be thrown.


We currently do not use lock_objects for memberships. Instead, we use select_for_update() on the membership model. This might change in the future, but you should usually not be concerned about it since validate_memberships_in_order(lock=True) will handle it for you.