The last time Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus went on tour, kids were screaming for the Disney Channel star — and parents were screaming for the heads of ticket brokers, scalpers and secondary sellers who had gobbled up, then jacked up, seats for her sold-out 2007 shows.
Such was the Mad Mommy fallout — a $60 ticket offered up for $4,000 online by tech-savvy money-grubbers! — the concert industry had to rethink 21st Century ticket buying.
So when 16-year-old Cyrus returns for a Dec. 2 gig at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, it'll be the brokers, scalpers and online sellers doing the caterwauling.
In a move that's smart in theory and potentially nightmarish in reality, Cyrus will be using a "paperless ticketing system." The techno-dream of Ticketmaster, "paperless" is inherently designed to stick it to the brokers, who should find it harder obtaining tickets for resale.
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"We think it's going to do a very good job getting tickets into the hands of the fan," says Brian Pike, Ticketmaster's chief technology officer. "But nothing is ever 100 percent foolproof."
When Cyrus tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. June 13, fans will be able to buy them only online or through an 800 number with a credit card — essentially reserving a seat. No ticket to print out, no visit to Will Call. Instead, on the day of the show, concertgoers will present the credit card used for purchase, plus a government-issued photo ID, to a venue usher, who will scan the card and print out a "seat locator slip." All members of the party must be present at the time of transaction; four tickets are allowed per household.
If Mom wants to go to the show with the kiddos, great — bring earplugs and have fun. However, if Mom simply wants to put the tickets on her credit card and drop the kids off at the show, Mom still has to be present at the turnstiles. And if Grandma in Poughkeepsie wants to buy tickets for her Miley-lovin' grandson in Florida — well, Grammy better hop on a Greyhound, 'cause she has to be here to show her card.
If that sounds like a hassle, well, it beats no ticket at all. Ticketmaster believes "paperless" will be a tough system to crack. The combination of no physical ticket plus a mandatory appearance by the buyer is intended to put a serious crimp in the plans of someone looking to make big bucks on this show.
Right now, paperless is intended for "specific artists who want to make it easier for fans to get tickets," says Pike. But there's a chance it could become the norm. "I don't know if it will happen that fast. But we're going to watch how consumers adopt it."
Gary Adler, general counsel for the National Association of Ticket Brokers, believes the paperless system is actually bad for fans and is merely a sign of "monopolistic power" on Ticketmaster's part.
"We've always advocated a free market," says Adler, "but not only will this hurt brokers, but consumers as well."
First off, he says, it will be "a logistical nightmare. How many 14-year-olds have credit cards?" Plus "you will see tickets being sold in the secondary market whether they're paperless or not. You'll see more underground schemes, making it even more expensive for people to get in."