Ticketmaster, We Have a Problem

The day after the Super Bowl, the day after XXX million people watched the soon-to-be-60-year-old-yet-somehow -ageless Bruce Springsteen rock for 12 minutes at halftime, some intelligent person decided that it would be smart for tickets for several cities on the Bruce Springsteen tour to go on sale the next day. All at once.

If you weren't one of the people trying to buy tickets online, you can pretty much imagine what happened.

My experience was apparently shared by countless others who tried to purchase tickets online. I hit the "search for tickets" button at 9:01 am. The browser told me I had a 15-minute wait. And then, after 15 minutes, a screen came up, telling me that the ticketmaster service was down for technical repairs. I kept trying, and this was the message I kept getting, over and over. I tried different browsers, I tried different nights (in my case, both the Thursday and the Saturday May concerts at the Meadowlands, plus Nassau Coliseum), but the same message kept appearing. The website was working fine if you wanted to buy tickets for, say, The Dead. System was working fine for them.

And when I finally got a real message an hour later, it was to tell me that there were no tickets available.

Okay, so clearly the tickets sold out fast, there was a glitch in the software, the system couldn't handle the traffic, etc. etc. But what I found particularly disconcerting (ha! no pun intended) is right on the same page that was telling me there were no tickets available was an ad for "Tickets Now!", Ticketmaster's own ticket brokering site. And, imagine my surprise: they already had tickets to sell.

I had several other friends, in different parts of the country, having the exact same experience.

I was appalled last year to find out that the lazy assholes in Albany decided not to renew New York State's scalping -- I mean, resale ticketing -- laws. What, was that beneath you guys or something, or were you under that delusion that deregulating and letting the market just decide the price of everything is good for the average Joe? I could see maybe revisiting the law, I could see revising it, I could see making it less strict. But you guys just let it lapse. And now when an average person tries to buy tickets, the phone lines are down for an hour and yet somehow the ticket brokers already have have blocks of good seats -- whole sections, I am not making this up -- selling for 3 to ten times face value.

I know what some of you are thinking: "oh it's Springsteen, what do you expect?" I don't expect to be lucky enough to get front row seats, or even decent seats, or even any tickets at all every time. But I do expect to feel like I have a fighting chance. And I'm really mad that there is no law in this state that at least tries to curb the resale of tickets by cooperate scalpers. I mean, at least make them wait 24-hours before they mark them up 200%.

In the old days, pre-internet, to get tickets you camped out all night and waited your turn. If you were a huge fan, you didn't mind sleeping on the sidewalk or the ground for a couple of days. Then they started to get more "civilized." In the 80s the Rolling Stones had a tickets lottery, where you mailed in a request and you got a pass to buy a certain number of tickets, and the color of the pass determined what kind of seats you got. Springsteen used to have a similar thing, with armbands or something.

These days, a lot of performers charge insane amounts for their tickets. I guess they figure that people are wiling to pay $500 and more to see the show, why don't they just charge that, and thus deter the resale issue? It worked with the Rolling Stones. The best seats in Giant's Stadium and MSG were over $400. And there were still some of those tickets available close to the day of the show. Take that, scalpers. If you wanted to go to the one-day Cream reunion at MSG, the tickets were selling for something like $800+ a piece, without the scalpers. And then there was what I hope was just a rumor of the Police selling front row seats for something like $20,000. Sting better be in my lap, servicing me, for that price. Meanwhile Bruce, bless his heart, or whoever is responsible for this, keeps his tickets at around $70 to $100 or so. And it used to be, with the GA seats (the ones where you stand in a herd at the front of the stage and feel Bruce sweat on you), that you had to pick them up at the venue the night of the concert and then there was no reentry, but I don't know if they still do that.

Until they changed the law last year, I found that if I got online right at the minute the tickets went on sale, I almost always could get something. Not something all that good, but something. Other people had other techniques: calling an out-of-town Ticketmaster, for example. The laws certainly didn't stop scalping, but it did make it a little easier for civilians to see their favorite bands. Now it's a free-for-all. Last year Cheetah Girls tickets, face value $40, were being sold for over $300 a piece. Yes, little girls, you can only go see the concert if your parents are rich. (Of course, one could argue that not being able to see the Cheetah Girls in concert is really a blessing, but when a kid's 8, she isn't going to agree with you.)

I will no doubt see Bruce again. I might even be lucky enough to buy a ticket off someone who can't go in May. But Ticketmaster has been in business a long time -- and in business with Bruce a long time. I can't help thinking they deliberately had half the entire tour's tickets go on sale at the same minute so the system would get over loaded and frustrated people would go pay the resale prices. Yeah, that's very cynical of me, but the whole thing seemed rather fishy..

related posts:
Ticketmaster, We Have a Problem Update
Bruce Gets the Last Word
People in the Cheaper Seats, Clap Your Hands


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