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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 22, 2006

U2 tickets a hot commodity online

 •  Guard against Internet ticket fraud

By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Proliferating Internet marketplace sites are making it easier to buy and sell event tickets, albeit at a much higher price.

MARTHA P. HERNANDEZ | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Average price for U2 tickets on StubHub.com


San Francisco


Los Angeles


New York City




Honolulu (for April 8)

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This year’s Pro Bowl is one the top draws in Honolulu for scalpers on StubHub.com, a ticket marketplace that says business has never been better.

1. 2006 Pro Bowl, Feb. 12

2. USC-UH game, Sept. 2005

3. U2, April 8

4. Jimmy Buffett, April 2005

5. Eagles, Dec. 2005

Source: www.StubHub.com

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Aloha Stadium will prohibit scalpers from selling tickets to U2's April 8 concert on its property, but fans desperate for seats can look online, where a brisk market is developing.

They just need to be prepared to pay as much as 10 times more than face value.

As of late last week, some of the best reserved seating was available at $1,770 from Internet resellers and marketplaces. The same seat sold for $165 when 35,000 tickets went on sale on Jan. 14.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets for the Dublin, Ireland-based band's show, anticipated to be the biggest concert in the Islands this year, are being re-offered online at sites like eBay, StubHub.com and FriendlyTickets.com. The Internet has made it easier for ticket brokers to do business, while giving individuals and scalpers a chance to make a quick profit.

Among the sellers on eBay was Bill Aman, a Mainland U2 fan who started reselling the band's tickets last year when he ended up with a pair of disappointing seats during a pre-sale event for fan club members.

That led him to check resale prices on eBay, where people were turning around and reselling some tickets for more than double.

"I was blown away," Aman wrote in an e-mail. Later, when ticket sales were opened up to everyone through Ticketmaster, he and a friend bought up $2,000 worth and began reselling them on eBay.

"In the end, we made enough money for all of us to go to that show ($724 for four seats next to the stage) and an extra couple hundred dollars to go out to dinner beforehand," Aman said in a message.

Some O'ahu residents also have the same thing in mind, having bought tickets for what is one of the fastest-selling concerts in Honolulu's history. All but 1,000 seats were gone within 45 minutes of the show going on sale, said Patrick Leonard, spokesman for Aloha Stadium.

How much profit they'll make, if any, may depend on whether the band's concert promoters add another show. As of Friday, they hadn't.

A Honolulu resident going by the eBay screen name of Bowen5310 last week offered four choice tickets for $1,600. In an e-mail, he said he stood in line for them at a Ticketmaster counter at a Times Supermarkets location.

"Right now, it looks like people are waiting to see if a second show will be announced," Bowen5310 said, responding to an e-mail inquiring about response to his sale. "If not, tickets should go for a lot."

Reselling of tickets isn't illegal in Hawai'i, though venues such as Aloha Stadium, the Neal S. Blaisdell Center and the Waikiki Shell don't allow it on their properties. Online is a different story, with tickets available to almost any hard-to-get seat you can imagine, even the venerated Merrie Monarch Festival.

The list includes the Feb. 12 Pro Bowl (as much as $420 each for prime sideline seats on Tick etTriangle.com, compared to a face value of $150), Jimmy Buffett's concert last April, and the USC-UH football game.

"It's part of the market that's irritating," said Barbara Saito, general manager for Tom Moffatt Productions, Hawai'i's largest concert promoter. "But until people stop patronizing these types of places, they're not going to go away."

People buying from scalpers and fraudulent resellers run the risk of buying counterfeit tickets. Rolling Stone magazine reported 250 people for U2's Boston concerts last year got bogus tickets from sellers online.

Nationally, the ticket resale market for concerts, sporting events, stage shows and other events is estimated to be about $10 billion, about $2 billion of which is online, said Sean Pate, spokesman for San Francisco-based StubHub.com, a ticket marketplace. He said the online segment may be growing at 50 to 60 percent annually, while more traditional means, such as hawking tickets in front of arenas and placing ads on bulletin boards, is growing by 10 to 15 percent a year.

That's got the attention of major corporations and StubHub's marketing partners, including several NFL and NBA teams, AOL, and artists as diverse as Coldplay and Jessica Simpson.

Late last week there were 935 tickets for U2's Honolulu concert listed on StubHub, 480 on eBay and 730 on TicketTriangle.

StubHub makes its money from commissions. Sellers pay StubHub 15 percent of a ticket's purchase price, while buyers pay 10 percent. EBay's seller charges vary depending on the sales price.

Tickets for Honolulu concerts usually sell for less than tickets in larger markets, and resellers face disaster when artists add shows, said David Cabrera, vice president of marketing for Petaluma, Calif.-based ticket broker FriendlyTickets.com.

"We got crushed on the Eagles," said Cabrera, who brokered about 40 seats to the shows. He remembers taking a loss on a pair of second-row seats that cost him $270 each. When the Eagles doubled the number of Honolulu shows to four, he was forced to sell the pair of tickets for $180.

Cabrera said to make a profit on tickets for three American Idol concerts here in September 2004, he had to fly to Honolulu and spread word among hotel concierges that he had tickets. He also hawked some of the front-row seats he had on the street before the shows.

Prices for the U2 show ranged widely on the Web late in the week. FriendlyTickets.com, a site trying to build a name as having the lowest prices, had tickets ranging from $250 to $1,770 for reserved seats directly facing the stage in the stadium's orange section. The seats for $250 were from Cabrera's own inventory and cost him about $185. Higher-priced tickets were from other brokers who listed on his site, he said.

As of late last week Cabrera thought the resale prices for U2 in Honolulu will likely drop. He said his company, FriendlyTick ets.com, didn't buy as many tickets as it could have for the U2 show, given his knowledge of Hawai'i and prior experience.

For other, larger cities Cabrera obtained as many as 300 floor tickets sought by fans wanting to get close to the band. For Ho-nolulu, he bought about 100 of the $49.50 floor tickets and resold them last week for $75.50 each.

U2 reserved-seat prices jumped from $450 to $900 in 24 hours for one of the band's San Francisco dates, Cabrera said. Some Rose Bowl tickets surged to $2,500 the day of the game.

Cabrera says despite losing money on some events, he and others in online ticket brokering see the business growing.

"It's substantial," said Stub Hub.com's Pate, noting his site has about 1.1 million tickets for sale on an average day. "The spread of the Internet has facilitated a new outlet for people to buy and sell tickets."

Reach Greg Wiles at gwiles@honoluluadvertiser.com.