Two-thirds of Tragically Hip's "Man Machine Poem" Tickets Were Bought by Bots and Resellers

Two-thirds of Tragically Hip's "Man Machine Poem" Tickets Were Bought by Bots and Resellers
Photo: Kim Jay
The overwhelming demand and subsequent astronomical price points of tickets to the Tragically Hip's cross-country "Man Machine Poem" tour this past summer has been well-documented. Now, concert promoter and Ticketmaster owner Live Nation has spoken out about how scalpers and bots dominated the buying experience.

CBC's Marketplace reports that two-thirds of tickets for the summer trek were snapped up by automated software and brokers. Consequently, fans were reportedly able to buy less than a third of the tickets at their face value. Scalpers even opened an entire website devoted to reselling tickets, while the band tried to remain fair through releasing tickets through a lottery system.

"The odds are absolutely stacked against the fan," Live Nation chief operating officer Joe Berchtold explained to the broadcaster. "Probably a third of the tickets went to bots, another third went to brokers who were just like fans, pounding away at the keyboard, but better trained, more aggressive at it, and maybe a third of them went to fans."

Berchtold estimated that resellers made anywhere from $25 to $30 million from the markups. For the tour's final show in the band's hometown of Kingston, ON, tickets that were initially priced at $50 were selling for hundreds of dollars. "There's a big problem," he continued. "And the big problem starts with bots."

While the resale ticket market has been a constant for large events across the country, Ontario's provincial government will now look to introduce legislation that would outlaw scalper bots from purchasing large blocks of tickets entirely. This would build on Liberal MPP Sophie Kiwala's private member's bill that looked to put a ban on bots earlier this year. 

"What happened with fans wanting to go and pay their last respects to the band they love so much and wanted to get tickets and were not able to do so really bugged me," Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told the CBC. "We know that people are buying tickets online. We know people are selling tickets online. I don't think we can move away from that reality because that's just the practical reality of our lives. You know there is no silver bullet, but we can't just not do anything either."

Naqvi will reportedly consult with consumers, entertainers and lawyers in places such as New York and London, who have also struggled with tickets scalping issues. The province of Manitoba has made reselling tickets for profit illegal, with Winnipeg police busting a pair of Hip ticket scalpers in an undercover sting during the tour.

As previously reported, the Tragically Hip's final show was broadcast nationally on CBC; 11 million Canadian tuned in to watch the event. You can take a look some less money-minded stats from the tour over here.

Frontman Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer earlier this year, but already followed up to the lucrative Hip shows with his newly released Secret Path album, out now via Arts & Crafts. Tonight (October 21) he will play a special live show in support of the new record at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall.