By Steve Jones, USA TODAY
September 14, 2009
When Miley Cyrus hit the road two years ago, many of her young fans’ parents were outraged that they couldn’t get tickets without paying exorbitant prices to scalpers or resellers. Cyrus hopes to fight that inflation this time around by going paperless with her 45-city Wonder World tour that kicks off tonight in Portland, Ore.
The paperless tickets, which are purchased online through Ticketmaster, require the buyer to provide ID at the venue and swipe the same credit card for entry. The method has been tried out by other tours in recent months, but hers is the first arena tour to admit all concert-goers using the system.
Cyrus’ 2007-08 Best of Both Worlds tour grossed $55 million and sold 1 million tickets, according to Billboard Boxscore.
“Miley’s (management) thought it was a great way for real Miley fans to get original tickets and pay face value,” says David Butler, president of Ticketmaster North America. “That’s something she wanted to do for her fans to keep the price reasonable,” in the $40 to $80 range.
Ticketmaster started offering the service about four years ago to sports teams. Acts such as AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen have used it recently for high-end seating. In all, Butler says more than 300,000 paperless tickets have been sold this year.
“We started it as a convenience for the fans, similar to the model the airlines follow,” Butler says.
It has worked so well at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock that the venue had the equipment permanently installed. “We’ve done eight or nine concerts,” including Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney, says general manager Michael Marion, who says response has been largely positive. “We’ve used it only for the prime seats, but it works well.”
Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert trade publication Pollstar, says it remains to be seen how fans will react as the practice becomes widespread. He says paperless doesn’t allow tickets to be sold or transferred, which is a problem for people who need to unload them at the last minute, or must take their kids to the show to get them in.
“There are some less-than-friendly customer aspects to it, and there (could) be some blow-back from that,” he says.
And there’s anecdotal evidence that resellers aren’t being frozen out entirely.
“I’ve heard stories of ticket brokers throwing (pre-show) parties, then walking everybody to the arena and getting them in with the credit card they used,” Bongiovanni says. “If there’s a way to game the system, the brokers are going to find it.”