We all pretty well knew what was going on, and now spokesthings at Ticketmaster parent Live Nation have spoken up and confirmed that scalpers and bots did in fact dominate the ticket buying process during the Tragically Hip‘s swan song Man Machine Poem Tour.
About 66% of the tickets were vacuumed up by automated software and ticket brokers. As a result, many fans were only able to buy the remainder at their original value, and scalpers even set up a ticket resale website, throwing a wrench into the band’s plans to encourage fairness with a ticket lottery system.
Live Nation CEO Joe Berchtold says, “The odds are absolutely stacked against the fan. Probably a third of the tickets went to bots, another third went to brokers who were just like fans, pounding away at the keyboard, but better trained, more aggressive at it, and maybe a third of them went to fans.”
Berchtold figures resellers trousered between $25 and $30 million in markups; for the final show in The Hip’s home base of Kingston, tickets listed originally at $50 were being hawked for hundreds of dollars. “There’s a big problem, and the big problem starts with bots.”
Partially as a result of all this, the Ontario government is eyeing legislation which would make it an offense for scalper bots to buy up large blocks of tickets automagically. Liberal MPP Sophie Kiwala introduced a private member’s bill earlier this year which was ostensibly designed to put the hammer down on such activity.
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi is not impressed with what’s been going on. “What happened with fans wanting to go and pay their last respects to the band they love so much and wanted to get tickets and were not able to do so really bugged me. We know that people are buying tickets online. We know people are selling tickets online. I don’t think we can move away from that reality because that’s just the practical reality of our lives. You know there is no silver bullet, but we can’t just not do anything either.”
The next step is consultation with fans, lawyers and artists around the world who have also run into problems with ticket scalping after which Ontario may follow in the footsteps of Manitoba: it’s already a crime there to resell tickets for profit; Winnipeg police collared a couple of Hip scalpers in a sting while the tour was underway.
Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer this year. He released the Secret Path album following the tour, and is playing a live show in support of it tonight at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.