Taylor Swift is the new Miley Cyrus, and ticket brokers are still demons -- at least in the eyes of parents who tried to buy tickets Friday morning to Swift's May 7 concert at Xcel Energy Center, which sold out faster than you can say, "What happened to the Hannah Montana law?"
There were widespread reports of would-be buyers being turned down for tickets less than a minute after they went on sale at Ticketmaster.com. Meanwhile, ticket-broker sites Stubhub, eBay and the Ticketmaster-affiliated TicketsNow immediately filled up with listings amounting to several thousand tickets on those sites alone, many ranging from $120 to $1,000 apiece. Original prices were $27, $41.50 and $61.50.
Tickets also were offered at individual broker sites, such as Twin Cities-based TicketKingOnline.com, which had more than 400 listings, but only about 30 were owned by Ticket King itself. The rest were independent sellers using the company's site.
"We got shut out ourselves -- and we're good at this," complained Ticket King co-owner Mike Nowakowski. He said he had a staff of eight trying to buy tickets Friday morning, and only one got through with a single ticket purchase.
Law is easy to circumvent
So what did happen with the so-called Hannah Montana law, which the Minnesota Legislature passed last year to stop ticket brokers from using computer programs to gobble up tickets?
Nowakowski said the law's weakness is that it only applies in Minnesota, so anyone in a state -- or another country -- without a similar law can still use the controversial software.
Nowakowski also leveled blame at Ticketmaster, whose financial ties to supposedly independent brokers are coming to light in a lawsuit by a New York broker who said the company paid him to sell cost-inflated tickets for Ticketmaster's profit.
"Ticketmaster probably only put half of the [Swift] tickets on sale and will sell the rest out the back door," Nowakowski said.
Ironically, the singer whose 2007 concerts ignited the "Hannah Montana" legislation -- Miley Cyrus, who plays Montana on TV -- returned to Target Center Thursday and did not even sell out the arena in advance. The Cyrus show used a new, "paperless" ticket-selling method that required concertgoers to bring the credit card they used to purchase their tickets. That process went relatively smoothly at Thursday's show.
Swift is 'ridiculously popular'
Jared Mashburn of St. Cloud said his girlfriend and other friends tried to get tickets to Swift's May 7 show starting with "presale" offerings earlier in the week but were consistently turned away.
"We tried everything -- and we do this a lot -- but this is unlike anything we've ever seen," Mashburn said.
Swift's publicist referred questions about the tour's ticket troubles to Ticketmaster, whose spokespeople did not immediately return calls.
The concert promoter behind the tour imposed a six-ticket-per-credit-card limit but stopped short of using the paperless method "because it seemed like too big a pain for parents," said Kate McMahon of Houston's Messina Group.
McMahon said her company is equally aggravated by the rampant ticket scalping but pointed out, "Taylor is also ridiculously popular right now."
That view was echoed by Xcel Center spokeswoman Kathy O'Connor: "It has been an amazingly popular show across the country, and like the shows before ours, it sold out within minutes."
She did offer a ray of hope to shut-out Swift fans: There's a seven-day delay on all delivery methods (mail, will-call and print-at-home), so Ticketmaster has time to look for suspicious orders and cancel any improper sales.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658
$27, $41.50 and $61.50
Original ticket prices for Taylor Swift's May 7 Xcel Energy Center concert
$120 to $1,000
Range of ticket prices popping up immediately on broker sites