Concert Sellout Angers Fans

Dorton Arena, site of the N.C. State Fair concert series. | Photo (Edited): Leah Rucker/CC BY-SA 3.0
The N.C.State Fair hit a sour note with thousands of fairgoers trying to buy tickets for its headlining concert this year.

Fans were looking forward to buying tickets for country superstar band, Florida-Georgia Line's, concert on October 20 at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh but were surprised to find the show had already sold out within five minutes of going on sale. Tickets for all concerts at this year's fair went on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. There was a presale for those in the band's fan club on Wednesday. The presale had a limited number of tickets available for purchase with more than 4,000 being saved for the public sale.

With measures in place to curb scalping and tips given on the fair's Deep Fried blog, it seemed as if things would go smoothly. That didn't happen. The problems began during the Wednesday presale. Ticket website, Etix, reported that it had issues with its Google Captcha system. Fans reported other issues through Facebook and many fan club members were left without tickets. This was only the beginning. Tickets were released promptly at 10 a.m. for the public sale on Thursday but, once again, hundreds of fans reported issues they were having with the Etix site on Facebook.

Some fans reported having tickets in shopping carts and the system timing out well before the 15-minute time clock expired. Others said they logged on at 10 a.m. and were left waiting for a long period of time, being told tickets were unavailable by the time they were able to get through. Meanwhile, tickets appeared on Stubhub and other sites for multiples of the face value - $10 - before the show had even sold out. Some even selling for a whopping $900 each, a 9,000 percent markup.

Here's the story from WRAL.


Unfortunately, selling tickets online for a ridiculous markup is legal in North Carolina and other states. According to NCGS § 14‑344, Internet sites can sell tickets above face value without a cap unless specifically prohibited by the venue. The reseller must also provide a guarantee that the buyer will receive a refund if anything goes wrong with the ticket purchase or if he/she is denied admission into the venue - which most secondary ticket sites offer.

I contacted the N.C. State Fair and Etix and received conflicting reports.

When pressed about problems of this magnitude not really occurring at venues smaller than Dorton, an Etix rep said via Twitter that shows at those venues didn't "draw in the same numbers" of people as the fair. On the contrary, The Durham Performing Arts Center drew in around 10,000 interested buyers for its Jon Stewart show alone while, according to Etix data reported by fair officials on Facebook, 10,000 buyers logged on for all 11 concerts combined. But then, a rep for the North Carolina State Fair said in an email that 10,000 people logged on just to get tickets to the Florida-Georgia Line concert. Very confusing indeed.

My Thoughts

Unfortunately, my grandma and I were among the disgruntled fans who couldn't buy tickets. We go to at least one of the Dorton Arena shows each year. We were both ecstatic that Florida-Georgia Line was coming and even my dad, who's never interested in the concerts at Dorton Arena, wanted to go. The other concerts the group scheduled in North Carolina were not headlining shows and tickets for the fair concert were dirt cheap compared to the others.

On Thursday I, like many others, logged online to the fair's website and waited patiently for the clock to strike 10. As per the guidelines on the fair's website and blog, I refreshed the concerts page which took a full two minutes to load again (10:02). It took another minute (10:03) for the page to load where I could select the number of tickets. I was then placed "in line" where it was another five or six minutes before the system took me to the tickets review page (around 10:10). By that time it was apparently too late as I received multiple messages saying there were no tickets available.

There have been grumblings on social media asking why WRAL even treated this as a viable story. Most of those came from people who had already scored tickets or who had a free pass into the show to begin with. WRAL found it to be newsworthy as it affected people not only in the Triangle-area but in North Carolina as a whole. I applaud reporter, Julia Sims, and WRAL for being the only local news team to cover this. I'm not stupid. I know that tickets were not solely purchased by scalpers and people who wanted to resell them but something has got to be done to fix this problem.

Here are four suggestions:

Lower the Limit: The ticket "limit" placed on this show was way too high. Fair officials placed a limit of 10 tickets per order while most venues put a limit of four or five, at most, especially for high demand shows.

I ordered tickets for the Hunter Hayes concert in Greensboro during a presale and there was a strict limit of four tickets per order. Once the public sale went on the limit was increased to six. Ticketmaster clearly stated it would cancel any order that exceeded these limits and/or cancel multiple orders associated with the same name, e-mail address, billing address, credit card number, etc.

Go Old School: Revert back to the old school way of distributing tickets. That's right, have fans line up outside the arena the day of the show - don't allow camping out - and distribute tickets based on the number in one's party. One ticket for one person, etc. This may limit online scalping and could leave just "street scalpers" who are subject to stricter laws than online resellers.

My mom and grandma both remember a time when it was free to get into the Dorton Arena concerts at the fair. The catch was you had to line up early if you wanted a good seat. Just because the Dorton concerts were free back then didn't mean the entertainment lacked. In fact, the entertainment was just as good - perhaps even better - than now.

Looking at past fairs, Dorton has played host to Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Chubby Checker, Alan Jackson, KISS and Emmylou Harris, just to name a few.

Use a Different Ticketing System: Many people have had good experiences - up until this - with the Etix ticketing system. Quite honestly, it's not all that great in my opinion. I've always had little issues here and there when ordering fair tickets and I think this debacle shows that a sale of this magnitude cannot be handled by the Etix system. I'm not saying other ticketing systems are perfect either but this should definitely be looked in to.

Stay LocalMany venues have also implemented a policy that limits online sales to just residents of the state in which the event is being held. This policy is already in place for most shows at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

The whole situation is unfortunate. Judging by social media - especially Facebook - there were many other fans who experienced the same problems and made their voices clear to the N.C. State Fair, Etix and Florida-Georgia Line. Unless you experienced this situation first hand you really don't know what happened. My grandma, dad and I are still contemplating whether we're going to the fair at all this year. If we do, we've decided that we will not be attending any Dorton Arena concert, opting for the free entertainment instead.