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Waterfall of tears for Singapore's Coldplay fans as scalpers put 3,000% premium on tickets

The law of supply and demand has left Singapore's Coldplay fans fuming and created a thriving resale market where tickets were going at a 3,000 percent premium.

The British soft-rock band is due to perform at the Singapore National Stadium on Apr. 1, 2017, as part of the "A Head Full of Dreams" tour, but demand for tickets left many buyers unable to access the ticketing system even as tickets appeared on resale sites at many times their original value.

Coldplay fan Nikhita Sejpal waited more than 4 hours in a virtual queue on Monday in an unsuccessful bid to buy tickets. Sejpal told CNBC by email that she was later offered resale tickets on Facebook and local marketplace Carousell that cost between S$400 ($280) and S$1,000.

On ticket marketplace Viagogo, VIP tickets to the concert were reselling for between S$1,350 and S$9,912 as of Nov. 23, about 353 percent to 3,226 percent higher than the S$298 concert organizer Live Nation Lushington charged for the VIP package. Other ticket categories ranged from between S$700 to a little more than S$1,000 each, versus the official price range of S$78 and S$268.

Coldplay performing an exclusive gig in London on November 11, 2016. The band's popularity in Singapore drove resale prices for concert tickets in the city-state next April to a 3,000% premium.
John Phillips | Getty Images
Coldplay performing an exclusive gig in London on November 11, 2016. The band's popularity in Singapore drove resale prices for concert tickets in the city-state next April to a 3,000% premium.

On Monday, Live Nation Lushington encouraged fans to refrain from purchasing any resale tickets, warning that the tickets may be voided and holders denied access to the venue. In a press statement, the promoters said Coldplay's management was also aware of the situation.

Live Nation Lushington did not respond to CNBC's request for comment on how it planned to crack down on the resale market or if cancelled tickets would be re-released for purchase through official channels. A spokesperson said the company would release more information on the possibility of additional tickets on Thursday.

The company's MD Michael Roche told local newspaper the Straits Times that he was aware of a recent BBC report, in which the MD of Live Nation Italy admitted that the Live Nation gave tickets directly to Viagogo for resale. But Roche told the newspaper that Live Nation Lushington did not engage in such practices.

Though Singapore does not have any official regulation in place to prevent scalping, in the past many large events have had rules against the resale of tickets.

In 2015, the Straits Times reported the price for getting caught re-selling tickets to the country's annual National Day Parade (NDP) was a permanent ban from being eligible for the electronic ballot through which the free tickets are distributed.

But Adelle Yang, assistant professor of marketing at the NUS Business School, told CNBC that strict monitoring of resold tickets was not always feasible, particularly for online tickets, and required a lot of labor to enforce.

Meanwhile, scalping made ticketed events even more desirable as a status symbol among consumers, Yang explained, given that most of the tickets tended to re-sell at inflated prices.

"Me entering the event would reveal to other people that I am rich and I have power and access to this event," she said.

Live Nation Lushington blamed "unprecedented" demand for the failure of many fans to get tickets. The company said more than 40,000 tickets were sold in three phases, with two pre-sales last week for Citibank customers and Live Nation mailing list subscribers, then a general sale for the public on Nov. 21 through the Singapore Sports Hub ticket outlet.

Close to 20,000 unique users attempted to dial the Sports Hub Tix hotline and access the ticketing website on Monday, according to the concert promoter, while hundreds queued outside the stadium's box office and Singapore Post outlets. The high volume of traffic saw online tickets snapped up within the first 10 minutes of the public sale, leaving thousands waiting on hold or buffering before finding out the tickets were sold out.

Karen Ho unsuccessfully attempted to purchase tickets during all three sales phases. She told CNBC by email that she waited more than two hours each time before learning the tickets were sold out or the website went down for maintenance.

"I've never had such a bad experience before," she said. "It's actually quite embarrassing that a supposedly world-class venue is using such a sub-standard e-ticketing system that (was) not designed to support heavy traffic."

Sejpal, meanwhile, said the experience had put her off from buying tickets for anything in Singapore.

Singapore Sports Hub denied there were issues with the ticketing system, however. A spokesperson told CNBC in emailed comments, "The Sports Hub Tix system was able to manage the surge of buyers, but simply could not open up inventory to those waiting in the system as tickets were either being transacted or held pending payment clearance."

The spokesperson added that for each transaction, a customer could buy up to 4 VIP or Category 1 seated tickets and 8 tickets for all of the other categories. There were no limits on the number of transactions a single user could make.

Yang warned that a failure to curb scalping could reflect badly on the companies, even if it did not hurt their profit margins. "Scalping is not technically illegal but it is frowned upon ... (because) people believe it's unfair," she said.

Meanwhile, Live Nation Lushington said it was working on finalizing the staging of the concert to determine if additional seats or standing areas could be added, and that it would confirm availability of additional tickets via its official channels.

"We will continue to explore all avenues to try and maximize the capacity at the stadium," the company said in a statement.

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