1.26.05 - groovevolt.com
Tickets for the North American and European legs of U2's forthcoming Vertigo tour were pre-sold to members of the band's fan club Tuesday morning (January 25); however, instead of looking forward to the kickoff of the tour in San Diego, California, thousands of fans are up in arms over the way in which the presale was conducted after being shut out and they have jammed U2 message boards to express their displeasure.
U2 fans who paid the band's fan club for a membership late last year were told that the membership would allow them to gain priority access to tickets, including the coveted low-priced General Admission tickets that proved so popular on the band's Elevation tour.
The band's organization emailed patrons a personalized password late last week along with links to a page from which fans could choose a specific show. Unfortunately, when fans attempted to link to the page this morning, many were unable to get through.
Though this is far from typical (a fact to which those who have dealt with Ticketmaster in the past can attest), the problems did not end when fans arrived successfully at a purchasing page. Those lucky enough to arrive at a purchasing page discovered quickly that the allotment of coveted GA seats was sold out (in less than one minute for most shows.)
This left those interested in General Admission seats with the option of purchasing more expensive tickets (which ranged from $98 to $165) or waiting for the public on-sale. Those who chose to search for more expensive tickets ran into some problems that have plagued Ticketmaster ever since they began selling tickets online: Passwords that did not work, pages that froze, interminable waits, and transactions that were mysteriously canceled even after the sale appeared to go through.
Even those who purchased tickets successfully reported that there were significant problems with the ticketing system. A number of buyers reported that the Ticketmaster seating charts they consulted during the purchase were changed later in the day and fans who thought they had prime seats next to the stage (at a cost of more than $175 each including service charges) found themselves in the back corner of the arena. Others pointed out that the seats that were offered were often the worst in the house.
U2 fan Emily Worth summarized the feelings of many of supporters of the band. "U2 backed out on a promise to their most loyal fans," she said. "We joined the U2.com fan club under the premise that we would have priority ticket buying. Well, I'm a member of the fan club, but [three] hours after the pre-sale began, I am still ticketless. U2 have clearly not allotted for enough tickets to accommodate the fan club members. This treatment is unethical and has hurt the people that have funded the band's career for the past 25 years."
This ticketing snafu especially distressed those members of the fan club who were previously members of Propaganda, the band's fan club, which handled ticket distribution for years before closing after the conclusion of the last tour. In the past, ticket sales were handled in much the same way that bands like Pearl Jam handle fan-club ticket sales: Prior to public ticket sales, fan club members received a letter listing the forthcoming tour dates. Fans would then check off the show (or shows) they wanted to see and sent in money for the tickets.
For this tour, U2.com took over the fan club and associated presale chores and attempted to use Ticketmaster and Fanfire to coordinate the sale. Longtime fans were especially distressed. On the message boards at interference.com, U2 fan adenoid_hynkel wrote, "The band took a reliable fan-friendly service like Propaganda and replaced it with a poorly-managed company."
And it wasn't just North American fans that were served poorly today. European fans encountered similar problems went tickets went on sale this morning. At the band's official Web site, u2.com, the following message was posted.
European members have been buying tickets since 10am GMT this morning and some fans have let us know that they have experienced some frustrating technical problems.
Ticketmaster have expressed their apologies to fans who were frustrated in the booking process - and are contacting all U2.Com European Members who failed to book their tickets to explain how they can still do this well within the presale window.
"With tickets available at all venues, we are confident that all those affected by the problem today will have been able to purchase tickets." reads the Ticketmaster statement. "Once again Ticketmaster would like to apologise to those affected by the problem today. Ticketmaster is committed to offering the best possible service and we can assure customers that once we became aware of the problem, we took every possible step to ensure a quick and efficient solution."
Fans of the band have reacted loudly and swiftly, bombarding the offices of U2's Principal Management with phone calls and faxes. They have also posted thousands of messages at the interference message boards, with frustration being the predominant emotion. "Is this any way for a band that thanked their fans "for giving us a great life" in their 2001 tour to treat their fan-club members who paid $40?" fan Patrick Farrell asked. "I clicked for 80 minutes, about 800 clicks... and did get [two] terrible seats for $300 only to have the final click at the Ticketmaster.com site on 'Click here to purchase tickets' bring me to a page that said 'Internal service failure. Please try again.'" A frustrated Farrell added, "I love U2 more than anything except God, Family, Friends, and Country. It disgusts me that the band's image is being raked over the coals with their greatest fans due to the sins of Ticketmaster, U2.com, and the promoters who obviously funneled tickets to brokers because actual photos of tickets were on eBay before the presale."
Numerous calls for comment to Ticketmaster and Fanfire were not returned. Callers to Principal Management were directed to contact their PR firm, Code Blue Media. At press time, messages to Code Blue were unanswered.
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