Odds stacked against music fans

So, U2 tickets went on sale last week, and if you’ve noticed a sudden increase in the number of folks hobbling around the valley, it’s because so many of them gave an arm and leg to get some.

Primo seats went quick, despite carrying a hefty $253 price tag.

In the weeks leading up to the on-sale show, I had several people ask me about the best option for getting tickets, and I told them all the same thing: If you can muster the willpower, wait until the day of the show and try to buy tickets from someone reselling them.

Why? Because Las Vegas has become wracked by so much overspeculation when it comes to ticket sales that it’s all but impossible to get good seats through traditional means. And besides, tons of ticket dumping goes on here.

Back in the day, scoring choice concert tickets used to be something of a meritocracy. You’d get to the ticket window at dawn to be the first in line, and your efforts would generally be rewarded with the best seats.

Nowadays, the odds are so stacked against the consumer, it makes the Washington Nationals’ 1,000-to-1 shot to win the World Series look like a safe bet. The main culprit is pig-greedy bands and promoters who often auction off huge chunks of the best seats to ticket brokers before the general public ever has a chance at them. This is why shows will sell out instantly and yet at the very same time, hundreds of tickets suddenly become available at various online ticket resale sites at two or three times the price (if you’re lucky).

But in Vegas, all of this frequently backfires, as people constantly seem to overestimate the real drawing power of this market. Take Britney Spears’ disastrous, 15-minute House of Blues gig a few years back, where scalpers gobbled up tix only to be literally giving them away shortly before the half-empty show. Last year, Miley Cyrus tickets were hotter than July, and three shows at the MGM Grand sold out, but there were almost as many ticket sellers as fans outside the venue before the show started, trying desperately to peddle their wares. When the Spice Girls hit Mandalay Bay in 2007, the gig I reviewed was technically sold out, and yet large swaths of the lower bowl were empty, probably because people didn’t want to pay inflated resale prices.

And it’s still going on to this day.

Check out Stubhub.com, and you’ll see how rampant the speculation is and how it drives up already high Vegas prices. On Spears’ current tour, the Vegas tix cost more than any other market save for Uncasville, Conn., with an asking price ranging from $92 to $7,500 at the time of this writing. On Metallica’s fall tour, again the band’s Vegas show is pricier than any other American market but one, Nampa, Idaho, and there are four times as many tickets available for their Mandalay Bay concert than in some other, bigger cities.

Basically, local concertgoers can’t win. The odds are with the house. Sound familiar?

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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