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

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
Comments () | Archives (27)

"Prime seats" my A$$. My daughter has been a huge ND fan for ages and she just got scammed on this. Was right there as soon as these "pre sale, premium tickets" went on sale and ended up in row 20. She really wanted pit tickets, but it kept showing "sold out" so she went for what seemed to be the best available. Now, much better tickets are up on the site, and she's stuck with crappy, non-transferrable tickets. She can't even sell them at face value.

Best tickets? Hardly. But a good lesson learned. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably IS.

Hi Randy,

Question or two I have (not necessarily for you -- just general questions raised by the program). You write: "A membership costs $15, which covers the band's cost of implementing the plan."

So if a fan can buy up to four tickets, and about 1,500 tickets are available per show, let's say No Doubt has 375 Tour Club memberships available per date. So 375 multiplied by $15 brings in $5,625. Then multiply that by the number of tour dates, say 44.

So with 44 tour dates, and 375 memberships available for each, that brings in $247,500 for the tour. So is the No Doubt camp implying that it costs $247,500 to implement a pre-sale?

And while the plan is called 'scalper-proof,' isn't it, in effect, scalping? Charging more than face (the $15 entry fee) for prime seats?

I'd consider Row 20 out of a venue of 15,000 pretty premium seats...

FOTC is using this system too.

You have to attend a lot of concerts to eventually get good seats or pit tickets. You pick and choose which concert you are going to save your money to purchase expensive tickets. Also, you have to be proacitve and discover new bands, see them at small venues and then see them again in the Rose Bowl (for example), and then you can say, "man I saw them at the No Name Bar when they were starting out." That's a true fan. Go to college-venue concerts, KROQ's Winnie Roast, or Hollywood locales to see, hear and feel the music up-close.

great to see that NO DOUBT is at least making an effort to protect their fans, we hope it works. see their full tour itinerary at-

I am a scalper and it is really easy to get around.. I Pick up the seats at the venue, and meet my customers inside the building. I give my customers 4 nosebleeds to get into the building. Easy solution for trying to stop the free market and charge your fans to do it... Great idea that doesn't work... Also what happens if 1 of your fans doesn't get tickets and it WILLING and WANTS to pay a broker for the best seats.. Well you FKED your fans trying to be clever.. Another retarded idea from spoiled artists and performers.....

This system worked extremely well on the Springsteen/E Street reunion tour, but they managed to do it without, as Todd points out, a membership price tag attached to it. If you wanted to buy tickets in the "jailbait" sections, you were limited to two and the ticket company themselves flagged these as will-call only. No muss, no fuss.

I seem to recall the Black Crowes doing this a while back as well. It's a good system, but it also ramps up the staffing the venue needs to provide on event night to man the additional will-call windows or tables.

Jimmy the scalper - if your system means that the band, venue, promoter and ticket vendor all got paid for another four tickets, it sounds like a win-win for you and them. Talk your scalper buddies into buying up the lawn seats during amphitheatre season and you just might eran some respect in this industry.

Jimmy the scalper-
Hopefully the House and Senate enact some new regulations that provide a picture of the ticket purchaser on the face of the ticket. People can no longer get good seats at face value because of the sleazy scalpers and brokers (and those they hire) flooding all of the on-sales and flooding ticket master's website at the start of the on-sale. Scalpers and brokers make it so difficult to find good seats and it is frustrating to people like me who wait months to get tickets only to find out that the ticket master has sold all of the good seats to a few losers looking to make some money. I hope the government makes the penalties for scalping steep and I hope they abolish brokering!

20th row sounds pretty decent to me. I don't think no doubt's ticket club promised front row to everyone who participated. And a $15 charge divided by 4 tix means about $4 extra per ticket to avoid paying an additional $50-100 that a scalper would add on!
decent effort, not foolproof maybe...

What if all premium seats were distributed on a lottery basis for which you paid a 50-cent, or 1-dollar service fee to enter? In other words, you had the right to refuse the seats you were offered, but you still paid the $.50 or $1.00 fee for the right to enter the lottery whether or not you accepted the right to buy the ticket?

This would make it prohibitively expensive for the scalpers to flood the ticket sellers with lottery requests but would still allow a somewhat fair distribution of the good seats.

As far as the secondary market, individuals could still go to "stub-hub" or some other auction site to re-sell their ticket, but as far as professional scalpers and their automated bots, they would pretty much be out of business, unable to simply grab up all the prime seats.

This would level the playing field a bit for all consumers.

todd martin: actually, it's not a $15 per ticket charge. it's $15 per membership. so you join for $15 and you can buy up to 4 tickets during the presale but you'll only be charged $15 once, not 4 times as you mentioned above.

Hi Tour Clubber,

Right. I referenced it as a $15 entrance fee per membership, not per ticket. I multiplied the $15 by 375, as there are approx 1,500 Tour Club tix available per date, as per the story, so I'm taking into account it's a $15 fee per four tix.


My cousin got 3rd row for the Irvine show through the Tour club membership which is awesome! Not everyone though can expect that they are going to get the best seats...those seats are unfortunately limited. I think it is great anytime a band tries to make an effort to keep the fans in mind. No Doubt has always been gracious and grateful to their fans.

