Tragically Hip scalpers: Getting ahead by a tragedy
By Michael Platt
, Calgary Sun
First posted: Monday, May 30, 2016 08:18 PM EDT | Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 12:20 AM EDT
A $1,200-per-seat profit, off one man's battle with brain cancer.
If Canadians didn't already loathe scalpers and agencies that support them, they certainly do now, after watching concerts meant as a farewell to a beloved Canadian icon turned into a orgy of profit for those with the technology to scoop up choice seats before ordinary fans had a chance.
Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip will definitely play to packed houses on their final tour, but thanks to scalpers and ticket bots, it will be mainly those with deep wallets watching the show, rather than fans with a deep appreciation of a band considered by many to be Canada's definitive musical act.
"Did #thehip's presale tickets for #YYC sell out immediately? I barely got to the loading screen and apparently they're all out!" was one of the kinder tweets Monday morning, as a pre-sale of tickets meant for the band's fan club sold out in seconds, only to appear minutes later on resale sites.
The mark-up, naturally, was massive — because if there's one thing scalpers understand, it's how to turn all that sentimentality into sweet, sweet profit.
And for Canadians, this one is sentimental like no other, being a farewell tour for Downie, who announced last week he has terminal brain cancer — and after 32 years of hit records and high-octane concerts, it seems this tour will be the band's swan song.
But seats that should have sold for $166 in Calgary's Saddledome were being flogged for US$1,360 over StubHub within minutes of the 10 a.m. pre-sale shutting down, and that was just one of 329 tickets on that site alone.
The same will certainly happen Friday, when seats for the Aug. 1 Saddledome show are released to the general public, and scalpers will skim the cream of the crop on Tuesday, when a pre-sale takes place for a second Calgary Hip show, added for Aug. 3.
It's the same story across the country. Naturally, Hip faithful are furious.
"Pre-sales are supposed to be for true fans, who are given a special code as a reward for their devotion to the band," said Alan Cross, a well-known national music broadcaster, who tackled the touchy subject on his website ajournalofmusicalthings.com under the heading "Something Really Stinks About the Presale for the Tragically Hip Tour".
Within hours, furious fans from across Canada were using the website as a venting ground against a ticketing system that seems rigged in favour of maximum profit.
"I’m both furious and heartbroken. No surprise here: Spent an hour and a half using two browsers plus the browser on my phone and nothing. A friend has already paid $520 for a pair for the 8/10 show on StubHub. Rat bastards," wrote a fan named Amber.
Cross, who personally knows the band, says The Hip will be "distraught" over the controversy, but the musicians are trapped in the same broken system — and when it comes to selling a nation's worth of concerts, promoters have little choice.
But Cross says profiteering off cancer seems particularly peevish.
"This is the most cold-blooded, market-driven display of capitalism that we've ever seen involving Canadian concerts," he said.
"Of course, we shouldn't be surprised — people have been complaining about this very thing for decades, but no matter what they do to fix it, they always seem to skirt the system."
A recent expose by New York’s attorney general found the public has no chance when pitted against special software known as "Ticket Bots," with one typical program snapping up 1,012 tickets to a Madison Square Garden U2 concert in under a minute.
“Ticketing, to put it bluntly, is a fixed game,” the report concludes.
Of course, those in the business say it's about providing a service the market is willing to support: "StubHub is commited to ensuring fans have access to buy and sell tickets to the events they want to see," said San Francisco-based StubHub via Twitter, in reply to outrage over Hip tickets.
The agency also said a portion of the profits would go to the Sunnybrook Foundation, the same medical charity being supported by The Tragically Hip.
"That was a corporate decision made today, based on the fact many of the people in the StubHub office in Canada are Tragically Hip fans as well," said Shannon Kelly, spokeswoman for StubHub.
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Tragically Hip scalpers: Getting ahead by a tragedy | MICHAEL PLATT | Music | En