Reporting Liz Collin
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You wait for your favorite singer to come to town and when they finally do you can’t get your hands on tickets.
Earlier this summer, Julie Chapuran logged on to buy Justin Bieber tickets for her kids. Within minutes they were all gone. Like her, many of you who asked, why is it so hard and so expensive to get a seat for a big show?
WCCO put the system to the test and found the solution that could save you time and money.
“The kids really enjoy his music. We have fun in the house dancing to him,” Chapuran said of the Beebs.
The Boss seems to be more of Katie Nordstrom’s speed.
“He has high energy,” Nordstrom said.
Two big stars, same ticket struggle.
Over and over again on Ticketmaster, Chapuran tried to get seats for what was billed to be a $40 to $90 show to see the Beebs at Target Center.
“I was waiting before 10 o’clock to get online and do it,” Chapuran said.
Nordstrom’s friend did the same to see Springsteen at the X.
“They couldn’t even get into the site to get the tickets,” Nordstrom said.
Both shows sold out within minutes.
When Chapuran checked the next day, she found Bieber seats on online vendors for $250 to $1,000.
“There’s no way I would be able to take both of my kids to see the show,” Chapuran said.
Ticket scalping has come a long way from the street corner. What happens on a computer now represents the starting point in the race to see a popular show.
Take the Coldplay concert at the Xcel Energy Center last month. The venue offered up 11,000 seats for their first night in town. Between pre-sales for the band’s fan club and American Express customers, the number of tickets to buy on the official sale day was thousands smaller.
But, what may be the most telling is what happened thousands of miles from Minnesota. More than a third of the Coldplay tickets were purchased online outside the five-state area.
Two years ago, when Adele performed on the same stage, 70 percent of her tickets went to outside buyers. The X says bots are to blame.
A bot is a piece of software that automates a repetitive task. The computer program can buy up hundreds of tickets in seconds.
Adam Claude, a computer consultant, told us it would be easy for a programmer to build a bot in just a few hours.
“It could be as simple as some kid in his parent’s basement,” Claude said.
For those not-so tech-savvy you can buy them online for as little as $30.
“Stopping bots is kind of a cat and mouse game,” Claude said.
Ticketmaster and other vendors use something called a captcha to prove it’s a real person and not a computer buying tickets.
A captcha is that series of squiggly letters and numbers you have to type in before you buy but even that security step doesn’t seem to go far enough.
Ticketmaster says scalpers are constantly making their bots better making them hard to stop.
Minnesota outlawed their use years ago. Since it’s often happening out-of-state, and it’s considered a low-level crime, the city attorneys in Minneapolis and St. Paul say they’ve never gone after anyone for using them.
Some people are also willing to pay more for a ticket than its price tag. So, secondary vendors like Ticket King snatch up seats come sale day.
“I think the main misconception is that we have some inside track to tickets,” Michael Nowakowski, the co-owner of Ticket King said.
We were there the Saturday morning when Bob Dylan’s show at the X went on sale. There were five employees plugging away at the computers. In 10 minutes, Ticket King ended up with 24 tickets.
“We try to get tickets just like any other fan. We punch away at the computer if we’re lucky we buy them and hopefully make money at them,” Nowakowski said.
Vendors stand to make a lot of money when it’s a big name. For the Justin Bieber concert, Ticket King bought 100 tickets themselves. By the time they buy from other people, the company told us it will move about 500 seats to see him and pocket tens of thousands of dollars.
When Rihanna tickets went on sale last Friday morning, we were standing by, ready to buy.
For a half hour, we checked for tickets in all price categories. While, there seemed to be plenty to go around, the next day we could tell ticket resellers got a good chunk.
The same seats selling for $140 on Ticketmaster were going for more than $500 on several sites.
So what’s a fan to do?
Venues say you should sign up for a fan club or a special credit card. That way you get in on the pre-sale perks. If you do buy online on sale day, have your profile set up in advance with your contact and payment information plugged in.
In the end, it comes down to supply and demand.
Jack Larson is the general manager of the Xcel Energy Center.
“If 30,000 people want to come to a 17,000-seat show you’re always going to have that issue,” Larson said.
So a good strategy just may be the hottest ticket in town, even if Chapurans’ didn’t get her kids to Justin Bieber this time.
“It’s frustrating not to be able to take them to something they’d like to see,” Chapuran said.