I’m going to readily admit that, like the High School Musical phenomenon, the whole Hannah Montana craze is purely academic to me. While I’ve been living my blissful life, it turns out that the pre-teen (tween?) set has done what the pre-teen set has always done: created its own star system.
In the normal scheme of things, the entire Miley Cyrus (the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus — why do I know this stuff?) thing should pass me by. Like most adults, my exposure should be limited to reading gossip magazines at the gym while I’m on the treadmill. One must maintain a certain level of cultural literacy; I’ve come to peace with this.
But the Cyrus/Montana issue has spilled over into my world in a most unusual way. If you’ve tried to buy concert tickets over the past decade or so, you know the sad truth: the system is broken. Not just sort of not healthy, it’s downright broken. Ordinary concert-goers are finding it increasingly impossible to purchase decent seats at a ticket’s face value. The cost of buying a ticket has risen dramatically — in concert with the increase in cash flow for the core audience — but if you don’t get lucky and score those tickets within a minute of sale time, you’re either in the nosebleed section or paying inflated prices to scalp–er, ticket brokers.
And that’s not factoring in the outrageous “service charges” tacked on top of the ticket price. We really do need a concert-goers union.
While most of us have seethed quietly and a few of us have shouted to no avail, it seems the current Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana tour has done something nobody else could: raised awareness of the concert ticket problem. Millions of hysterical young girls have torn the roof off the racket.
There’s been parental panic in Portland, Ore., severe tropical depression in Tampa, Fla., and a mad scramble in Minneapolis. There was so much outrage among families in Little Rock that the Arkansas attorney general promised a swift investigation, as did his counterpart in Missouri after seeing the dust-up in Kansas City.
All over the country, little girls are crying that they want — they need — tickets to see their idol, a 14-year-old named Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah Montana) in concert, and from coast to coast that has pushed mommies and daddies to extreme measures. That’s why some scalpers and brokers are asking for as much as $3,000 a ticket, politicians have been staging news conferences and Ticketmaster officials have been ducking for cover.
Face value for these tickets apparently ranges from $29 to $66. Parents are trying to figure out how to pay the inflated difference for the hottest show to hit the circuit in years. The price tag for tickets is well out of reach for the star’s core audience; it’s well out of reach for the core audience’s parents.
People who buy concert tickets have a right to resell them — and I think we’re all somewhat thankful that hard-to-get seats appear on sites like StubHub.com. But the one-off seller isn’t the problem here. It’s the institutional sellers who game the system, get the good stuff, and then make huge profits on certain shows (arguably, they lose big on others, but life is nothing if not a series of risks).
Supply and demand is always going to be a factor when it comes to concerts — and in this case, supply in the form of a child performer is particularly limited — but there is a difference between selling a ticket you can’t use and unfair practices that limit the general public’s ability to purchase tickets at a fair price (and how ’bout Ticketmaster’s practice of holding back seats for “VIPs”? Gotta love that.).
A year from now there will likely be a new teen phenom and a new concert scandal, but it’s good that for once, attention is being focused on consumer rights. Sure, it probably won’t change much in the real world, but it’s a start.