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U2 Fans Bemoan 'Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday'

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Even in the concert business, the laws of supply and demand are irrevocable.

That harsh reality hit home for thousands of U2 fans when huge demand taxed the presale system for U2's Vertigo tour, leaving many fans with less than desirable seats or no tickets at all.

As much as 30% of tickets were allotted for the presale, sources say, a generous percentage. Even so, demand greatly outstripped supply.

And as on-sales for the general public have now shown, the mania surrounding the tour rivals any in history. Tour organizers walk a fine line between satisfying public demand and keeping u2.com members happy.

That could be a stiff mandate. Irate fans who paid $40 to join the fan club site for a chance to purchase choice tickets on Jan. 25 prior to the general public have made their feelings known in vitriolic postings at U2's official Web site.

Referring to the on-sale issues as "Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday," one fan wrote, "What's the point of spending $40 for the membership of the site and getting a lousy seat for more than $165?"

Another ticked-off fan wonders, "How are so many tickets already on eBay for thousands of dollars?"

In Europe, where problems seem to have been even worse, a U.K. fan writes, "What we have got is complete ineptitude, incompetence and disregard of U2 fans by U2's management, the Web site, Ticketmaster and, dare I say it, U2 themselves."

In response, U2 plans to make more tickets available when the tour returns to the United States this fall. "Don't forget, if you have a subscriber code, it will still be honored when the band plays more dates," was the official message posted Jan. 30 on u2.com. "There will be more tickets for u2.com subscribers."

Data captured by u2.com and Ticketmaster during the presale process will show who used their unique password and whether they succeeded in obtaining tickets. Most fans affected have been or will be contacted, and attempts are being made to resolve these issues, sources say. The surest way to address a demand issue is by upping the supply, and U2 will be on the road for most of 2005.

U2 worldwide promoter Arthur Fogel, president of Clear Channel-owned TNA International, insists the snafus and disappointed customers are just symptomatic of an incredibly hot tour.

"These fan club presales go on all the time, but they're usually under the radar," Fogel said. "This one (was) beyond belief. There's no question there have been some technical glitches and some dissatisfied people, but people are working as best as possible to sort it all out."

Clearly, ticket brokers and scalpers added to the problem. Their modus operandi is to buy as many tickets as possible, then resell them at a much higher price. With tickets offered by brokers topping $1,000 apiece, a $40 fan club fee is a small investment.

"The reality is, there's nothing to stop a broker from joining a fan club and being part of a presale," Fogel said. "As a broker, you spend every day of your life trying to figure out how to beat the system."

U2's official site acknowledged the scalper issue: "We are very aware that some people seem to have abused the system to scalp on eBay or similar sites ... We are currently looking into the possibility of identifying these people and withdrawing their tickets. Any help you can give us on this would be gratefully received."

In retrospect, insiders say, the biggest mistake may have been not cutting off membership -- some estimate 100,000 fans signed up-to the presale at u2.com. But there was no way of knowing who would buy for which, if any, shows, and bands have rarely been faced with the prospect of turning away fans from fan sites.

"There is no question the demand, both here and in Europe, is as high as I've ever seen, and with that comes difficulties in managing that kind of volume," Fogel said.

All U.K. shows sold out, with more than 260,000 seats gone, and 55,000 sold for the June 10 European opener in Brussels. Sellouts in the United States include four shows at Chicago's United Center and three at Boston's FleetCenter. In total, more than 600,000 tickets sold in less than a week.

It looks as if U2 is well on its way to realizing a potential gross in excess of $250 million, and it is doubtful relationships with fans will be seriously harmed. History shows much will be forgotten once the first note is played in San Diego on March 28.

Reuters/Billboard/Ray Waddell


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