Sell-Out Secrets

By Tisha Thompson and Rick Yarborough
|  Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012  |  Updated 2:46 PM EDT
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The News4 I-Team reveals the secrets of

The News4 I-Team reveals the secrets of "sold out" concerts.

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You try to buy tickets to the hottest show in town, but it’s sold out before you can even log on. The News4 I-Team shows you what some of the biggest acts don’t want you to know.  Tisha Thompson exposes the sell-out secrets that have local venues saying it’s bad for business.

"We love Justin Bieber!!!"

There's nothing quite like Bieber Fever.

"I love Justin Bieber!"

Tweens and their mothers. Even fathers admit they're willing to pay almost anything to see the sold out D.C. show. 

"It's a lot. It's a lot."

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But then Alexis Charoensiri and Gabbi Druckenmiller from Manassas show us two tickets they had just purchased.  “$500 altogether and he said they're real,” Alexis says pointing to the tickets with the words “VOID” written across them.  “We went to turn them in and they're not."

Verizon Center General Manager David Touhey says this is what he dreads – fake tickets.  “We want people to be able to get in here,” he says.  “It’s tough when someone shows up who bought tickets from Craigslist and it’s not a reputable person who made copies of their tickets."

Touhey says it happens all the time.  But why?

Start with this startling fact - for an upcoming Bieber show at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, the News4 I-Team found only 1,001 tickets, just 7 percent, went on sale to the general public. 

Documents we obtained reveal nearly 73 percent went to pre-sales through American Express, Bieber's fan club and ultra-pricey VIP packages.

Nearly all the rest, including prime floor seats, went to Bieber and his support teams.  Spot every fan would like to be.

Tisha Thompson:  "They're sitting up in Section 400.  They see all these people sitting on the floor, did they ever have a shot at the floor?"
David Touhey:  "Yes."

The privately-owned Verizon Center wouldn't tell us how Bieber divvied up seats here in DC.  Bieber’s publicist did not return multiple phone calls or emails requesting comment.

Touhey says, on average, about 70 percent of tickets go on sale to the public, but that includes pre-sales through fan clubs and credit card deals.

But Touhey says it is up to the artist, and not the venue, to decide how many seats to hold back from the general sale.  Pointing to a map of a recent show at the Verizon Center, Touhey points to floor seats marked in yellow.  "Sometimes they might say, ‘I need twenty seats in the top price level,’ which in this case is all the yellow."

With so few seats available, almost everyone we talked to at the Bieber concert admitted they paid two to three times face value buying tickets on a secondary “resale site.”

As one mother told us, “My daughter sent me a thousand websites” and she tried to pick the best deal.

Seth Hurwitz says that "Is a bad part of our business that I personally think is killing our business."  The owner of the 9:30 Club, Hurwitz says resale sites are fueled by professional scalpers who use computer programs and teams of people to buy up tickets.  "The scalpers come and get a hold of these tickets and hijack them and they decide the ticket price.”

Hurwitz says, “I went to Capitol Hill about this” because what he really wants is for the federal government to get involved.  “This won't go away unless you make it illegal for people to sell tickets a certain percentage over face value. It will not go away."

Until then, all of our experts agree, if you use a resale site, you run the risk of buying a fake ticket.

"We were on a website, a ticket website, and the guy was selling them for $250."

Which brings us back to Alexis and Gabbi and their worthless tickets.

Then, out of nowhere, a mom named Wendy German interrupts our interview.

Wendy German:  "We have two tickets that are extra tickets and you guys can have them."
Gabbi Druckenmiller:  "Are you serious?"
Wendy German:  "Yea!"
Alexis Charoensiri:  "Thank you!”
Gabbi Druckenmiller:  “Thank you!"

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