The excitement of getting a chance to see one of The Tragically Hip’s final shows quickly deflated on Friday afternoon—even as three different people at the Townsman office sat at their computers, enthusiastically working the Ticketmaster website when tickets were released at 10 a.m.
Those same three people shouted frantically as the website opened up, but all that soon turned to despair in minutes as hearts started to sink faster than New Orleans with an error message explaining that no tickets were available.
One Townsman employee, a member of the Tragically Hip fan club, also couldn’t get tickets on two separate pre-sale days, going through the same experience of logging on to Ticketmaster, before tickets sold out in under a few minutes.
Oh, well. Right?
It’s the Hip’s final Canadian farewell tour following the tragic revelation of lead singer Gord Downie’s incurable brain cancer. With a career spanning over three decades with 13 studio albums to their name and dozens of hit singles, the group has established itself as one of Canada’s most treasured artists, both at home and abroad.
That explains the frenzy for getting ahold of tickets for their farewell tour, however, there’s a darker underside to the story as well.
No more than 20 minutes after tickets were released by Ticketmaster, the scalpers were posting tickets up on websites such as Stubhub at prices double, triple or higher than the original selling rate.
As for how tickets could sell so quickly, one likely explanation is bots—software programs resellers use that can make hundreds of transactions per second.
Normally, one would laugh at scalpers for jacking up the price, but with the very real possibility of this being the last tour by Downie and the Hip, they are using supply and demand to make a tidy profit.
Scoop up as many tickets as possible, inflate the price as high as the market will bear, and make money.
It’s simple supply-side economics.
However, with the context of Downie’s cancer diagnosis and the very real possibility that the Hip will never play a show after this tour, fans are—quite rightly—livid with what ticket resellers are doing.
Profiteering off of a terminally ill musician is about as low as one could go.
You know the public is choked when concert ticket sales get brought up by politicians, as the Vancouver Sun quoted BC NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Hebert calling the situation “gross.”
According to the Sun’s article, Chandra Hebert has sent a letter off to Suzanne Anton, the B.C. Justice Minister to investigate the issue of price-gouging in ticket sales.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also asked about the issue of ticket pricing fairness at an event at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, according to a recent CBC article.
The article further stated that Trudeau said the government would be willing to follow up on the issue, and that the music and ticket industries “ought to be able to police themselves.”
Those are good soundbites, but as an issue, it’s something the provincial and federal governments don’t really have any legislative control over. Supply and demand still have the rule of the land, but it will be interesting to see how many people are willing to shell out $500 for a single ticket in the nosebleed section.
But it’s still hard not to be frustrated.
The Hip put on a great show when they came through Cranbrook in January 2013. Downie was mesmerizing at the forefront of the band, while Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair and Johnny Fay ran through the group’s extensive catalogue of hits and rocked out Western Financial Place as part of their Now For Plan A tour, in support of their album of the same name.
Now fans are left feeling so hard done by as ticket prices via resellers are beyond reasonable for their 15-stop Man Machine Poem tour.
That is fully, completely disheartening.