The Great LCD Soundsystem Ticket Fiasco

James Murphy and StubHub face off as the band's MSG farewell sells out instantly

"Eat shit." That was LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy's missive to StubHub scalpers in early February, just moments after presale tickets for the band's April 2 farewell show at Madison Square Garden instantly sold out. That sentiment was shared by legions of the band's fans who, unable to get tickets then or during the seemingly seconds-long general sale a few days later, were enraged to find StubHub hawking scores of them at exorbitant markups ranging from $80 to almost $350,000.

The resulting mudslinging and rumor-mongering has dampened what was to be an exclamation point on the New York–based dance-punk band's unexpected arc from obscure singles to three acclaimed albums (including last year's beloved This Is Happening) and a sold-out, three-hour-plus finale at MSG. But immediately, things went awry. First came a Tuesday, February 8, presale, held both in person at Mercury Lounge (where a long line of fans braved the blistering cold for 250 general-admission spots), and online through Ticketmaster and promoter Bowery Presents. Those went quickly. When fans noticed that many of the precious seats—originally priced at $35 and $49.50—were almost immediately available on StubHub for as much as $1,500 apiece, they took to the Internet to complain. So did Murphy, first Tweeting, "Fuck you, scalpers. You are parasites. I HATE you," and later specifically imploring StubHub to chow on excrement.

The remaining tickets went on sale that Friday morning at 11 a.m. By all accounts, they were gone by 11:05, surprising everyone, including Murphy. "We've never sold anything out so quickly in our lives and certainly never sold out anything as big as MSG," he wrote in a widely reblogged dispatch from the band's website. I personally thought I was being bold in suggesting to our manager that we might sell it out 'in 10 days.' " Fans were equally stunned. Douglas Bleggi, a record-store clerk in Long Island, was turned away at Mercury Lounge and again in the opening minutes of the general sale. "I totally underestimated the popularity of the group," he says. "Apparently, everyone got as excited about the show as I did." Finding even more tickets available on StubHub at even more ridiculous prices (including a set of floor tickets boldly offered for $350,000 each), those excited fans became enraged.

James Murphy doesn't want to hear it.
Angela N.
James Murphy doesn't want to hear it.
James Murphy doesn't want to hear it.
Whittiz
James Murphy doesn't want to hear it.

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Madison Square Garden

Seventh Ave. & 32nd St.
New York, NY 10001

Category: Music Venues

Region: Chelsea

"I've gotten some of the vilest emails I've ever read from LCD Soundsystem fans," said StubHub Head of Communications Glenn Lehrman less than a week after the site began offering tickets for the MSG show. "I walked into the office this morning and thought, 'It's been a good 12 hours—no one's told me to go fuck myself.' "

Self-described as "the world's largest fan to fan ticket marketplace," the eBay-owned company does not buy tickets directly from distributors like Ticketmaster, does not own any of the tickets offered for sale on the site, and does not set ticket prices, Lehrman explains. He further argues that while the site often offers tickets at high markups, it's actually protecting consumers: "Buying tickets through something like Craigslist, the buyer has no recourse if the tickets aren't valid. StubHub guarantees the authenticity of tickets bought on our site." The company takes a cut from both seller (15 percent) and buyer (10 percent) in exchange for this service.

Lehrman isn't taking the blame for the LCD Soundsydstem ticket fiasco. "I've heard estimates that there were only 1,000 tickets available from Ticketmaster in the public sale," he says. "The public gets upset with us because StubHub is where the tickets end up, but the question is, how many tickets went directly to the promoter, to the venue, and to the artist? There's a transparency issue with how many tickets were actually available. Those same artists, promoters, and venues that are complaining, some of them sell their ticket allotment to brokers."

LCD Soundsystem, through media rep Steve Martin, declined to disclose the number of tickets offered to the public during the pre- and general sales: "We're not going to dignify that StubHub bullshit with a response." James Murphy did, however, address fans directly in an online letter: "We were more than taken aback and surprised about the speed of ticket sales . . . as well as the effectiveness of scalper pieces of fucking shit at getting their hands on said tickets before fans could, and it's knocked us on our asses." He also followed through on a promise to make things right by adding four consecutive shows at Terminal 5 (also owned by Bowery Presents, and surprisingly still available for four straight days in late March) leading up to the MSG finale.

The new shows have driven down the price of scalped MSG tickets, but keeping those same scalpers from gobbling up all the Terminal 5 tickets isn't so simple. One solution is "paperless ticketing," a system where concertgoers pay via credit card, then need both that card and a photo ID to get into the event. Ticketmaster offers this service along with their TicketExchange program, a secondary market where paperless buyers can resell their tickets (for a fee, of course) at a capped amount. But opponents of this approach often cite what they call "the grandma problem": Because the system requires that the buyer prove his or her identity at the gate, a blue-haired granny in Wichita can't buy her favorite grandkid tickets to a Lady Gaga, Cold War Kids, or Insane Clown Posse show in New York. Yet artists from Thom Yorke to Miley Cyrus to Tom Waits have done entirely paperless-only tours, including NYC shows, in the past year.

Thanks to state lawmakers, however, the paperless-only option is no longer available in New York. In July, legislators backed strongly by then-Governor David Paterson passed a ticket-reselling measure that takes the teeth out of the paperless system by requiring venues offering paperless tickets to give each individual buyer the choice of buying either a paperless or hard ticket.

So LCD Soundsystem settled for the next closest (some might say practically the same exact) thing, selling regular tickets for the Terminal 5 shows via Ticketmaster, but requiring buyers to pick up their passes—again with an ID and credit card—at will-call on the day of each show and enter the venue immediately. As additional measures against scalping, sales were limited to two tickets per person, and Ticketmaster pledged to delete multiple online purchases from the same IP address. Everything went on sale last Tuesday at 9 a.m. By noon, they were sold out.

