A recent investigative report by Phil Williams, chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5 in Nashville, Tennessee, uncovered ticketing documents to an upcoming show on Justin Bieber’s Believe tour that shows members of Bieber’s management were withholding tickets from the general public and selling them on the secondary market for a huge mark-up, leaving fans to purchase tickets well above face value.
The Believe tour immediately made headlines when it was reported that the Madison Square Garden show sold out in 30 seconds and the entire U.S. tour sold out in just an hour. However, the recent investigation is showing that seats at several shows were not even available to the general public during the initial onsale.
According to Williams and NewsChannel 5, ticket instructions for the January 18, 2013 performance at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena show that only 1,001, or seven percent, of the arena’s 14,000 seats were made available to the general public — 6,000 tickets went to American Express customers as part of the AmEx presale and 3,000 went to Bieber’s fan club. The investigation also shows that the tour held 500 tickets to be sold on Ticketmaster’s Platinum Exchange program for a marked-up price and 900 tickets were reserved for various entities labeled as “VIP” tickets.
Dean Budnick, author of the book Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped, told NewsChannel 5 that setting aside this amount of tickets for presales and fan clubs is beneficial to scalpers who then sell the tickets on resale sites for much higher than face value. Bieber fan club members were able to purchase up to four tickets in four different cities, which gives scalpers the opportunity to purchase multiple tickets to resell.
The investigation shows that 14 tickets from section 205, row G were listed on TicketsNow for $246 each, and three tickets from section 219, also row G were listed for $216 each. According to ticketing documents, the entire row G was given to Bieber’s tour and in turn was resold on resale sites like TicketsNow.
Budnick told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that artists see how much over face value scalpers make from the tickets and they want to be making just as much, if not more.
While Bieber is just the latest artist who is being scrutinized for essentially scalping his own tickets, there are other tours that have been investigated in the past for similar activity. According to U.S. News, Budnick and co-author Josh Baron, claim that many artists either sell tickets on the secondary market or make deals with brokers to sell tickets for above face value.
According to an investigation into Taylor Swift’s September 2009 show at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., 11,720 of the 13,330 seats in the arena were already accounted for before the public sale, meaning that only 1,610 were left available, according to U.S. News. That same year, Keith Urban promised $20 tickets to fans, but only 389 of the 15,000 seats were sold for at the $20 price. More recently, The Smoking Gun uncovered the concert rider from Katy Perry’s tour, which states that management reserves the right to withhold tickets from the general public in order to sell them on the secondary market.
In 2009, The Wall Street Journal found that Van Halen and former Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff made a deal with brokers to sell 500 of the best seats to secondary brokers with 30 percent of the profit going to the brokers and the remainder split between Ticketmaster, the band, and its management.
Jacqueline Peterson, spokesperson for Ticketmaster, says that even if scalpers were unable to obtain any tickets for Bieber’s Believe tour, the shows would still have sold out in minutes.
“If he performed every night of his life, tickets would still sell out. I think people lost sight of how many people really want to go,” Peterson said, as reported by U.S. News. Bieber’s latest album titled “Believe” was released in June and this is the singer’s first U.S. tour in nearly two years.
Scalpers or no scalpers, many fans were left in the dark and are now forced to pay much more than face value and many will likely become “non-Believer’s.” StubHub currently has 2,395 tickets available for Bieber’s November 28 show at Madison Square Garden. The most affordable tickets start around $125 each, but seeing the crooner up close will come at a steep price. Seats within the first 30 rows are listed for $700 each, or about seven times face value, according to U.S. News.