Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Have you ever camped out for tickets to a concert you really wanted to go to? How about one you didn't want to go to? For some folks, it isn't about the show selling out, but about getting tickets that are as close to the band as possible. There's something about being right up against the stage as you fawn over the artists onstage, it seems that they are singing all of their songs just for you, not the diskheads in nosebleed who bought their tickets at the gate. While I have rarely been fortunate enough to sit in the very front, I have camped out for tickets to a wide variety of shows. I once spent a whole night sitting behind the Ticketmaster in Ridgewood, N.J. with some girls I've never met before, smoking pot and waiting impatiently for tickets to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Yeah, it was sad, especially when you consider that we were the only people camping out. Still, it was a good time, and the girls got some great seats.

Well, that time may well be behind us now. Ticketmaster has decided to jump inot the scalping fray by auctioning off the front row seats to the highest bidder. Missing work to camp out won't help you now, but going to work instead of camping out will. Ticketmaster says there may be no cap to the prices, it just depends on who's got the biggest wallet. One Phish fan whined, "The band's biggest fans ought to have the best seats, not the band's richest fans." I've got news for you, buddy: They don't want the smelliest fans up front. None of us do.

An industry analyst is quoted as saying that prime seats at the hottest concerts are "undervalued in the marketplace" and auctions are likely to push prices up as a whole. Tickets have long been resold in auction settings - particularly on eBay, which does a heavy volume in tickets of all kinds. But in many states, the resale of concert tickets is subject to strict rules meant to protect consumers and give the small scale fan a chance to buy tickets for their favorite event. Ticketmaster's plan, by contrast, involves the first time sale of tickets and does not appear to be subject to anti-scalper rules.

"The tickets are worth what they're worth," said Ticketmaster CEO and president John Pleasants, in an interview with the Times. "If somebody wants to charge $50 for a ticket, but it's actually worth $1,000 on eBay, the ticket's worth $1,000. I think more and more, our clients - the promoters, the clients in the buildings and the bands themselves - are saying to themselves 'Maybe that money should be coming to me instead of Bob the Broker.' "

Yet another reason why Arena Rock sucks.

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