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This is for all those fans pissed off that Elton John’s concerts sold out in seconds

Earlier this year, Elton John announced a long goodbye, a farewell world tour that is scheduled to include 300 (!!!) shows. That’s a lot, but given that we’re talking about one of the best-selling male singers of all time, it’s not a surprise that demand for tickets was going to be off the charts.

BlogTO has a story on angry Toronto fans who tried to get tickets for both Air Canada Centre shows. Here are some quoted tweets:

Sorry, folks, but this is the reality of the concert ticket business.

I dissected the whole issue in a series of articles for Global News (go here, here and here to read them). If you waited until 10 am on the day tickets went on sale to the general public, you just set yourself up to be disappointed and angry. Here’s why.

  1. The demand for big shows like this is always going to exceed the number of available seats. It’s the invisible hand of the marketplace at work.
  2. We don’t know exactly how many tickets were available for those Air Canada shows. If the stated capacity of the arena is, say, 15,000 for a concert, you can bet that about half of those were off the table to begin with. They went to VIP programs (think American Express’ Front of the Line), promotions (like giveaways for radio stations and other media outlets), holdbacks (tickets set aside for the artist, the record label, the promoter and the venue) and members of Elton John’s fan club (fan clubs routinely get the first crack at tickets).
  3. Sure, ticket-buying bots will soon be illegal in Ontario, but the last time I looked, the Internet extended beyond the province’s borders. Bot farms can be located anywhere on the planet and operators were especially keen to get their hands on Elton John tickets. Farewell tours by major artists always command top dollar on the secondary market.
  4. Don’t complain about scalpers. The price for a ticket on the secondary market better reflects the REAL market price based on supply and demand, just like any other commodity. Artists and promoters still charge too little for a ticket. That’s partly a strategy to (a) make sure the shows sell out; and (b) not look like they’re gouging fans.
  5. And don’t freak that prices on StubHub are as high as $6K. If there’s a sucker willing to pay that, good for them. But if there isn’t, then the marketplace dictates that price will come down before the show starts. It’s capitalism at its purest.

Now what?

  • Try again in the weeks leading up to the show. Holdbacks are a fluid thing and additional tickets are sometimes released in blocks when it’s determined that the artist, the promoter, the label. the venue, the fanclub or VIP partners don’t need as many as they thought.
  • Promoters often release only a preliminary number of tickets on the first general on-sale day so they can (a) crow about the tour being an instant sell-out, thereby scoring major publicity; and (b) release new blocks of tickets later, claiming “due to unprecedented demand!”
  • The most accurate price gauge of a concert ticket is what’s offered on secondary sites 48 hours before the show. That’s when these sites see the most transactions. Prices can move wildly.

Okay, fine. How could you have given yourself a better chance at getting tickets when tickets went on sale to the general public? First rule: DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE GENERAL PUBLIC ON-SALE DATE!

Instead, get an AMEX card. Sign up for the artist’s fanclub for insider information/pre-sales. Find a radio station listener club that’s offering pre-sale codes. And if Ticketmaster offers a “Verified Fan” option for a show, register in advance.

None of the above will ensure that you get tickets, but it will give you a running start.

And remember: No one, no matter how big a fan, has a RIGHT to buy concert tickets. It’s every person for themselves.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38573 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “This is for all those fans pissed off that Elton John’s concerts sold out in seconds

  • I had a completely different experience buying an Elton John ticket. I too tried to buy a ticket on TM the second they went on sale to the public, and not only was I able to buy a ticket, I had time to do a few searches to decide what ticket I wanted. Maybe it’s because I only bought 1 ticket.

    • In my case, I registered for that Verified Fan pre-sale and chose the two Toronto shows and Quebec City, which will be on Saturday, September 29. Initially, I was on the waitlist. On Tuesday, January 30 at 12:33 PM, however, I got a text, telling me I’m off the waitlist and got a code and the link to a show I registered for that pre-sale. That show ended up being Quebec City, but I then wondered if I could use that code for the Toronto show, which I was fortunately able to do so. After some searching, I finally went and bought a ticket for his Toronto show on Wednesday, September 26, the 2nd of two shows. I only bought one because I couldn’t get two together. I will be in Section 307, Row 7 and my ticket cost $82 with the fees. Considering how much tickets in the secondary market cost and how much other concerts are today, it’s a bargain. I wish things went differently, but it’s better than nothing.

  • I tried to get some during the presale, and even then, pickings were extremely slim, with only the ultra VIP packages (over a grand a ticket) left. If the pre-sale had snapped up that many tickets, I can’t say I’m surprised not many were left at the actual onsale date.


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