British Columbia·In Depth

Paul McCartney Vancouver: good luck getting tickets

Pre-sales, online 'bots, and a lack of transparency have all become part of the often frustrating experience in buying tickets to in-demand concerts.

Pre-sales, online 'bots and a lack of transparency all part of the often frustrating ticket buying experience

Paul McCartney performs at First Niagara Center, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015 in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

The last time Paul McCartney was in Vancouver he thrilled 40,000 fans at BC Place by pulling the Delta Police Pipe Band on stage for an encore performance of Mull of Kintyre and singed the retractable roof with fireworks.

It was the first time he played Vancouver since being here as a Beatle in 1964, but he's now coming back for two shows in April at Rogers Arena and tickets are set to go on sale for the general public on Monday at 10 a.m. PT.

But don't get too excited because the chance of you getting a ticket could be slim.

"It might be too late already," said Pascal Courty, an economics professor at the University of Victoria who studies the ticket re-selling industry

Gone are the days when everyone had to buy tickets in person at a box office because most, if not all, of that business has moved online.

In addition, not all tickets are made available at the same time. For example, many tickets are released for pre-sale events like American Express's Front of the Line service for card holders.

Vancouver Canucks season ticket holders in club seats — some 2,200 of them — get a window to purchase tickets before the general public.

There is also a long list of other ways to jump the queue such as radio station contests, fan clubs and other business agreements for tickets with the promoter of the concert.

"It used to be called the 'ice,' " said Courty, referring to these kinds of tickets.

"It's all these tickets that are sold that are never really offered for the person that just showed up at the ticket booth."

Kingsley Bailey wants Ticketmaster to be more transparent when it comes to how tickets are distributed. Bailey manages the re-selling business,

"I've been saying this from the beginning of time. There needs to be transparency because if there's not transparency, you don't know exactly what tickets are going on sale to the general public, what's going on in pre-sale, anything like that," he said.

"So for the average fan they're going to be hooped if there's that much demand."

Tickmaster did not respond to a request from CBC News to provide the number of tickets allotted to pre-sales and promotions and those available to the general public for the McCartney concerts in Vancouver.

When tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, there's a good chance many sitting and waiting with their fingers hovering over the 'buy' button will learn within minutes that the shows are sold out, only to see tickets appearing for sale on sites like StubHub or Craigslist at inflated prices.

As of this weekend, there are about 3,000 tickets already re-selling on Stubhub for anywhere between about $82 for a 'nosebleed' seat behind the stage, to $6,600 for a floor seat in the first row.

Another problem is some re-sellers use software — also known as 'bots — that automatically buys tickets the second they go on sale, before a human can make a purchase.

Evan Kelly, with the Better Business Bureau, which services the Lower Mainland, says 'bots are a problem.

"We certainly understand that this is an issue with ticket 'bots ... that are essentially scalping up a lot of tickets and then charging more money,"  Kelly said.

'Fixed game'

In January, a New York State inquiry into ticket sales prompted by frustrated consumers, blamed ticket robot software, which some re-sellers use to scoop up tickets.

The inquiry called ticketing a "fixed game," and found that consumers are regularly prevented from buying tickets at reasonable prices if at all.

Investigators also found that third-party brokers like StubHub and TicketsNow sold tickets,on average, for 49 per cent above face-value and, at times, more than 10 times the price on the ticket.

"The problem with scalping, even just traditional scalping and even to a degree the ticket bot way is that it is very tough to police and at the end of the day, if you've got an Adele ticket that you paid $100 dollars for and someone offers you $4,000 for it, what are you going to do?" asked Kelly.

(Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

Even before pre-sale tickets went on sale for Paul McCartney in Vancouver, nearly 500 of them could be bought on StubHub.

The company said in an e-mail to CBC News that it allow sellers to list tickets in advance of actually having them but does "hold every seller accountable to fulfil their orders as listed in StubHub's user agreement."

"StubHub has several safeguards in place to keep the process smooth and safe, and backs every ticket with our Fan Protect Guarantee," wrote Cameron Papp, StubHub's communications manager.

Meanwhile Courty says that technology has had a dramatic impact on ticket sales, and legislators often struggle to figure out what to do about it because reselling remains legal in B.C.

But for fans, he encourages them not to give up hope.

"You really have to search a bit more and be aware of these other opportunities and just waiting for the event might not be enough," he said.


Chad Pawson is a CBC News reporter in Vancouver. You can contact him at

with files from Chris Corday and Richard Zussman


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?