The Price You Pay

Getting Springsteen tickets will cost you, one way or another

So how could Ticket Solutions guarantee such good tickets? It's possible that the company has some sort of relationship on the inside that secures good seats for them. Recently national promoters House of Blues were nailed by the Backstreet Boys for diverting prime seats to the Boys' Denver concert to scalpers. Such a scenario isn't common, but it's possible, says Ticketmaster's Miller: "But generally that would be grounds for losing your job. For example, if a scalper were to approach me to try and do something like that, I would lose my job. It's not a good thing to do. I'm not saying it's impossible, but if a person at the venue or the ticketing company was smart, they'd know better than to do it." More likely in this case is that Tickets Solutions doesn't have these tickets and can't get them, but it entices fans by baiting them with prime tickets, then switching to the next best -- 17th or 18th row.

Calls to Tickets Solutions were no help. Asked to describe their business, the salesman on the other end laid it out it simply: "Basically, we buy and sell tickets. All we are is a broker. Just like a stockbroker. That's all we do." Asked how this differs from "scalping," he seemed baffled, claiming to not understand the question. He then declined further comment and asked that we "call back and ask for the public-relations department. His name is Russ." Russ declined to comment.

There is no Missouri law prohibiting the scalping of tickets to musical events, though, curiously, it is against state law to scalp tickets to sporting events. "Any person, firm or corporation," reads the law, "who resells or offers to resell any ticket for admission, or any other evidence of the right of entry, to any public sporting event for a price in excess of the price printed on the ticket is guilty of the offense of ticket scalping." However, one could still legally purchase tickets to Rams games from Ticket Solutions despite the law, says Scott Holste of Attorney General Jay Nixon's office, "because ticket scalping is not illegal in Kansas. You'll see that often in the Kansas City Star -- classified ads for Chiefs tickets there, for any sporting event there, and they'll all be based out of Kansas." All year long, Rams tickets were available through Ticket Solutions, and as long as the transaction took place outside of Missouri, the buyer couldn't be prosecuted.

The Missouri Legislature, though, is currently reviewing three bills that would alter the current law: one that expands the provisions of the law to all entertainment events; one to legalize the practice for licensed brokers only; and one to scrap the law altogether and make scalping legal for all.

The city of St. Louis does have a law on its books making it illegal to scalp tickets to concerts, but only if the sale is conducted inside the city limits. That is to say, if you want to buy Backstreet Boys tickets from a broker located in Kansas, or off the eBay online-auction service (a scalper's paradise, it seems), it's perfectly legal.

In theory, if the seller conducts the transaction in the city of St. Louis, a law is being broken. But there's really no way anyone could get nailed for scalping if the seller has a lick of sense: As long as the scalper's not dumb enough to do it in front of Kiel Center on the day of the show -- the only time a city cop might theoretically be keeping an eye out for such a heinous crime -- he is relatively safe. It's doubtful that much city manpower is being devoted to curtailing the infraction. Even the scant few officers who patrol outside venues on the day of a concert are hired by the artist to do so, and they mainly keep an eye out not for scalpers but for bootleg-T-shirt vendors. The artists have been paid for the tickets; they haven't been paid for those shoddy T-shirts, and so they aggressively try to stamp out these transgressions.

What's the big deal about scalping, anyway? It's a victimless crime; in the end, everyone involved gets exactly what he or she wants.

It's more the essence of the commodity for sale that's troubling, which is why the scalper has always been held in contempt by the concertgoing public. Even the name sounds evil. The simple truth, though, is that scalpers profit from gauging and then manipulating the desires of music fans. Nothing's more sacred to a hardcore fan than experiencing the transcendence of their favorite music performed by the artist who created it. That there are people out there who earn their livelihood by preying on this desire is ethically dubious.

Added to this is that Bruce Springsteen goes out of his way to ensure that the overpaid stockbroker can't buy his way into the front row while the underpaid truck driver languishes in the upper deck -- that for four hours E Street is a bubble of classlessness. A scalper undercuts the performer's desire and ultimately ends up committing the ultimate crime: being a party-pooper.

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