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Trying to buy Beyoncé tickets? It's more complicated than you think

When Adele announced a 50-date North American tour last fall, fans were elated. The Grammy-winning, record-setting singer doesn't perform live that often. This would be a can't-miss event.

Then tickets went on sale. Every concert sold out in under an hour, with about 10 million fans scrambling. Ticketmaster called the demand "unprecedented."

But could it happen again Tuesday?

That's the day public tickets go on sale for Beyoncé's Formation World Tour, which includes an April 29 stop at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. Fresh off a Super Bowl-stealing performance of her seismic new single, Formation, Beyoncé's tour looks like the spring and summer music event of 2016. Her last solo world tour, in 2013 and 2014, played to about 2 million fans in 126 cities, and many shows on this tour will likely sell out.

While the days of camping in line at your local record store are long gone, the process of buying hot concert tickets can still be stressful and bewildering. Last week, when presale tickets were released to select groups, fans battled high demand and glitchy technology to secure seats. During one presale event Friday, Ticketmaster customers were greeted by a pop-up that said: "Attention! LOTS of fans are trying to buy tickets right now." And this was for nosebleed seats that started at $70.

"You look at that ticket price," said Orlando Davis, program director for WLLD-FM 94.1, "and she's going to make a healthy mint per city."

That is, assuming fans can actually buy tickets.

• • •

Why is buying concert tickets such a hassle? Start with this: There aren't as many seats as you might think.

In January, following a yearslong investigation, the New York Attorney General's Office reported that more than half of all major concert tickets never make it to the general market. For Adele's tour, Billboard estimated around two-thirds of the estimated 750,000 available seats were gone by the time they went on sale to the public, withheld for industry insiders or doled out via exclusive presales. For two Justin Bieber shows at Madison Square Garden, the New York AG's report found, only 15 percent of all tickets made it to the public at large.

So while about 50,000 fans could end up attending Beyoncé's Tampa show, nowhere near that many tickets will actually be available Tuesday. Thousands were snapped up during last week's presales for Beyoncé's fan club members, American Express cardholders, Live Nation app users and other groups.

Then, the moment tickets are released, automated programs called bots sweep up as many as possible so scalpers can flip them on the secondary market, through sites like StubHub or even Ticketmaster itself. According to the attorney general's report, for a 2013 Beyoncé concert in Brooklyn, one bot purchased 520 tickets in three minutes.

Bots and ticket resales have been a hot legislative topic over the past year. While antibot legislation exists in several states, a bill that would have cracked down on ticket-hungry bots died in the Florida Legislature in April 2015. The attorney general's report called for Congress to adopt the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, a bill introduced in 2015 that would penalize bot scalpers by up to $1,000 per ticket sale, plus penalties.

But there are ways to battle the bots, if not always beat them.

In the case of Beyoncé's presale, the most effective strategy was simply waiting them out. During the initial frenzy on Tuesday, as bots clogged the system, tickets would appear and disappear without notice, prompting dejected fans to freak out on social media. Tickets that originally cost $70 were posted on StubHub and VividSeats.com for about $115 — a markup of around 65 percent.

But within 24 hours, the bots backed off, and it became relatively easy for latecomers to grab a seat that wasn't available before. With the secondary market flooded — as of Friday afternoon, there were more than 7,100 tickets on StubHub alone — you could, in some cases, buy a new ticket for less than a scalped seat in the same section.

"None of the presales have sold out of their allotment, but they have sold very well," said Erica Rieke, senior director of marketing for Live Nation in Florida.

Ultimately, there's no guarantee Tampa's Beyoncé show will ever sell out. Filling a stadium is no joke, even for the world's biggest pop stars. One Direction didn't sell out RayJay in 2014; Taylor Swift barely did last year.

And often, a venue will release additional seats for a show based on demand. When tickets went on sale for Pearl Jam's April 11 concert at Amalie Arena, demand was so high that the venue sold its entire planned allotment of day-of-sale tickets. As a result, the arena opened up thousands more seats to accommodate for 360-degree seating.

"Pearl Jam was really crazy at the on-sale, but it wasn't sold out where you couldn't get a ticket," said Amalie Arena spokeswoman Angela Lanza.

The same thing could happen at the Beyoncé show in Tampa, Rieke said. That bodes well for fans buying tickets Tuesday.

• • •

It took Eric Bungay four attempts to buy presale tickets — and he's not even a Beyoncé fan.

"Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry — I could care less about any of it," he said. "If it's Elvis Costello, then we'll talk."

Still, Bungay, 53, of Sun City Center knew an opportunity when he saw one. He took up flipping tickets a couple of years ago to help pay the bills after he said his wife was diagnosed with a degenerative muscular condition, and it became harder for them to attend concerts together. Among other scores, they've made $870 on Fleetwood Mac and $500 on Mark Knopfler.

When a hot ticket goes on sale, they'll work five screens and a phone at once to try to get it.

"Beyoncé was a definite: I'm buying this," said Bungay.

With perseverance, he scored two seats on the field for more than $300 apiece. He listed the tickets on StubHub for $840, but will probably sell them to a co-worker for less.

"The way I look at it is, if I'm only making a little bit of money, $50 or $70, and I'm getting somebody seats they couldn't get, and not have the stress to deal with it, it's a win-win," he said.

For a hard-core Beyoncé fan, it's worth the added cost simply for the peace of mind of knowing they're already in.

"A Beyoncé show is like a Taylor Swift show — you're not going to roll through there just because you have nothing to do," said Davis, of Wild 94.1. "The people who go know what they're going to expect."

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

Want to go?

The show is at 6 p.m. April 29 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Tickets go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. Tuesday via Ticketmaster.

Trying to buy Beyoncé tickets? It's more complicated than you think 02/12/16 [Last modified: Monday, February 15, 2016 10:47am]
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