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  • Music:

Can Scalpers Be Stopped?

In an attempt to thwart scalpers, the Rolling Stones charged $100 for a "platinum membership" that would guarantee four tickets for shows on their Onstage Tour, which kicks off August 21 at Boston's Fenway Park. Within hours of going on sale, fifteen out of seventeen shows had sold out -- but scalpers got many of the best seats anyways. Fans complained that the membership plan backfired: Ticket brokers simply paid the fee and passed on the cost. Days after they went on sale, Fenway seats were going for up to $6,555 on ticketsnow.com and $3,824 on stubhub.com.

With the Stones, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and U2 on the road, 2005 is turning into the Year of the Scalper, and big acts are trying to fight back. McCartney made roughly 1,000 fan-club tickets per show available a day before the rest of the seats went on sale, but scalpers had joined the free fan club and some even sold the presale passwords on eBay. Springsteen required people who bought the best seats for his current solo tour to pick up the tickets at will call and show ID, but scalpers accompanied buyers to the booth and switched tickets later. And U2 had to apologize earlier this year when the band made far too few seats available for fan-club purchase -- after charging $40 for the privilege of joining the presale.

"No one has found the cure for it," says Jonny Podell, Van Halen's agent. "It's an amazing thing. I've been in this business thirty-five years. It's never been fixed."

Ticket brokers and scalpers, are legal in most states, are selling tickets for higher prices than ever: Tickets for the Eagles' August 16th concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl in California cost $2,353 on stubhub.com; $78.50 seats for the John Mellencamp-John Fogerty July 8th show at Jones Beach, in Wantagh, New York cost $225 on eBay.

It's not just big-time brokers who abuse the fan-club system. Mark Kaplan, 51, of Greendale, Wisconsin, is a longtime McCartney fan who scooped up fourteen tickets to the Milwaukee show and has sold six on eBay for a profit of about $600. "Making $100 to $150 profit [a ticket], I don't view that as scalping," he says, adding that what he does is perfectly legal.

While McCartney, the Stones, U2 and Springsteen representatives wouldn't comment, many managers and promoters say that outlandish scalper prices in recent years have led directly to a spike in face-value ticket prices. "The theory is, the scalpers are gonna get them anyway," Podell says. "That's the rationalization for the music community. I would say 100 percent of artists use that as an explanation for their high ticket prices.

Source: Rolling Stone Magazine
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