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Is No Doubt's ticket plan 'scalper-proof'?

February 27, 2009 |  4:38 pm

Gwen_s_2 The band's manager calls his plan for prime reunion tour tickets 'scalper-proof.' About 10% of seats are in it.

The subject of ticket distribution and scalping has been a hot topic this week from New Jersey to Los Angeles to Washington, where the U.S. House and Senate have been investigating the proposed merger of ticket giant Ticketmaster with Live Nation, the world's biggest concert promoter.

Now a new voice is joining the chorus -- No Doubt, the multiplatinum band from Anaheim whose reunion tour is being greeted as one of the hottest tickets of the summer. Singer Gwen Stefani and her band mates have put into play a plan to ensure that fans, and not ticket brokers, wind up with the best tickets on each tour stop.

"It's scalper-proof," says No Doubt's manager, Jim Guerinot, who started his career in the trenches as an independent concert promoter and knows the business inside out. (He also manages Stefani's solo career and other acts, including Nine Inch Nails and the Offspring.)

No Doubt, whose tour is promoted by Live Nation, has reserved the prime seats for each of its shows for distribution through the band’s website. That's about 10%, or around 1,500 tickets, of the total available at each arena or amphitheater the group will be playing when the tour gets underway May 3 in East Rutherford, N.J. The tour will conclude on the band's old Orange County home turf with July 29 and Aug. 1 shows in Irvine.

Tickets don't go on sale to the general public until March 7, but fans who have signed up for Tour Club membership, as the program is called, get first crack at up to four prime seats.

"It really comes down to taking care of the people who have supported us as a band for 22 years," bassist Tony Kanal said Friday. "As far as scalping goes, I don't think you'll ever be able to eliminate it. But there are ways to get those tickets into the hands of our fans, and this Tour Club thing seems to be a clever and strategic way of doing that.

"These are the best seats in the house," Kanal said. "They're right next to the stage, so those are the people we feed off of. If those people are the true fans, that makes the shows so much more rewarding for us. It's a win-win situation . . . except for the scalpers."

A membership costs $15, which covers the band's cost of implementing the plan, and also comes with assorted No Doubt tchotchkes. (Separately, anyone who buys a ticket at either of the top two price levels, whether through the Tour Club or not, will receive a free download of the band's entire catalog.)

Once the tickets are ordered, they can't be picked up until the night of the show. The tickets are printed with the purchaser's name, and the buyer has to show a government-issued ID to claim the ticket at a special gate. Buyers will be admitted immediately into the venue to preclude anyone from heading out to the parking lot to scalp them.

One facility in Cincinnati refused to go along with No Doubt's requests, Guerinot said, so the band dropped Cincinnati from its tour itinerary.

"We really appreciate that Live Nation is allowing us to hold back these tickets and set up this mini-operation inside their event," Guerinot said. (Asked for comment for this story, a Live Nation spokesman said, "We'll let Jim's comments speak for us all.")

The system already has a bit of a track record.

"We used it on Gwen's last tour and the Nine Inch Nails [2008] tour with great success," Guerinot said. "It's flawless. Well, the flaw would be that you can't do it for 15,000 seats. But the truth is, 15,000 seats aren't being brokered at every concert. You can control who gets the best ones, and that becomes a tremendous disincentive to brokers."

Guerinot doesn't take credit for inventing this approach.

"It's all modeled on what I saw Bruce Springsteen doing with tickets for the first 10 rows of his shows," he said. "I remember reading about it and I thought, 'That's clever -- how do we expand on it?' "

Under this plan, "the people who buy the tickets are the ones who go in and see the show," Guerinot said. "So even if ticket brokers have signed up for the fan club, it doesn't serve them, because they don't go there to see the show."

-Randy Lewis

SINGER: Gwen Stefani’s band begins touring May 3. Credit: Associated Press
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