Like so many teenage girls, Meredith Starrett has “Bieber fever.” She saved up a month’s worth of pay at her part time job to buy tickets to his July 18 concert in Hartford this summer.
"I would say I'm his biggest fan!" Starrett said.
The day tickets went on sale, Starrett and her mom Monica Katzen set up two computers and two cell phones to try to get a pair of tickets the moment they became available. After an hour of clicking and calling, they only managed to get one.
“It’s infuriating because you go on and try to get tickets and all that you can find is maybe one single ticket. By the time you reach five minutes after ten o’clock, the concert is pretty much sold out, except for a few single tickets,” Katzen said.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigated why and how tickets sell out so fast. To begin with, the odds are stacked against some fans.
According to documents for Bieber’s concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena in January, NBC found only 1,001 tickets went on sale to the general public, which was just 7 percent of the total seats available.
Nearly 73 percent went to pre-sales for Bieber’s official fan club. Membership costs 100 dollars a year. Tickets were also sold before the public on-sale date through expensive VIP packages and to American Express card holders.
Almost all the rest – including prime floor seats – went to Bieber, his record label and support teams.
Many times, these pre-sold tickets will show up on secondary ticket sites like Stub Hub at several times their face value.
“There's a breaking point,” Katzen, Starrett’s mom, said. “There does reach a point when too much is just too much.”
The XL Center, which hosts Bieber this July, declined our interview requests. We turned to Mohegan Sun Arena, which routinely holds popular sell-out concerts, like One Direction last December. .
Thomas Cantore, vice president of sports and entertainment at Mohegan Sun Arena, says more than 80 percent of their ticket for last December’s One Direction concert went on sale to the general public. When the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters asked him about ticketing allocations for upcoming concerts like Bon Jovi, he wouldn’t specify.
“The artist owns the show, it's their product, it's their room, their brand,” Cantore said. “They promote who they are and the control pretty much the show.”
Longtime WCCC radio host Mike Karolyi says what most fans don’t know is that the major ticket brokers are actually designed to help concerts sell out ultra-fast.
“It hurts the consumer more than anything,” Karolyi said. “Ticketmaster.com and LiveNation.com can handle about a thousand orders a minute. So if there’s an eight ticket limit, they could sell theoretically they could sell 8 thousand tickets. So within 2 minutes most of the arenas in the Connecticut area would be sold out.”
When NBC Connecticut asked Ticketmaster, they partially blamed the fast sell-outs on scalpers using automated ticket-buying ‘bots’ that aggressively purchase tickets on their site.
“Ticketmaster continues to invest in fighting scalpers with bots,” spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson said in a phone interview. “It's an arms race. So we invest in technology when we can and we cooperate with law enforcement to bring scalpers to justice.”
But what are super fans like Starrett supposed to do? One option: join artists’ official fan clubs. Some are free or relatively cheap, depending on the art. However, the biggest stars like Bieber get pricey.
Or, if you don't get lucky getting one of these seats online or by phone, experts say fans should be persistent and don't give up.
“The artist usually has production holds,” Cantore explained. “Production holds, as limited as they are, will come back into play the night of the show. even if the show is quote sold out, if you want to take the chance to come to our venue that night, chances are you might be some release tickets and you might be able to see the show.”
In the meantime, Starrett has a message for her pop idol Bieber: “I think he should make it somehow find a way to make it more fair for teenage girls like me to get tickets.”
Bieber and his publicist did not respond to multiple requests for comment.