Target Center ditches Ticketmaster for concerts

But ticket buyers will still face steep fees with AXS.

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The first test of the new ticketing system at Target Center will be the WWE Smackdown Holiday Tour on Dec. 28, which goes on sale Saturday.

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The biggest concert venue in Minneapolis will no longer use Ticketmaster to sell seats for non-sporting events.

Target Center announced Monday that it will start doling out tickets through a new in-house system, AXS (axs.com), created by its operating company, AEG Live. It will be used for all events at the arena except Timberwolves and Lynx games, which could eventually change over to the new system, too.

AXS already has been implemented locally for the AEG-owned club Mill City Nights. It's just the latest rival to Ticketmaster, which once was the vendor of choice for Twin Cities venues, but has lost local business to rivals such as Ticketfly and eTix in the past two years.

Now, the big question: Will AXS provide a break from the extra fees that have made Ticketmaster the most hated entity in pop music since disco? The answer is more or less a no, but Target Center reps say it improves on the Ticketmaster model in several ways.

First, AXS fees are listed as a single fee right up front. Second, AXS does not charge the oft-scorned print-at-home fee. And lastly, AXS has added some nifty doodads to the buying process, including a social-media platform called AXS Invite. It allows users to buy their tickets and then invite friends to buy seats right next to them, which will be reserved for 48 hours. Target Center and AEG also hope to employ more interactive social-media techniques through AXS, and they tout a superior virtual waiting room.

A look at tickets on sale at Mill City Nights confirms that AXS fees are no less steep. For the Nov. 24 show by Staind frontman Aaron Lewis, the website lists a $9.50 fee on a $29.50 ticket (plus $.74 tax). Ticketfly, Ticketweb and eTix, which are used by many other Twin Cities clubs, charge more modest fees and also allow at-home ticketing.

"Ticketmaster took the bad rap for ticket fees because they were the dominant ticketing company for so long, but those fees are still a reality with every new ticketing company that's emerging," said Target Center's director of ticketing, David Balcer.

AXS is used at some of AEG's biggest venues around the world, including the O2 Arena in London. It will only be used for events yet to be announced at Target Center, not shows already on sale. The first test will be the WWE Smackdown Holiday Tour on Dec. 28, which goes on sale Saturday.

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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