Who’s to blame for the U2 fan club presale debacle? A Clearchannel representative points the finger squarely at U2’s management.
U2log.com has learned some interesting information from a Clearchannel representative who has been employed by the company for more than 15 years. This rep, whose job duties include reserving tickets for bands’ use, tells us that the quantity and location of the tickets held by bands for their personal use (i.e., for band guests, promotions, and fan clubs) are always approved in advance in writing by the band’s management. A seating map of each venue, indicating the precise location of band-reserved tickets, is sent to the band’s management to sign off on before remaining tickets are sold to the public.
In U2’s case, the Clearchannel rep believes that band management apparently reserved and approved tickets for ETS’ and American Express’ use, but failed to account for the fan club properly. She suggests that band management either did not pay attention to the number and location of the tickets reserved for the fan club presale as indicated on the venue seating maps sent for approval, purposely chose the worst and fewest number of tickets possible for the fan club presale, or forgot to reserve tickets for the fan club presale.
According to the Clearchannel rep, most bands have the power to acquire as many tickets for their own use as they want. In her experience, she has not seen the Ticketmaster rule that states no more than 8% of the venue may be sold during a presale enforced. She provided the example of the Dave Matthews Band reserving thousands of tickets for its fan club use without any challenge. If U2 wanted to reserve a good number of general admission and reserved tickets for the fan club presale, they definitely could have. (Note: Even at 8% maximum, a 17,000 seat arena would mean 1,360 band-reserved tickets, or 680 pairs. Even after backing out a couple hundred tickets for ETS and American Express, clearly far less than 1,000 tickets were sold to fan club members per show.)
Compounding the problem has been the theft of tickets by brokers. The Clearchannel rep explained that anyone who has access to a Ticketmaster computer terminal in an arena box office, a promoter’s box office, or ticket outlet can potentially break into the system and print tickets before public sales begin. Band-reserved tickets, however, are not in the system to steal, so brokers cannot access those tickets.
A report on Ticketmaster by New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer describes in detail how common it is for brokers to pay bribes to people who have access to ticket terminals. Bribery is how brokers were able to obtain and then publish images of actual tickets to U2 shows that have not yet been printed at eBay and other online auction web sites. The Clearchannel rep said theft of tickets by brokers is precisely why virtually every touring act today requests a set-aside for fan club use — to alleviate some of the scalping pressure on the most loyal fans.
The extraordinarily high number of tickets currently being offered by brokers is evidence that U2 management did indeed neglect to reserve an appropriate number of tickets for the fan club presale and explains why management has reclaimed the tickets originally set aside for ETS and American Express and why the fan club reserved seats are located in less desirable sections than on previous tours. Because U2 management failed to reserve a decent supply of tickets for the fan club, they actually helped brokers steal tickets from Ticketmaster by giving the brokers a greater supply of tickets from which to steal.
In his investigation, Attorney General Elliot Spitzer was able to obtain computer records pinpointing exactly when and which Ticketmaster outlets printed tickets ahead of published sales times. We hope that U2’s lawyers are demanding similar computer records from Ticketmaster to stop the brokers. We also hope that U2’s management will allocate a better supply of tickets for fan club presales in the future so that tickets can get in the right hands.