As Tragically Hip fans psych themselves up for the pursuit of what’s certain to be Canada’s hottest summer concert ticket, questions are again being raised about whether there’s a better way to sell tickets.
Many longtime Hip fans are sure to be left empty handed when the public sale for the band’s summer tour begins on Friday. And some will be furious when tickets inevitably wind up on secondary resale websites for hiked up prices.
That’s the reality of the modern concert business.
But the situation has a particular sting for the Hip fans who believe this will be their final chance to see the band, given that frontman Gord Downie is battling incurable brain cancer.
Here are several ways the industry could combat the rampant scalping of tickets by professionals – and average folk just looking to make a couple extra bucks by flipping their tickets:
Some ticket sellers are already experimenting with non-transferable paperless tickets that require concertgoers to present their credit card at the venue. The process effectively counters brokers but it also forces the person who bought the ticket to attend the event themselves. So forget about buying mom and dad those tickets to Tom Jones – unless you’re planning to join them. And if you’re sick? You might be forced to spread your germs or eat the cost of the ticket.
FILTER CUSTOMERS BY IP ADDRESS
Similar to how Netflix has blocked Canadians from accessing the U.S. version of their streaming service, companies like Ticketmaster could regionally manage concertgoers and cut down on outsiders trying to capitalize on an entire tour.
“You could limit it so that everybody would at least have a chance within some geographic (region) to buy tickets to events in their area but not outside it,” says Dean Budnick, author of “Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped.”
“There would still be scalping but at least they wouldn’t be scalping tickets to events on the other coast.”
Is it supply and demand, or smoke and mirrors? Some suggest that ticket sellers should commit to providing information on how many tickets are on the market, kind of like we know the odds to winning the lottery. That means being clear on the number of tickets allocated to presale events, how many are given away as part of promotions, and ultimately what’s left for sale to the general public.
The New York state attorney general’s office agrees with that approach, saying in a recent report: “promoters of events, who know the number of seats being held, should provide that information to ticket vendors, such as Ticketmaster, to make available to the public.”
FLOOD THE MARKET
While music superstars love to brag about how their concerts sold out in minutes, Garth Brooks is a firm believer in saturating the market.
The country singer worries less about selling out shows and more about keeping ticket prices low. On his latest tour he tried to deter scalpers by selling most of his seats for well below $100 a pop – relatively low by today’s standards for arena shows.
When a concert shows signs of selling out his management will add a batch of new dates in the same city, which theoretically destroys ticket value on the resale market. The strategy appears to be working too: there are dozens of tickets for one of his upcoming shows in Winnipeg being sold for under US$10 on StubHub.
BETTER FAN CLUB SECURITY
Much of the griping over the Tragically Hip presales revolved around the lack of security features enacted for the fans. Anyone who signed up to the band’s newsletter was given access to a communal code that could be plugged into the Ticketmaster website for advance tickets.
The generic code gave just about anyone an opportunity to dip into the Hip’s golden tickets. As with most big concerts, many of those seats wound up in the hands of resellers. The problem could be addressed by sending fan club members a personalized code that could be used only once.