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    Vancouver: Coldplay heats up ticket debate

    coldplayticket.jpgLet the scramble begin. This morning at 10, when tickets go on sale for a June 17 concert at Pengrowth Saddledome, thousands of fans are expected to flood ticket sellers. Many of them may be disappointed, reports the Vancouver Sun.


    The Internet age was supposed to make ticket-buying an easier, more efficient process than it had been in the past, when folks used to line up overnight, or longer, in the desperate hope of getting decent seats for major concert events.


    But these days, securing a ticket for a show seems more complicated than ever, unless you've got some sort of inside track. And the ins and outs of the game are leaving a lot of music fans with a bitter taste.

    Most of the public ire has been directed at Ticketmaster, with the company defending itself from accusations of facilitating scalping and driving up prices though its ticket auction website TicketsNow. It's now facing lawsuits and government investigations.


    Ticketmaster, however, has denied any wrongdoing, insisting it has attempted to police the situation, removing tickets that show up on TicketsNow before they are available to the general public. Further, Ticketmaster stresses there are plenty of challenges in today's market when it comes to accommodating ticket buyers.


    "We completely acknowledge the fans' frustration at being unable to get tickets," says Ticketmaster spokesman Albert Lopez. But he is also quick to point out there are several factors that contribute to hot shows selling out before fans can secure seats on the general sale day.


    For one, promoters and artists frequently offer pre-sale initiatives for concerts. These include sales opportunities through artists' fan clubs, radio station promotions, and through programs that are typically available through companies such as Best Buy and American Express.


    In addition, at most arenas, the Saddledome included, a large block of seats are put aside for club members and season ticket holders, which gives those people the first right of purchase for tickets. At the'Dome, that usually accounts for about 1,000 seats.


    According to independent concert promoter Bryan Taylor, this can pose a problem because often these tickets wind up being resold, frequently on the Internet, at a huge markup. "The first inference people draw is Ticketmaster is scalping their tickets, but in reality it's (often) the people that have access to these tickets that are selling them," Taylor says.


    Libby Raines, building operations manager at the Saddledome, has seen it happen, much to her chagrin. "The hockey team experiences the same thing," she says. "Tickets for the big games show up on eBay and StubHub and all these secondary ticket locations. It's something that's becoming more and more a fact of life as these Internet sales vehicles have become available."


    Another issue has emerged on the technology front as ticket scalpers have reportedly found a way to lock up front-row seats which they can then resell at ridiculously inflated prices. "It's 2009,"says Lopez. "We're constantly protecting our system. There's always going to be somebody trying to circumvent that system and we are constantly working on our network to ensure that doesn't happen."


    According to Lopez, another problem is that large blocks of seats are regularly held by the artist and the promoter. This is something Ticketmaster has little control over, he says. "We are selling tickets specifically at the direction of our clients, the promoters," Lopez says. "One hundred per cent of the allocation is theirs. They tell us when we can sell them and how we can sell them."


    In Coldplay's case, the promoter is Live Nation.When asked how many of the 13,000 Coldplay tickets would actually be available to the general public today, Live Nation did not reply and they did not respond to interview requests.


    But at the end of the day, Lopez says, the main contributor to tickets selling out at a startling rate is, as ever, high demand.


    "The Internet is like a huge outlet and there's about 2,000 windows open for fans," Lopez says. "When those 2,000 people belly up to the digital counter and they start looking for tickets . . . say they each ask for four tickets . . . well, we've already taken 8,000 tickets out of the inventory. Immediately. . . . So when the 2,001st person in line finally gets to look at some tickets he may think, 'Wait a minute, why aren't these tickets as good as I thought they could be?'


    "Well, they're not as good because you've had presales, VIP and platinum tickets, season ticket holders, holdbacks from the artist, the promoter and the venue, and then you've got 2,000 people in front of you."


    However it shakes down, its not fair to the average consumer says Alberta Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, who has criticized the provincial government on the issue of consumer protection surrounding event tickets. "It's an elitist system," Blakeman says. "It's about money and connections."


    Denis Lapointe, director of the Alberta Liberal caucus office in Calgary, seconds that. "Unless you've got some sort of in, some sort of privileged access, or you belong to a group that has access to tickets . . . it's very difficult," Lapointe says. "(The average concert goer) is at a real disadvantage and, arguably, if it's a big name event they don't even have a chance. . . . By the time they actually get online and in the position to buy a ticket, everything is gone."

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