How Many Tickets Really are On Sale for Justin Bieber?
Pop phenomenon Justin Bieber is adored by millions of fans willing to spend hundreds of dollars for a single ticket to his show. That love fest may have tapered down slightly after allegations of misrepresented ticket availability surfaced in late September. Documents acquired by Nashville’s NewsChannel state that, of the 13,783 tickets supposed to be available for Bieber’s January 18th concert at Bridgestone Arena, only 1,001 was made available to the general public. The number of tickets available is a number prospective attendees should be aware of, mainly so they can decide whether it’s worth it to alter plans so they can click ‘submit’ on Ticketmaster at a very specific time. But it raises another, more important question: is Justin Bieber selling his own tickets on the aftermarket?
The 12,782 tickets that went “missing”, and were never available on Ticketmaster, were made available to several for-pay memberships, Justin Bieber’s management, and assorted VIPs. About half of the tickets went to American Express customers, who are allowed access to the pre-sale. 3,000 were purchased by Bieber’s fan club, whose members pay an annual fee of $99 for the opportunity. Essentially, 93% of the venue was taken by fans already paying Bieber for a staff-run fan club, or (even worse) a credit card company. If that wasn’t bad enough, the dozen or so tickets usually reserved for Bieber’s family and friends were being re-sold at a price several times their original value on resale site TicketsNow for $216 to $246. Rather than allowing the general public access to these tickets at a fair price, Bieber and management opted to put them on a ticket resale site, an enemy of musicians that prefer their fans to see them live without spending a large portion of their monthly rent. At least most of Bieber’s fans are still living with their parents, so that conflict has yet to arise for them.
Bieber is not alone among artists in this ticket distribution conundrum, and that is most alarming. Artists like Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen have faced similar hurdles. Springsteen has had many squabbles with Ticketmaster over their ineptitude to distribute tickets properly, including an incident last January when Ticketmaster’s servers were overloaded by ticket-grabbing bots, rendering the general public mostly unable to purchase tickets for his worldwide “Wrecking Ball” tour. Springsteen also had issues with Bieber reseller TicketsNow in 2009, when Ticketmaster redirected customers there to purchase tickets. “We condemn this practice,” Springsteen said in a letter posted on his site in 2009, clearly critical of Ticketmaster, TicketsNow, and similar sites. The event actually encouraged U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) to introduce the BOSS Act, hoping to regulate Ticketmaster and ticket resellers so that the general public would not face similar lockouts. The act has not received enough exposure to pass, though Pascrell said he will re-introduce the bill to Congress in early 2013.
While Springsteen actually fought the practices of ticket resellers, Bieber and Taylor Swift seem to be taking advantage of them. Similar to Bieber, Swift only made 1,600 tickets available for the general public at her 2009 Nashville show, according to documents obtained by WTVF. Dean Budnick, author of Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped, finds the evidence indisputable that Bieber is scalping his own tickets. “I think if one takes a deeper look at the situation and the context, one can understand why he’s doing it,” he told WTVF. “But nonetheless that is what’s going on.” Ticketmaster’s response to the allegations have been shaky at best, stating they have no control of what artists do with their own tickets, but also refusing to provide detailed information about ticket availability to the public. The ones benefitting from this situation are ticket sites like Ticketmaster and TicketsNow, but also artists like Bieber and Swift that are reluctant to stand up and fight for their fans. As they profit handsomely from a highly exploitable ticket system, artists like these have no financial incentive to make it easier on their fans. It makes one yearn for the days when Ticketmaster didn’t exist, and diehard fans were rewarded for camping out all night to buy tickets for their favorite artists. But that’s just nostalgia now.