Abusive and outrageous are just some of the terms Mexican concertgoers have used to describe what they consider elitist presale ticketing practices that literally take them to the bank.
Abusive and outrageous are just some of the terms Mexican concertgoers have used to describe what they consider elitist presale ticketing practices that literally take them to the bank. Carlos Zuniga, who waited a decade for Pearl Jam to offer a live show in Mexico, was thrilled when a local promoter announced that tickets would go on sale in June.
Yet excitement gave way to disappointment after he was excluded from a 48-hour presale, during which tickets were available exclusively to bank cardholders at Banamex, one of the nation's largest banks.
The problem, says Zuniga, was that in order to obtain a debit or credit card, he would have needed to open a bank account with a minimum balance of 1,000 pesos ($93). Factor in ticket costs, some of which fetch up to 1,800 pesos ($168), and throw in an obligatory Ticketmaster service charge and you get a price that goes well beyond many fans' reach.
"I never even considered it an option," says Zuniga, referring to the presale. "It would have cost me the equivalent of a monthly rent payment."
Granted, Mexico City-based promoter Ocesa Entretenimiento added a third Pearl Jam show in which tickets went on sale to the general public. But because so many people had been excluded from the presale, the demand for the third show was overwhelming. "I felt like I was scrounging for leftovers," says 25-year-old Marcos Vazquez.
When Ocesa brought Pearl Jam to Mexico in July, manager Kelly Curtis agreed to come under the condition that the promoter was only going to sell 9,000 presale tickets for a total of three gigs, which is about 15% of some 60,000 seats that went on sale.
He learned later, however, that the company had sold 30,000 such tickets, or about 50% of the available seats. Curtis was also told in a letter he received from Philip Enrst, Ocesa's U.S. regional director, that any person could obtain a bank card by opening an account with a minimum balance of $20. He found out later that the amount required was closer to $95.
"I am not happy to hear that," Curtis said. "Had we known about all that beforehand, we wouldn't have accepted those conditions." Guillermo Parra, Ocesa's director of international events, said the offer to sell 9,000 presale tickets was based on a "per show" estimate, bringing the total to 27,000 seats. Curtis said the bid sheet he received made no mention of that.
Fans also have complained about Ticketmaster Mexico's "excessive" service charges, which are tacked on to all non-box office pre-sale ticket purchases. The fees can cost as much as 192 pesos ($18) for a ticket fetching 1,800 pesos ($168). Ticketmaster Mexico director Lorenza Baz says her company charges a 10% service charge based on a ticket's face value. In other words, if a seat costs $90, a Ticketmaster Mexico client pays an additional $9.
Baz insists, however, that Ticketmaster service charges have "nothing to do with the presale" because concertgoers, namely card-carrying Banamex members, can buy tickets at box offices without having to pay a Ticketmaster fee. However, many bank account holders say they begrudgingly pay the Ticketmaster service charge because they can not afford to take time off from work to buy tickets at local venues.
Baz says Mexico ranks among the leading markets worldwide in the number of tickets sold annually for live events. Only the U.S. and England sell more tickets in Ticketmaster territories.