Jimmy, why give the little tricks away? On one hand I understand wanting to call the bluff of No Doubts Tour Manager - on the other hand - let them think they're so slick - when you know you're slicker.

Them knowing your slicker isn't going to push No Doubt to revert back to the normal way of selling tickets...besides the fact that this tour will NOT be a blockbuster...as No Doubt is about as relevant as I am!

actually No Doubt themselves are scalper proof because they're not popular enough....If No Doubt was popular enough you could buy 4 tickets and sell 2 and use the other 2 with this method....But the amount you're gonna get for No Doubt doesn't justify it...They just don't warrant scalper prices because the demand for No Doubt tickets isn't high enough to buy 4 to sell 2....

So when a band sells out to all fans, where you going to get a ticket? Brokers are ness.

Scalpers have the same business model as any other business. There are middle men in just about every import, export, etc. etc. People just don't think that hard.

Those of you who call out brokers as some kind of evil make me sick! Why don't you move to North Korea, you'd fit right in with your views of the free market. You commie pinko scum don't deserve to live in a country like this if you don't believe Americans should be free to be entrepreneurs and continually come up with creative ways of making money.

Also, brokers serve an important purpose...if I want GOOD seats instead of the garbage that ticketmaster offers me, then I'll happily pay a premium. Brokers are just business people smart enough to realize that for certain concerts the artists/promoters/venue don't know how to gauge the demand as well as they do and they deserve to be rewarded for their speculation skills.

Seriously, you anti-American scum, sitting there on your soap boxes, I hate that you live in my country. Go find somewhere that embraces your closeminded, self-entitled, white trash views.

I love this country, I just wish I didn't have to hear the likes of you for you truly make me sick. This is part of the reason our economy is struggling, dumb ass middle class morons.

Sorry guys, but the misconceptions of what brokers have and don't have is WRONG. There are essentially 3 places to sell tickets. There is TicketNetwork, EventInventory, and then places like StubHub/Ebay/RazorGator/TicketsNow.

The reason I group the last together is because they are on their own. The first two are separate shared inventory database/networks of tickets. ALL those independent sites out there are using one or both of these databases. A broker adds their tickets to the database that are then instantly published on the thousands of independent ticket sites out there. Likewise their site has tickets from other brokers. When someone else's tickets sell on our site, you get a cut of the sale.

So the reality is there is a fraction of tickets in the hands of brokers, far less than what it seems. If you pull up two random independent sites and compare listings you will see that the ticket listings are the same. Prices may be a little different but that is just the site owner taking a little more for himself.

You will also see that StubHub/TicketsNow seems to have similar listings as well. A smart broker will list his tickets everywhere possible for maximum exposure and remove them when sold on another site. Again, duplicate listings that only make it seem like brokers have all the good tickets.

At MOST brokers hold up to 5% of tickets to a venue. And if it's that high, it's probably not going to be profitable for them due to panicky sellers who start undercutting.

Now that we have established that these sites are the same. Take a look at just one site and not all the clones. How many of those seats are PRIMO seats. It's actually quite small, isn't? It's less than 1% of available tickets.

I live in Northern California and it's been 8 or 9 years since I've been to a concert but I had no idea things had changed. Maybe the scalping issue is limited to certain venues like ampitheaters vs arenas or ticket sales are just different for each type of venue. Many of the shows here use GA tickets for the floor area so it's basically first come, first serve. You can show up late and still push your way towards the stage. Some of the bigger shows like Coldplay did GA and reserved seats but all prices were the same. If you wanted to get on the floor you just had to hop the railing when an usher wasn't looking or wait til the house was standing up and cheering then make a run for it.
In my opinion I would not pay scalper prices because it ruins it for me. It's hard to believe that in this economy people are still paying huge amounts of money to see a band. I guess my oulook has changed since turning 30, buying a house and having a kid.
Enjoy the show!

To all the people posting saying this is a scam- it's not. When Gwen did her solo tour my friend and I got first row after signing up for her fan club and being logged on the second the tickets went on sale. For No Doubt she got first row in a section next to the stage and I got pit tickets. The system works- if you think about it, it all comes down to what city you are in and how many people hear about the presale. Also there are more people who are going to be seeing No Doubt since it's been so long compared to how many people went to see Gwen alone. Think about it before bitching.

Another way around the system: Broker buys 3 tix, meets his 2 customers outside the venue, and goes into the venue with his customers. Broker then just leaves by himself. Unfortunately, there is no way I see to defeat this. Just letting the artist management know...

Darn scalpers will always find a way as long as the system allows you to buy a ticket for a "friend".

Umm Pearl Jam has been doing this for literally years. Only difference is the longer you're a member of the fan club, the better your seats.

Really, I am a huge fan and I cannot afford to pay $1000 for front row! I'm so upset and disgusted and confused with the band. WTF. seriously, WTF

I am a big no doubt fan and I got tickets for the 8/2/09 show in Irvine. My boyfriend paid $ 210.00 for two seats, we thought we had really good seats in at least loge or orchestra and it turns out we are in row KKK, section 11 in terrace!! terrace is right in front of lawn!! So it led me to think we were given the wrong tickets for the price, I called live nation and they told me that my tickets were still $90 seats and that the artist determine the prices, which leads to think which seats were $59.50?? I am excited that I am still going to the concert but I think the price was way overpriced...

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