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Programs that vacuum up tickets are good for everyone except the fans

This is where cumbersome laws and regulations find their source. They spring from broad and justifiable public dissatisfaction that grabs the attention of politicians who respond because others didn’t.

It would be a shame if it required legislation to deal with the issues that arose in the ticket sales for Paul McCartney’s Oct. 22 concert in Buffalo, but if no one else does, at some point, lawmakers will. Count on it. It’s like night following day.

There is, and should be, a lot of room for the entertainment business to structure its sales. There were at least three “presales” of tickets for the McCartney concert. That has also been the case for other recent high-profile concerts, as well, including the Rolling Stones. It’s a little odd, but fair enough.

The problem arises when average people are all but shut out of the opportunity to buy tickets by “bots” – robotic computer programs – and other schemes meant to vacuum up as many tickets as possible for resale on what can be very expensive secondary markets. That appears to have been the case in the McCartney ticket sale, which began with presales on Thursday and ended after just four minutes of public sale on Monday.

Many people around Western New York were unable to buy tickets because of auto-dialing bots that jam the system, blocking average users from the opportunity to purchase tickets, while scooping up as many as possible for resale at dramatically inflated prices. It’s scalping on a towering scale and it demands a response.

The question is, who cares enough to act? The performer is getting what he wants. The promoter is getting what it wants. The venue is getting what it wants. Left out in the cold is the average person whose interest in these events is what makes everyone else’s success possible in the first place. It’s rotten to the core.

More than manipulation was at play in the McCartney sale, of course. His performance here is one of the most anticipated in years and maybe decades. Only so many seats are available. That’s fair enough; the bots aren’t.

Ticket sellers such as Tickets.com and Ticketmaster have implemented systems that require input by users in an effort to prove they are real people and not bots. Plainly, they aren’t working. It’s hard to believe that modern technology can’t come up with something better. The question is, who will respond, or is it going to be left to government to intervene, as happened this spring in Washington state?

The system will never be perfect, human nature being what it is. But it can be better than this. The live entertainment industry can’t exist without people willing to buy the tickets. They deserve a little respect.