Why concert tickets can be so hard to get - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Why concert tickets can be so hard to get

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Here's a question: How can thousands of seats sell out at a concert again and again in just a few minutes? It is the performer or something else?

It's not all about supply and demand. There is a secret to buying the best seats at concerts and some of your favorite bands may be in on the buy.

We asked the first fans to line up for the Alicia Keys concert at the Tampa Bay Times Forum about how they bought their tickets.

"You could look at the seat and see what's available on the map so I liked it," said Bridgette Fowlers.

A funny thing happened though, when the Fowlers checked the seat chart. The best seats were sold out.

"The first level was. I think my tickets were on the second level," she said.

Right when tickets went on sale, Felix Valentine logged on. Even then his seats weren't the best.

"It wasn't as close as we'd like," he said.

To get close, you'll pay a big mark up from the price listed on the ticket. Just ask Donna McBridge.

"We don't need that mark up pushed on to our community," she said.

McBridge fights the good fight against ticket scalping at the Straz Center in Tampa.

The non-profit sells tickets priced between $40 and $80, but good luck paying that for a big show.

"We had Jerry Seinfeld here. I printed out some of the prices for the broker sites," she said.

Some scalper seats sold for as much as $300 for an $80 ticket, despite the Straz's low-cost commitment. They were duped by computer software.

"Our tickets were actually being bought up by scalpers and internet brokers using software that's called bots," McBride said.

The software can interfere with the online buying process, blocking live customers who are often the first fans who log on right away. Scalpers rack up the best seats selling out the show then resell the seat at two or three times the price.

Getting affordable tickets to a big show like Justin Bieber can be nearly impossible. It turns out the secret of the concert business is there are actually very few tickets for sale to every day people.

We obtained copy of Justin Bieber's ticketing instructions for a show in Nashville from our sister station FOX 5 in Atlanta. Bieber played the Bridgestone arena, which offers 14,000 seats -- but only 1,000 were made available to the general public.

Elizabeth Owen is a consultant for Fan Freedom Project, an organization putting a spotlight on ticketholder rights.

"There are thousands of tickets held back for every concert, and people like you and me, we get the leftovers," Owen said.

At Justin Bieber's Nashville show, 93 percent of the tickets were set aside, including nearly 6,000 for American Express cardholders, and almost 3,000 for fan club members.

It's these tickets that can end up with scalpers. Three hundred of those hard-to-get Justin Bieber tickets, the arena documents show, were "on hold" for the tour itself. But just after tickets went on sale, they were found on re-sale ticket sites from scalpers.

Dean Budnick co-authored "Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped." He says in this case, Beiber's team may have scalped its own tickets.

"It was pretty clear if you looked at the inventory set aside, much of it then went on sale on the secondary market, that the tour itself was doing that," Budnick said.

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