CityMash.com - In March 1987 I bought my first copy of the Joshua Tree. I say my first because I played that cassette (showing my age there) so often eventually it broke and I had to buy another.
Time has rolled on, first I bought a copy on CD and, although the CD is still on the shelf, it is my electronic copy that gets played most often. Even our eight-year-old knows all the words to the entire album now.
When it was announced that U2 would be playing The Joshua Tree Tour 2017, and better yet they were kicking the tour off here in Vancouver, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some tickets. Then I thought how it would be fantastic to take our kids and introduce them to the joy of live music at a concert we could all enjoy.
The cost of buying even the worst nosebleed tickets for all of us would require the use of the emergency fund, but if the chance to see U2 perform The Joshua Tree live isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is.
I had let my fan club membership lapse many years ago when hydro bills and rent forced us to cut back on anything we didn’t need to spend out on, so I didn’t get a swing at the presale.
I was surprised to see some of the presale tickets bought by the supposedly die hard fans pop up on social media. These presale tickets are non-transferable, so the sellers are also attending the gig, but you have to meet them at the venue, and all go in together as if you were a group of friends.
For example from Kijiji:
U2 Tickets for the Vancouver show Friday, May 12 I have up to 4 GA FLOORS right in front for $350 each. You will have to meet me at the gate 30 minutes before showtime as these seats are credit card only entry. This means we have to go in the gate together I am also attending the show. I also have several single upper level tickets I can send today via email PDF file for $200 each.
The idea of having to meet up and then sit with people in that way didn’t appeal so I got ready first thing on the 17th to buy our tickets on Ticketmaster.
Buying on Ticketmaster
I know all of the hints and tips for buying with Ticketmaster such as using the app, having an account ahead of time, signing in before the sale, and I was ready at 0959. Those tickets would be mine.
So there I was with my twitching finger poised over the keyboard, ready to buy, excited to be going with the kids, looking forward to telling them about the concert, seeing the tickets sold out. What just happened? Everything was gone in an instant, except of course the tickets in the over a thousand dollar range and much as I love our kids if we had that kind of money I’d get the car fixed!
Almost as quickly as the original tickets disappeared from Ticketmaster, they started to reappear on the same page as resale tickets. Tickets in section 451 – up so high you need a parachute popped up at $221 each, and if you wanted a seat in section 202, which is just behind the general floor (GA) area you are looking at a jaw-dropping $2,289 EACH.
I couldn’t believe it so I went and hunted around a few other sites to see if there were any tickets available that I wouldn’t have to sell a kidney to afford. This is what I discovered:
Showtime – Cheapest ticket $285 in the 400’s section up to $4,940 for the ‘Red Zone.’
Viagogo – Cheapest tickets $280 in the 400’s up to $2,632 for a ‘Red Zone’ ticket with a restricted view.
Vivid seats – Cheapest tickets $157 for the 400’s up to $3,890 in the ‘Red Zone’ if you buy two.
(The Red Zone is a closed off area at the front, very close to the stage, on the Edges side. It is possibly THE prime spot of the concert).
How does this happen?
There are some flaws in the system that allow this quick flip to resale to happen.
One problem is the bots. Ticket brokers and resellers have software that quickly snaps up as many tickets as possible so they can make their profit and thousands of tickets are purchased this way every year. Some jurisdictions have tried to stop the use of bots but it would take every country in the world to outlaw them for a ban to work and that is not going to happen.
“It took a single bot just one minute to buy more than 1,000 tickets to a U2 concert,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman revealed.
Another problem is called speculative selling. Ticket buyers place ads on sites like Craigslist and Kijiji offering tickets they do not have yet. They pass the tickets on if they manage to but them and if they don’t, you may have lost your money.
However, the biggest problem is the monopoly at the heart of the live event & music industry. In 2008 Live Nation signed U2 in a new kind of deal. Instead of an artist have contracts with different companies for differing aspects of their career, signing with Live Nation covers touring, publishing and recording of music, merchandising, sponsorships, website maintenance – the works.
The reason this is an issue for fans is Live Nation owns Ticketmaster. The tickets go on sale are bought then resold at hugely inflated prices and Live Nation, via Ticketmaster make money from both the original sale and the resale. It would be easy for them to restrict the resales to face value price, but then the scalpers would go to other sites, and Ticketmaster would lose those juicy resale dollars.
To be fair, at least buying resales through Ticketmaster guarantees you will get an actual, genuine ticket – but only if you can afford it.
What’s the answer?
So what could the industry do, if they had the will, to protect genuine fans being fleeced by scalpers? The use of credit card identification helps, and restrictions on the number of tickets purchased do help. You do still get people buying two tickets for themselves and an extra four to sell, but this practice is limited and isn’t used to buy up thousands of tickets a minute.
Louis CK recently performed in Vancouver and announced that tickets seen on for resale and on broker sites would be invalidated. This is a great option if the buyer of the tickets knows about it but if I bought two tickets, in good faith, on Craigslist from a reseller, I would be the one to lose out – not the seller, and it is the sellers we need to target.
Jurisdictions such as New York, Ontario and Ireland are looking at ways to use the law to remedy the situation, but BC have already ruled this out, and unless it is the system that is changed, the odd pocket of ticket sanity won’t help the rest of us.
Ticketmaster could modify their site and require the name of every ticket holder to be submitted at the time of purchase. The site could hold your place in the queue while you put all of the details in and everyone would have to produce photo ID to get in. Kids could be admitted without photo ID if they are with an adult.
Names on tickets could be changed if they are resold through Ticketmaster, and resale prices could be restricted. This way you would be unable to buy a ticket at a broker or on a site like Kijiji because your name wouldn’t be on the ticket.
Time and again
So here we are, fans talking about how to fix a system the music industry controls. Just like we did when the Adele concert was sold out, just like we did when we all missed out on The Tragically Hip thanks to scalpers.
Luckily I hadn’t told the kids about going to the concert so I didn’t have to disappoint them but I am disappointed. I am disappointed at not being able to attend the show, disappointed at the people who scalp thousands of tickets and disappoint fans who cannot ever afford their exorbitant prices and disappointed in an industry which is letting down the very fans it relies upon for its success.
I am sure I’m not the only one to feel this way, and we would be interested to hear and share your stories about tickets and resales.