Out in the Cold

Money money moneyIt’s overcast in Chicago. It’s mid-Spring and you wake up each day wondering if it’s going to be the most beautiful day you’ve ever seen or the gray overcast and piss rain Coldplay’s Chris Martin walked through in his band’s video for their breakout single “Yellow.” For Chicago fans hoping to score a ticket to Coldplay’s rare club appearance at the Metro, the weather called for shortshrift.

I hate ticket brokers. I hate them so much that it led to a very short, but very serious battle over advertisers here at GLONO HQ. [We decided against it, for now. – ed.] I think ticket brokers are killing live music in America. We can debate the merits and shortfalls of Capitalism until Lenin returns, but what it boils down to for me is sheer greed and that has killed more good in this world than any other deadly sin.


People lined up for hours, many overnight, for a chance to get a ticket to see Coldplay at the Metro, a 1,200-capacity venue. Whenever I hear about shows like this, the cynic in me rears up and forces me to sneer and scoff knowing full well that there’s no chance in hell more than a handful of those fans will get tickets at face value—if any at all. I’m sometimes lured into participating like when the Stones announced their theater date at the Aragon on this last tour (capacity: 3,700). But true to form, tickets were sold out within one minute of online sales start leaving ticket brokers as my only avenue—and at a cost that would have had me on my knees in unseemly locales throughout the city.

Saturday morning, according to the Chicago Tribune (Registration required) was no different. Despite their dedication and resolution, a mere 21 fans got tickets through the Metro’s box office. The rest went straight to brokers and within hours were listed at a staggering $540.

When I was a kid in Michigan, selling a ticket for more than its face value was called scalping and it was illegal and punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine. It was illegal because nobody involved with the event got a cut of the mark-up; not the artist, not his management, not the venue, not the promoter, none of them. Despite my repeated attempts, not one ticket broker in Chicagoland would respond to my inquiries for them to justify the practice of hording tickets to later sell them at hundreds of times the face value. If any brokers are reading this, we’d love to hear your side of the story.

And if any Illinois politicians are reading this, we’d love to hear why scalping is still legal in this state.

Previously on Glorious Noise: Find the Cost of Convenience, a first-hand account by one of those suckers who wait in line for tickets at the box office.

12 thoughts on “Out in the Cold”

  1. I loved your story. I was there at the metro waiting in line for 6 hours, there was just a mere 30 people in front of me. I am so outraged at this whole matter. I can’t understand what happened. I just hope the band is informed about this matter and I hope they will take the precautions to make sure this does not happen again.

    Thanks for writing this article, its great to inform the public about this.

    Josie

  2. Thank you as well for writing this. I too was in line starting at about 6am. I find it interesting that for System of a Down tickets which went on sale the day after Coldplay, the Metro has a laundry list of requirements for buying tickets–they were only sold at the Metro–only one ticket per person—the person that bought the ticket had to attend the show and they tracked that by handing out wristbands. Why wasn’t this done for Coldplay, a bigger act than System of a Down. It seems to me that everyone involved, including the band, knew that this was going to be an industry show and fans were probably not going to make it in.

  3. it’s surely a pain. i’m all for limitations and regulations when it comes to concerts, as janine listed for system of a down.

    is scalping legal, or is there a loop hole? i’ve been pinched for buying a cubs ticket outside the stadium by a person trying to unload a couple. so, do brokers hide behind some sort of loophole in illinois law that makes it legal for them to scalp tickets?

    it’s an unfair situation, to say the least. capitalism at it’s worst.

  4. Derek,

    Great article, great points and key questions that I have asked myself & others many, many times regarding ticket brokers. These brokers are absolute scum and they know it, which is why they will never present their side of the story. There is no side of the story other than “It’s capitalism and he who has the most money wins.” The real problem – as you point out – is that this is an entirely legal practice. The way to attack the problem is to outlaw ticket brokering which means rallying a politician to your cause. But, alas, the tickets sold through ticket brokers are subject to taxes (which ultimately results in a much larger amount going to the state/city than the original sale of the tickets). In effect, the city & state are getting money on the sale of the same ticket twice. Now, what politician is going to fight to constrict the flow of tax money to the state/city? And even if you could find a politician to support your cause, at some point it would almost certainly result in a court case and the ticket brokers have a lot more money to hire lawyers to fight court battles than you or I or John Q. TicketSucker. I don’t know where that leaves us… out in the cold hoping for a ticket, I guess.

    – John

  5. I think the way brokers get around the scalping law – at least how I’ve seen it done for sporting events in Canada – is that they include extra things in the price of the ticket (i.e., a paper thin, leathery steak sandwich served at a shitty bar and a ride to and from the show/event on a 1957 school bus). So their argument is that they’re not just selling you a ticket for the show/event but they are providing you with an entire evening out. Sounds reasonable don’t you think?

    Kind of reminds me of how back when I was a kid, the rumour was that it was easy to get away with scalping. Mr. Scalper just had to say he was selling you this lovely rock for $500.00 and as a bonus was going to throw in 2 tickets to the Iron Maiden show that was – as luck would have it – just about to start in the Coliseum directly behind where he was standing. Who knows if it actually worked though…..

  6. Herb,

    You get no extras when buying a ticket from a broker in Illinois. It is a licensed, legal business here. The Cubs actually took some PR shit a while back for owning their own ticket brokerage. They sold tickets to their own brokers and sold them at a mark-up over their own face value. Of course, technically, they were different companies, but they shared a parent company.

    If the Cub want to sell tickets for $300 a pop, then that should be what’s printed on the ticket.

  7. Hey That really really astoundly SUX!!!

    You need to hound your Attorney Gerneral and City Advocate…It won’t change without a lot of bi#%hing!

    But sicker still is that you have ads for ticket brokers on this PAGE!!

  8. Rose, we’re not fully responsible for the ads Google displays on our pages. But we’ll try to filter out the ads that are morally reprehensible. If you see ads you don’t think belong on this site, please let us know the address of the offending ad so we can try to block it. Thanks!

  9. The difference between a scalper and a broker is that a broker has a storefront or an office that makes him a legit business while a scalper will be at the venue just before the event selling a ticket. If the fans would just for a short time say “NO” to the brokers they would be out of work soon enough. Gee, imagine Springteen hitting the stage to a sold out crowd of 30! For the Paul McCartney show in Dallas coming up you could pre-order tickets from a broker for $299. But, as long as fans are willing to bend over for a ticket there will continue to be a sucker born every minute. Gee with all the stupid crap the feds are getting involved in, maybe they could amend the Constitution to not allow anyone to resell a ticket for more than 10% over face value.

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