Website bloody website (or: How to disgruntle an adoring fan)

I didn’t go to see U2 on their last tour, because I felt the ticket prices were taking the piss; this time round, it seems the prices are even higher. According to U2log.com, Glaswegian fans are apparently expected to shell out £85 for general admission tickets [edit, 27 Jan: Glasgow’s Evening Times reports that the cheapest tickets aren’t quite that bad, but they’re a still-scary £55 including booking fee]. I’m neither rich nor a hardcore fan, so I’ve no intention of going.

Of course, U2 can charge as much as they like and hardcore fans *will* go, because the band has one of the most loyal groups of fans in the world. But if you thought the ticket prices were a clear example of hardcore fan abuse, the recent treatment of U2.com members is even worse.

In December, the U2.com site added a subscribers-only section. Members of the U2 fanclub Propaganda, which has been around since The Edge had hair, were promised a discount. They didn’t get one. According to U2log.com:

Former subscribers of Propaganda, U2’s official magazine, who were told they’d receive a 50% discount never got it and got signed up for a full $40 membership. Others got charged twice. (Fanfire, the company hired by U2 to deal with their webshop and memberships, is reportedly now successfully addressing these issues.)

The big attraction of membership was priority access to concert tickets, which sell out in seconds whenever U2 announce a tour. By paying for the site subscription, fans were told, they’d get priority access to tickets before the rest of the world could buy any, and of course the tickets available to fans would be the best seats in the house.

So what happened when the tickets went on sale? U2log again:

European sales [go] belly up pretty much straight away. U2.com members who paid $40 for their priority ticketing and [were] “guaranteed the best seat in the house” find out their presale codes are rendered invalid thanks to timeouts on the Ticketmaster sites. Ticketmaster initially reactivates some codes, but apparently gives up at some stage (number of emails too overwhelming?).

Six hours later, tickets for gigs on the East Coast of the United States go on sale. This initially seems to be going more smoothly, until it becomes clear there are practically NO General Admission tickets available at all, and the tickets that do become available are nosebleed seats at about $150 or more a pop. Some are even situated BEHIND the stage.

To make matters worse, Ticketmaster changes the floorchart while the sale is going on, so that people who think they’ve got a good view now end up having paid $300 for seats so far removed from the stage they’ll need binoculars.

Each following hour is marked by U2.com downtime from there on, and more disappointed fans around America. When the West Coast of the United States goes on sale, including the tour opener San Diego, the Ticketmaster site goes completely belly up. Users that have placed orders get Server Configuration errors when they want to finalise their sale.

The presale to the only Canadian date, Vancouver, seems to have been cancelled altogether without anyone getting ANY detail as to why. So far there has been no information forthcoming concerning this issue.

Pretty much immediately after each presale, tickets start appearing on Ebay at exuberant prices (over $1000) for all shows.

Ticketmaster and U2.com have apologised, which is nice of them, but the whole sorry saga is a classic example of how to ruin the goodwill of fans. Instead of easy access to tickets and discounts on the price or at least the booking fee – which is what they believed they were paying their membership fees for – the fans who could actually locate tickets found bad seats at high prices and were beaten to the punch by eBay scalpers. Unsurprisingly, a significant number of fans are extremely unhappy about paying a membership fee to U2.com for priority ticket booking that was nothing of the sort.

Of course, U2 themselves didn’t do this – but the people acting on their behalf were responsible for the cock-up, and if the band has any sense then they’ll strap the lot of ’em to a giant mechanical arse-kicking machine, film it and put the footage on U2.com. Tomorrow.

More at An Open Letter to U2 and U2log.com.

[via No Rock N Roll Fun]

Update, 7 February

As No Rock reports, U2 drummer Larry Mullen has written an apology to fans:

“There was a mess up in the way the tickets were distributed through U2.com for the Vertigo pre-sale. Some of it was beyond our control, but some of it wasn’t” Mullen writes at u2.com.

“I am now in the process of figuring out a way of distributing the tickets for our intended return to North America in the fall” Mullen says. “The only fair way of doing this, is to give U2 Propaganda members, who are now U2.com members, priority in the queue”.

“After that, people will be given priority in the order in which they joined. Many people who joined U2.com and didn’t get tickets are understandably angry. They now have the option to get a full refund of their subscription fee.

“The idea that our long-time U2 fans and scalpers competed for U2 tickets through our own web site is appalling to me. I want to apologise to you who have suffered that.

“If your U2.com pre-sale experience has left you disappointed, I hope this will go some way towards reassuring you of our total commitment to our audience.”