For the thousands of Hannah Montana fans out there (and their frustrated parents) who were left high and dry when tickets for the first major tour to date by 14-year-old Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah) were snapped up in record time last month, it felt criminal. How could they sell out in just a few minutes, and is it really fair that you now have to pay up to five times the face value for one of the golden tickets?
Well, a few states have been wondering the same thing, and now they're launching probes to see if there really was something illegal — or at least unfair — about how the tickets for the Best of Both Worlds Tour were distributed. But sadly, some industry experts told MTV News that while some rogues are taking advantage of young fans' enthusiasm, the lack of tickets is mostly a result of good old supply and demand.
When tickets for one of the hottest tours of the year, a 54-date arena juggernaut by the Disney Channel's reigning tween queen, went on sale last month, some venues told The Associated Press that they were snapped up in as little as four minutes. All 12,000 seats for the November 29 show at Memphis' FedExForum were gone in eight minutes, prompting a spokesperson for tour promoter AEG Live to compare the frenzy to the mania for another teen sensation from 40 years ago, the Beatles. The tour kicks off October 18 and, as of now, tens of thousands of disappointed teens — just a fraction of the 10 million viewers who tune in to watch "Hannah Montana" every week — will be shut out of their first chance to see Cyrus' alter ego live in concert.
Some stressed-out parents have resorted to calling venues and asking building managers whether there was some sort of "secret" way to get a hold of tickets.
Terri Nigrelli of Stafford, Virginia, a mother of 11-year-old and 16-year-old girls, knows the feeling. Her eldest was excited to attend her first concert as a birthday present in January, but even after Nigrelli's husband signed on at exactly 10 a.m. to purchase tickets when they went on sale a few weeks ago, they were instantly sold out.
"Our neighbor's husband joined the Hannah Montana fan club for $30 and was able to [preorder] four tickets at $70 a pop, but when my husband tried to buy them a few weeks later from Ticketmaster, no luck," Nigrelli told MTV News. As a result, the youngest is going along with her two neighbors and their mom, but the rest of the Nigrellis are shut out.
"Now my 16-year-old, who was the one who really wanted to go with her friends, can't go, and there wasn't even a chance to get her tickets, which is a bummer. We had no hope to begin with."
But according to AEG Live spokesperson Debra Rathwell, the reality is, for the most part, simple supply and demand. Rathwell explained to MarketWatch that if, for instance, there were 9,000 tickets available for a show at a venue, half of them would go to the Hannah Montana Fan Club, which gets first dibs, and the rest would be sold online through Ticketmaster, which also holds some back for VIPs and promotions. Of the approximately 4,200 still left for the public, when the clock starts for the online sale, an average crush of 172,000 people are logged on trying to get access. "We do everything we possibly can to try and make it as fair as possible," Rathwell said. "We're as guarded and protective as we could possibly be. We simply don't have enough tickets."
A Ticketmaster spokesperson said another factor is that for many kids, the Montana concert is probably their first, and for parents who've probably been out of the ticket-buying process for years or who haven't tried to get tix to such a hot show, it's a shock at how fast concerts sell out. And just because you sign on at 10 a.m., that doesn't mean you're guaranteed a ticket, because even if you can't see it, when you buy tickets online or over the phone, there's a line that's already formed, and you might be at the end of it.
Ticket resellers like StubHub and Craigslist have listed coveted tickets for up to $2,500 in some cases, with an average of $214, according to AP, well above the $26-$65 face value. That $214 average resale value puts budding superstar Cyrus well above the average for such established stars as Justin Timberlake ($182), Beyoncé ($193) and reunited rockers the Police ($209).
Part of the reason for the shortage of tickets is that sophisticated scalpers now use automated computer programs that can quickly snap up tickets online or flood ticket phone lines with numerous calls, blocking out potential fans. The other issue, according to promoters, is that because of Cyrus' age, additional concerts can't be added, a tactic many rock acts roll out when initial dates sell out to keep prices down and tickets out of scalpers' hands.
The situation was so bad in Missouri that Attorney General Jay Nixon announced on Thursday that he was filing lawsuits against three ticket brokers for scalping tickets above face value, a violation of city ordinances and state consumer-protection laws. On the same day, Ticketmaster announced that it would make about 1,000 more tickets available for the December 3 show in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Sprint Center.
Though Ticketmaster officials said only about 11,000 tickets were available for the show — with all but 4,000 going to fan-club members, suite holders and people connected to Cyrus — a number of tickets were later advertised for much more than face value, which led to about 30 complaints to the attorney general's consumer-protection division.
Nixon said Thursday he is also instituting new safeguards to stop scalpers from getting access to the additional tickets, such as a two-ticket limit and a requirement that the purchaser has to appear at the box office on the day of the show, and show picture ID and the credit card used to buy the ticket. "The entire ticket system was hijacked," Nixon said at a news conference near the Sprint Center.
The situation was no better in Connecticut, where there were also plenty of upset fans. That state's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, blames the fact that the state did away with its scalping laws. "Consumers are now at the mercy of ticket scalpers who can corner the market on tickets and then exercise monopolistic stranglehold power on the prices that tickets are sold," Blumenthal told local station WTNH.
In Arkansas, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel released a statement this week announcing a request for information from five ticket brokers in connection with the resale of Montana tickets. He said he's asking for the information to find out three things: 1) if tickets are being offered before they've even been printed by the promoter in order to gauge buyer interest; 2) to find out how, or if, resellers are using computer software to manipulate the Ticketmaster system and block fans from getting access to sales; and 3) to see if the companies are breaking the state's scalping laws regarding how much over face value can be asked for certain types of tickets.
McDaniels issued a consumer alert on September 21 in response to the rapid sellout, asking fans to make sure they knew who they were buying scalped tickets from to ensure they were legitimate.
"I have a young daughter, and I really wish I could fix this problem for all the parents with disappointed kids right now," McDaniel said in September. "However, what our investigation reveals thus far is that many of the tickets intended to be sold directly to Arkansas consumers were diverted to as-yet-unidentified bulk purchasers."