KHUM deejay Mike Dronkers apologized to the caller he'd left on hold, warned her she was live on the air and asked her what was up. She said she'd called because she was confused. She wanted to know why tickets for the upcoming Lucinda Williams show at the Van Duzer Theatre were so expensive -- $240 or more.
Dronkers was incredulous. He knew tickets for CenterArts events never cost that much. He asked where she'd seen that price. The Lucinda fan explained that she'd tried the CenterArts website, but the site was down. A further search took her to a site called Ticket Luck, where tickets to the Williams show range in price from $240 for seats in Row FF, the balcony, to $320 for "orchestra" seats in Row N.
A Google search for "Lucinda Williams tickets Van Duzer" brings up Ticket Luck and dozens of similar websites offering tickets at above face value. Search any of those sites for events in Arcata and you'll find tickets for a half dozen CenterArts shows, all with prices well above those charged at the box office. A visit to the CenterArts website shows that tickets to see Lucinda Williams on Sept. 3 run $40. One problem, though: The tickets have yet to go on sale.
Online ticket scalpers have hit Humboldt County.
Phoning Ticket Luck takes you to a call center for a company called Ticket Network. "We manage over 350 sites; Ticket Luck is one of ours," said the operator, who explained that the company basically acts as a middleman between buyers and sellers. "Ticket Network does not buy tickets. We work with over 3,500 licensed ticket brokers. We allow them to host their tickets on our sites. The brokers determine the pricing."
The various Ticket Network sites all seemed to be offering the same Lucinda Williams tickets, in rows FF, N and P, but the operator could not say the exact seat numbers available. "Some of our licensed ticket brokers have season tickets," said the Ticket Network rep, "so they have seats for any event held at the theater and they know they have a guarantee of what row. They're allowed to sell them because they know they're going to get them."
The online resellers are also offering tickets to see Weird Al Yankovic, Taj Mahal and Natalie MacMaster, all of them part of the season and not yet distributed. Brokered tickets are also offered to two non-season shows that have been on sale for some time, for the Black Crowes and the Celtic punk band Flogging Molly.
"Secondary ticket sales are commonplace in most major markets," said Roy Furshpan, CenterArts executive director, who explained that the sales can involve fans who have extra tickets or brokerage companies speculating that a show will sell out and demand will allow for higher prices. Brokers have listings for 40 tickets for the Black Crowes show ranging wildly in price, from $95 up to $595. This while tickets from the box office are still available for $45.
The simple explanation from Darren Spinck, a flak for the National Association of Ticket Brokers: "The free market dictates the price."
"What these companies are doing is buying tickets for every show on a tour," said Furshpan. "I imagine Black Crowes will sell out, but I don't think people will pay as much as they're asking. I imagine people who bought tickets to speculate like that will lose money. Nobody in Humboldt is going to buy tickets for five or 10 times face value. The [scalpers will] find that it won't work here. There's no reason to pay these outrageous prices. We have the tickets. Call our box office. Don't deal with these people."