- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

Forget the Police, Justin Timberlake or Bruce Springsteen. The undisputed hottest concert ticket of the year is for 14-year-old pop star Miley Cyrus, star of the Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana” TV show.

Fans are so desperate for seats to her 54-date tour, kicking off later this month, that venues have sold out in as little as four minutes. A 7 p.m. Jan. 7 show at the Verizon Center sold out within 12 to 15 minutes, officials at the downtown arena said yesterday, and scalpers are getting four to five times the face value — creating a torrent of complaints from frustrated parents.

“We knew it was hot, but we had no idea it was this crazy,” says Debra Rathwell, senior vice president of AEG Live, which is handling her tour. “It’s like the Beatles.”

About 12,000 seats for the Memphis, Tenn. show were gone in 8 minutes. It took 15 minutes in Columbus, Ohio, and swift sellouts have been reported across the country — including Nashville, Miami, Lexington, Ky. The Kansas City Council is investigating the matter.

One ticket for the show in Charlotte, N.C., sold for $2,565, and a posting yesterday on Craigslist in the District offered “$9999” under the heading “Buying Hannah Montana tickets — Any Extras?”

“Please help this mom out,” the posting added.

Miley, the daughter of country music singer Billy Ray Cyrus, plays high school student Miley Stewart, who lives a secret double life as a famous pop star, Hannah Montana. Her show reaches 5 million viewers a week.

The sold-out “Best of Both Worlds Tour,” which begins Oct. 18, follows the release of her double album, “Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus,” which has already sold more than 1 million copies since its release in June. The first album, released late last year, sold more than 2 million copies.

Paige Nace, 35, hoped to take her daughter to see Miley at the Arena at Gwinnett Center outside of Atlanta. Nine-year-old Arianna had been begging to see her live ever since she started watching the show, Miss Nace said.

“I think that’s it’s pretty cool she is coming here,” Arianna said. “I want to get up on stage and sing with her. Most likely every girl I know likes Hannah.”

But in four minutes, tickets to the November show were gone. Miss Nace says tickets were being resold for inflated prices on Internet sites like Craigslist and eBay Inc.’s ticket-reselling subsidiary StubHub.

“All the ticket brokers and scalpers are trying to sell them for $100 to $200 a piece,” Miss Nace says. “If they would have been face value, I would have gladly gotten them.”

The tour promoter capped prices at $65 and put a four-ticket maximum on each transaction. However, the average ticket for the Hannah Montana tour was being resold for $214. That beats the average resale price for Mr. Timberlake ($182), Beyonce ($193), or the Police ($209).

The Police tour has been StubHub’s best-selling tour in the company’s history, but Hannah Montana has sold 35 percent more tickets in the same amount of time and is outselling the Police by 25 percent based on dollar volume.

Understandably that’s riling a lot of fans.

“It’s always been a problem and it getting worse and worse,” says Miss Rathwell, who notes that her company is doing all it can to reduce scalping. But with every show selling out immediately, there are few options for parents.

“Hannah Montana has essentially exposed a lot of frustration the average, uninformed ticket buyer has,” says Sean Pate, a spokesman for the San Francisco-based StubHub. “There is so much demand that ticket sellers are pricing on the high side. It’s almost unreasonable.”

As technology changes and more venues start selling tickets online, scalpers are no longer those shady-looking guys holding up tickets outside the arena. Most states have no restrictions on reselling tickets, even for a big profit.

Ray Waddell, Billboard’s touring writer, says scalpers use automated computer programs that buy tickets quickly or tie up ticket phone lines with repeated calls. “It’s really getting out of control,” Mr. Waddell says. “The industry is kind of fed up.”

Miss Pate encourages Hannah Montana fans to sit tight and wait for prices to go down as the tour dates approach.

“The prices that you see now are not the prices that are going to hold,” she says. “Parents need to set a price that they are comfortable with and watch the market on a daily basis.”

Miss Nace is refusing to deal with scalpers at all, but the situation has left both her and her daughter disappointed. “My mom is trying to do everything she can to take me,” Arianna says. “I’m still going to listen to the CDs.”

“I feel like they are ripping off children,” Miss Nace says. “I’m sure there are parents out there who would pay that much. But the rest of us shouldn’t be penalized for that.”

The Washington Times’ Robyn-Denise Yourse contributed to this report.

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