The Great Ticket Scandal

U2Literary.com Original 1.27.05

I didn't want to say anything right away out of fear of allowing my disappointment in not being able to buy a single ticket in the presale to cloud my judgement. The best arguments are done clinically and I didn't want this one to become bogged down with so much emotion, I'd feel sorry I'd written it later. I've taken a day or two to weigh everything out and look at the parts in the clear light of day, not through angry tears of disappointment.

I'm here now to defend the middle ground. And I'm going to start by stating what I am not now, nor will I ever, defend. Fan elitism is something I find disgusting. People asking for more shows or being angry they couldn't get general admission tickets for their 12th show would have me typing out miles of rants against these people. And there are people whose complaints I don't condone, now or ever, because of their trackrecords of elitist behavior. Because you've been a fan of a band for 20 years does not mean you deserve tickets to all or even any of their shows. You cannot blame anyone for your failures in anything, ticket-buying included. It's boring and helpless, a line the lazy seem to take up. It's like a poor man hating a rich man merely out of jealousy for the other's money.

But the U2.com presale went beyond standing, and I believe its faults are visible even to someone not caring or involved with U2 and their concerts. If it had been a matter of just tickets running out before everyone could buy something, I wouldn't say anything. There's no denying U2's a popular band, well beyond the confines of the freak fringe. The demand easily outstrips the supply and there is no conceivable way on this Earth, or any other, that everyone who wanted a ticket would get one, let alone get the tickets they wanted. It happened during the Elevation tour as well. Blame the quick sales (inconceivably lightning-quick sales) on the band's popularity. It's irrational to complain about that.

BUT this was at best a poorly run presale... or just a sale of any kind. Why did the site crash? Did they think people would slowly log in over the space of a few days? Didn't they have the Apache up and running to be able to handle the traffic? When it comes to U2, anyone in the ticket industry, even the janitor, should know it'll be a hot sell. Anybody. Why the surprise Ticketmaster and U2.com expressed at the "incredibly high" traffic? What, were they born yesterday? Did they all come down with amnesia and forget U2's still the biggest band in the world? Their inability to deal with the traffic brings into question their fitness to sell tickets at all, especially hot bands'.

And then there are the scalpers. It's a given, whenever there's demand, there will be someone looking to turn a profit. And given U2's popularity, it's only reasonable to believe there are people out there willing to pay top dollar and people willing to be unscrupulous to sell tickets to them. But it seems like what should be a fringe market for the very wealthy or very desperate, is rapidly becoming the norm. There are handfuls of brokers with hundreds of tickets. Where did they get them? I refuse to believe they signed in as U2.com members and bought them at the presale (though I'm sure a few of the small-timers did). That would make the vast majority of them extremely lucky and the vast majority of people looking to get tickets for themselves extremely unlucky. Luck's random. I don't believe luck works that way. Ticketmaster or someone else must be releasing blocks of tickets to these people, the best tickets, and hundreds and hundreds of them, not just the first row or the club boxes. This isn't business, this is a crime. Or it should be.

Imagine if the airlines worked like this. A ticket costs $300 round trip, but instead of buying from the airline (which sells maybe 7 tickets on the same plane in the back row next to the lavatories), you had to buy from a travel agent. And this travel agent went beyond charging a moderate service fee. They charged you instead $1500 for the ticket on the same plane in coach, not just first class. There would be outrage if that were the case. Imagine if movie tickets worked that way. No one would go to the cinema. So why are brokers legal or even tolerated? And not as a small outpost, but as the norm of how tickets are bought and sold? What is the music industry (already ailing) saying to the public, then? Who do they think buys their CDs? Oh, yeah, they think everyone *steals* everything, that's right. Imagine if other businesses treated you as criminals instead of customers, like a restaurant asking you to pay before you ate, and not a fast food place either. They wouldn't be in business for very long. And I'm not someone who believes in, "The customer is always right" either as I've seen so many cases where the customer has been very wrong and has too rarely been told they are. Congratulations to the Italian barista who told off a too-picky customer.

Why has no one taken it to Ticketmaster? Why is it featured as a small article on news wires occasionally and not as the form of mafia it really is. It's a legal rip off and no one has done anything about it. It's time they did. Why hasn't Rolling Stone taken a strong stance. Aren't the media the most powerful group of people in the world?

The entertainment industry is writing it's own death warrant where it's lost its reason for being and it more easily squelchs out an original voice for the hope of making more money more easily. They should just stop pretending and call themselves something like Money Pit or something more accurate. It's becoming less about entertaining anyone and more about getting the most money for the least amount of effort. They don't bother to grow bands or foster new voices or take any chances with someone's vision. They're going for the quick and easy, and as the cliche goes, "Easy come, easy go." I just wish there were more signs of a counterrevolt, or will it be another story of how the many were held captive by the few... like the current administration.

And then there's U2.com, and that's where it gets painful because now it's personal. They carry the stamp of legitimacy as being the band's official online presence. Once again, if this were just a matter of an ugly layout or not enough tickets to meet the demand of the irrational who want to see, like, 12 concerts (or even more than one), I wouldn't say anything about it. I'd tell the so-called fans to quit their bitching. But it doesn't stop there. Sadly.

They told people you'd have a good shot for tickets if you signed up. They collected either a $20 or $40 fee from thousands and said there were a lot of benefits that came with it even if everyone knew it was just the tickets everyone was after. And then, they shook hands with the devil... Ticketmaster. What I said before about everyone in the industry knowing U2 are a big band is reflected once again in that everyone in the industry must know Ticketmaster's less than optimal business practices. There weren't even close to enough tickets to go around. I sit here typing this without a hope in hell of seeing U2 in concert on this tour... or ever again. But once again, if that were the only problem, it wouldn't be worth mentioning. It would be a problem derivative to the band's popularity. But it isn't.

They took money. And that's where it's stung everyone. Right where it hurts. How can you charge people for the privilege of dealing with Ticketmaster? Everyone knows what an ordeal it is when you don't know the secret handshake. And then the technical problems were the topper. People couldn't even get in to try their luck. There are screen captures on the web of the error messages droves of people got. You'd think the entry fee was high enough to employ some people to run and dispense blocks of tickets to the fanclub itself, circumventing the corrupt ticketing giant. If I had paid $40 for the entry fee or had experienced any problems signing up, I'd be incensed, I think. They took money and no one right now is seeing any benefit from it. Nothing's been done better than the public onsale will be.

And why shake hands with the devil? Other bands have been vocal about their disgust with Ticketmaster, Pearl Jam being the biggest. But none of these bands has the heft and pull U2 does. It was a chance to take it to the Bastard's face and they didn't. They didn't. They could have done something and they did nothing, even going so far as to wash their hands of the whole thing. It leaves an ugly feeling inside.

So what of the band itself? So what of Bono, Edge, Larry, and Adam? Some people are personally flaming them. Should they? Is it really just bad management? Now this is where it gets really ugly because this is just where it hurts the most.

The band has been strangely absent. I admit seeing the earth from Olympus' heights must be hard through the haze of distance. Do they care about individual fans? No. Should they? Of course not. But about the general fan experience? Maybe, only because they have before and now, they seem strangely quiet. But then who's always been the band's voice, even going so far as to speak in the plural, cutting the others off? Bono. Ouch. Yeah, Bono. And this is where it gets agonizing.

He was everywhere for a while. Everywhere but with his band. Politicians et al listen to him not because he looks great in leather pants, but because he's a huge rock star and millions of people think he looks damn great in leather pants. That's why. His first job, and most important job is being a rock star. And somewhere along the way, he's forgotten it or taken it for granted, leaving his bandmates leaderless and without their sparkplug. The album suffered because of this. And I feel this ticket thing is somehow derivative to that. Lately it's Africa this and Africa that. It's gotten to the point where I want to yell, "SHUT UP! Just shut up!" I believe he does it out of a genuine concern and with the best possible intentions, but it's infected U2, the music, and what it means to be a rock star. Does this make me a bad person who cares more about stupid rock tickets than people dying in Africa? Maybe, but I do believe in a division of labor and remaining true to your definition of who you are. He cannot do both. He can't be a full-time rock star and a full-time poverty advocate. Two full-times cancel each other out. I not only feel I'm losing my rock star, but that U2's losing their Voice. A band needs a rock star to be great and they can only have one. He's their one and they need him around. They've all but admitted it.

So how does his absence affect the Ticketmaster fiasco? Would it make a difference? I hope it would, but we may never know because I feel his head isn't in it like it used to be. Am I blaming Bono for my inability to get tickets? I hope not. But they need to be together and focused as a band and have a hand, however distant, in any big venture, a tour being one of them. After all, playing music and playing it live is what they do best. Ticketmaster being a dirty ticket broker should be more their business than the number of people dying in Africa. Unfeeling? Bitchy? Sure. Maybe. But you don't have to be feeding the hungry directly every moment of every day to be of any use in this world. The best work is done by those who do what they do the best they can do it. And U2's a rock band and Bono's their rock star, and they aren't showing themselves as doing that the best they can at this point. They seem splintered and waiting, running around after their leader who's lost his way.

I hope someone takes it to Ticketmaster. I hope someone stands up to them and wins big. U2 didn't take that chance when the opportunity came and though I hate to say it, I blame them for their inactivity and what I feel is a betrayal to their primary identity of ROCK BAND.