Fans burned by ticket scalping

Adele won’t kick off her U.S. tour until Tuesday in St. Paul, but a lot of the British singer’s Minnesota fans are already heartbroken, even before she sings her first breakup song.

Many have to choose between paying scalpers an average of nearly $300 per ticket or staying home — even after Adele took one of the most aggressive stances yet by an artist to curb ticket resales.

“It turns you off to the whole concert-going experience,” said Claire Kirch of Duluth. She fruitlessly spent a half-hour on Ticketmaster trying to get seats to Adele’s shows Tuesday and Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center the morning they went on sale.

More than ever this summer, Minnesotans are being shut out of the hottest concerts and ripped off by ticket scalpers. It’s part of a nationwide “ticketing epidemic,” as a recent New York attorney general report calls it, fueled by the proliferation of online ticket buying and resale sites such as StubHub.

In Minnesota, where ticket scalping was legalized in 2007, the laws and enforcement around it are weaker than in many states, and there is no government oversight on how concert tickets are distributed in venues owned or funded by taxpayers. Sometimes even the companies that stage sold-out shows are selling seats at inflated prices.

 

A Star Tribune analysis of 10 recent and upcoming concerts in the Twin Cities found that 10 percent to 20 percent of tickets to the most popular shows typically wind up on resale sites, including an inordinate number of the best seats.

Metallica fans are raging over a sold-out Aug. 20 concert at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the band’s only scheduled gig of 2016. It sold out in 10 minutes and is now the No. 1 selling concert in the nation on StubHub, where thousands of seats are priced 3 to 10 times the original $50-$150.

Within hours after Beyoncé’s May 23 concert at TCF Bank Stadium went on sale, more than 20 percent of the seats were offered on secondary ticket sites at jacked-up prices, about 8,000 of the 37,000 tickets.

Only about 5 percent of Adele’s Xcel Energy Center tickets wound up on StubHub, thanks to a restriction she placed on about 3,000 of the best seats at each show. To gain entry, holders of those tickets must present the credit card used to purchase them. That policy, however, drove up prices for tickets that did make it to StubHub — which averaged $700-$850 (face value: $39-$147) in the hours immediately after the quick sellout, and $500 in recent weeks.

“They really need to find a way to control scalpers,” said Gayle Smith, of Inver Grove Heights, who joined the long lines for Adele tickets and still came up short. “All it does is hurt the fans.”

Actually, fans are doing a lot of the scalping themselves.

“In this day and age, fans aren’t stupid,” said Jay Gabbert, a Minneapolis broker with Metro Tickets. “They know they can buy the two Adele seats they want, and then buy two more they can resell at StubHub for enough money to cover the other two.”

Professional scalping is clearly still a big part of the problem, though. And in the online age, local street-corner brokers such as Gabbert are now small-time operators.

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