British Columbia

Tragically Hip fans cry foul after presale tickets scooped up in minutes

Presale tickets sold out quickly for the Tragically Hip's farewell tour, only to show up minutes later on resale sites.

Band adds 4 more tour dates in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto 'due to overwhelming demand'

Gord Downie, the charismatic frontman for the Tragically Hip, announced last week he has terminal brain cancer, and will join bandmates on a farewell tour this summer. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Many fans hoping to grab presale tickets to the Tragically Hip's farewell tour this morning found disappointment instead, with tickets selling out quickly then appearing minutes later at a massive markup on resale sites.

Tickets to the summer tour, which begins July 22 in Victoria, went on sale at 10 a.m. local time this morning to registered users of the band's fan club who got a presale code by email.

Demand was high for this last opportunity to see the iconic Canadian rock band, whose lead singer Gord Downie announced last week he has terminal brain cancer.

But fans cried foul when they found no tickets available for some shows on Ticketmaster within minutes — even though tickets were already being resold on StubHub.

In Vancouver, for example, at 11 a.m. PT, all the Ticketmaster tickets for the July 24 show were gone, but nearly 100 floor seats were being offered on StubHub for between $237 and $2,799 US per ticket.

The original prices were between $116 and $166 Cdn for the same seats, according to Ticketmaster's website.

The Tragically Hip have won 14 Junos during their career, played countless sold-out shows over three decades, and even have their own postage stamp. (Canadian Press)

'Scalpers suck' write fans

Backlash on social media was swift, and has prompted reaction from the San Francisco-based reseller StubHub, which is owned by eBay.

"Scalpers suck," wrote fan Meg French on the band's Facebook page. "Wish I could see you one more time, but the tickets available on StubHub moments after the presale started are already too rich for our blood."

The band's management company, Eggplant Entertainment, said it was aware of the complaints, but directed further questions to Live Nation, the parent company for Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster has not responded to a request for comment from CBC News.

In a brief statement on Twitter Monday, StubHub told fans it would be making a donation to the Sunnybrook Foundation, to support brain cancer research.

The company did not directly address fan complaints, but thanked them for "reaching out" about the Tragically Hip tour.

"As a free and open marketplace, StubHub is committed to ensuring fans have access to buy and sell tickets to the events they want to see," it wrote.

In an email to CBC News, StubHub representative Shannon Kelly said, "With this type of demand, it is not unusual to see a high asking price point for tickets right away as is associated with a traditional supply and demand marketplace."

"The asking prices you see on our site now are just that — asking prices — and we often see these come down as we get farther from the on-sale days and closer to the events," the email continued.

Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip sings during a 2003 Toronto performance. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

'Fixed game,' says report

Complaints about concert ticket sales are nothing new.

In January, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called ticketing "a fixed game," after a multi-year investigation sparked by citizen complaints.

A report from his office described how some ticket brokers use specialty software — known as ticket bots — to automate the process, "perform[ing] hundreds or thousands of transactions simultaneously."

The report cited a single broker buying 1,012 tickets within one minute to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 8, 2014.

"As a result, in the first moments after tickets to a top show go on sale, bots crowd out human purchasers and can snap up most of the good seats."

The report also noted how ticket resellers, like StubHub and TicketsNow, have an average markup of 49 per cent above face value — at times reaching 10 times the original price.

More shows announced

In a note this morning, the Tragically Hip thanked fans for their support and added four more shows to the Man Machine Poem Tour "due to overwhelming demand" for presale tickets.

The new dates are:

  • July 26 in Vancouver at Rogers Arena.
  • July 30 in Edmonton at Rexall Place.
  • Aug. 3 in Calgary at Scotiabank Saddledome.
  • Aug. 14 in Toronto at Air Canada Centre.

Presale tickets go on sale for those shows tomorrow, again at 10 a.m. local time, through the same process where fan club members receive a presale code by email.

Canadian rock band the Tragically Hip, circa 1988. (Canadian Press)

Shut-out fans shared their laments on Twitter.

With files from Jeremy Allingham, Nicholas Boisvert and Sian Jones