Despite oversleeping, Douglas Bleggi snagged a ticket for one of the final shows—his alarm clock was just another in a string of obstacles in getting to see the band live one last time. "I wish it could be as simple as just getting a ticket, but these days you have to play this game of trying to outsmart the scalpers," he says. "It's pretty irritating."

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14 comments
Squareonenyc
Squareonenyc

Promoters scalp the tickets. Fact. The agent who books the show scalps the tickets. Fact. People who work at the venue scalp the tickets. Fact. THE ARTISTS THEMSELVES scalp the tickets. FACT. And by the time everyone has dipped their hands into the pot, there's nothing left to go onsale to the general public. This is the reality of live music today. Someone should demand an audit of the box office and the ticket agent.

Vraxartifice
Vraxartifice

So the crazy, stupid priced tickets on stubhub right now, the ones over 10 grand, are owned by a registered ticket broker called The Ticket Experience. Those seats went to a broker below face value and were NEVER available to the public. Need someone to blame? Blame the artist and the brokers, and ticketmaster for giving big brokers first dibs on the best seats to every single show. It's a dirty system, and ticketmaster has been doing it for years and years.

Shittyshittybangbang
Shittyshittybangbang

WHY GOD WHY???!!!!!!! I've never been to one of their shows and I will never be able to- EVER!

Squareonenyc
Squareonenyc

Why isn't anyone questioning how many tickets were being held back by the promoter and the venue, when it went on sale? Why isn't anyone asking for an audit?

Paulina
Paulina

What Deborah and Hariholo DON'T know- you could just about squeeze into the Grand Canyon. StubHub merely hosts the site for people who want to sell tickets (the motive ranging from "I have to work and can't go, hopefully i can get some money back" to "this is the LAST show ever for a popular "indie" band in their own hometown and I think people are going to be willing to pay a lot to see them so I'm going to get up early and get on ticketmaster the MOMENT they go on sale and try to make some money to pay for my new Orange TH1000 head." If this show sold out so quickly and tickets were immediately available via Stubhub, it sounds to me like there are more people interested in making money than seeing LCD's swan song. That's neither LCD's nor StubHub's problem. That's capitalism I highly doubt StubHub nor it's parent company, eBay waste money buying and attempting to re-sell tickets (or crochet doilies). They merely host the site that enable others to do so - sometimes at a profit for that individual and sometimes at a loss enabling another 'true fan' to see a sold out show for UNDER face value. I suppose that should be illegal too? Does anyone know what the re-selling laws are for tickets anyway? What if you couldn't re-sell your Hawthorne Heights CD back to your local record store, is that fair? Besides, who wants to see LCD in such a big venue anyway? Haven't most of you seen them a "million times" in smaller clubs anyway? You should have.

Squareonenyc
Squareonenyc

This is not StubHub's fault. All the provide is a marketplace for the tickets. I'm sure James Murphy knows that Bowery Presents holds back way too many tickets from the general public, but won't throw them under the bus. If there are only 2000 or so tickets available for sale (out of 15,000), of course it's going to sell out fast. And if Bowery Presents (or others that they give tickets to) put tickets on StubHub, it's not StubHub's fault.

Deborah
Deborah

The same thing happened in MA for Jeff Magnum (Neutral Milk Hotel) tickets. How is this legal? Stub Hub is obviously lying big time.

franky5000
franky5000

"We're not going to dignify that StubHub bullshit with a response."

why not disclose the number of tickets offered to the public during the pre- and general sales? that would put the whole matter to rest. in other words, tell us who is holding back tickets, is it the promoter? the venue? . . . the artist?

I personally doubt LCD is knowingly holding back tickets but it's kind of disappointing that they don't want to dig deeper into this (legitimate) question

Hariholo
Hariholo

Hate to disagree but the tickets online sold out immediately or within seconds. At least that was my experience and i checked stub hub at 11:02 and there were many many tickets at very high prices. How did they get on their so fast? This was a fiasco and Terminal 5 shows is not the remedy.

Squareonenyc
Squareonenyc

...and this is all 100% legal, my friends. Thank you Elliot Spitzer and David Paterson.

Squareonenyc
Squareonenyc

But Ticketmaster isn't the biggest culprit... The artists THEMSELVES are selling tickets to brokers. I'm not saying Murphy is guilty of doing that, but I'm saying that when his camp evades a valid question about how many tickets actually were available to the public and tells the media "We're not going to dignify that StubHub bullshit with a response..", something is fishy.... Either he DID give tickets to brokers, and/or he knows that Bowery Presents is giving tickets to brokers, and he does not want to bite the hand that has been feeding him for the last few years. I give him credit for saving his own ass by making those Terminal 5 shows available, but I still think the box office and the ticket agent handling the show should be audited.Check out this blog by Trent Reznor, regarding corruption in the live-music industry: http://forum.nin.com/bb/read.p...

Timtsoup
Timtsoup

The same thing happened to me Saturday morning when I tried to buy tix for Rammstein at the Graden. 15 seconds before 10am I tried ti buy tix at Ticketmaster online. It replied that they aren't on sale yet. Exactly when my PC's clock turned to 10 I reloaded the page, asked for the best ticket available and all I could get was balcony at the far end of the arena. It almost sold out in 5 seconds???? There is some serious inside scamming and favoritism going on here. This is borderline false advertising.... when we cannot buy a ticket for the advertised price.

SomeGuyinLA
SomeGuyinLA

It would not surprise me if LCD and their management held back about 1000 tickets for the show.

 
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