Scalpers groan as ducats sell under face

Not exactly a frenzy: Tickets to Lady Gaga's sold-out Houston shows are easy to come by

Not exactly a frenzy: Tickets to Lady Gaga's sold-out Houston shows are easy to come by

Lady Gaga's two Toyota Center shows have officially been sold out almost from the moment the ducats became available for purchase. But as any scalper, veteran concert goer or trend follower can tell you, not all sell outs are created equal.

It takes a continuing buzz to turn a sold-out show into a sought-after juggernaut — an overwhelming desire from people who didn't get tickets to still get in. These are the super shows that becomes a scalpers' great white whale and Gaga isn't coming anywhere close to delivering on that promise in Houston.

As I walked by the Toyota Center late this afternoon after attending the Houston Astros' game, I was offered two prime lower level seats (16th row) for Gaga's show tonight for $100 each — well under the face value of the tickets. Sure, the guy started out by asking for $200 apiece (which still isn't that bad considering that good lower level seats retailed for close to two bills). But one of the easiest scalper negotiations ever cut that in half in a matter of moments.

When I told the guy that I really wasn't interested in buying Lady Gaga tickets (apparently, the two toddlers in my entourage weren't enough of a giveaway) and that I worked in the media, he just shook his head.

"Gaga is killing us," he said. "She might have some crazy fans, but there's not as many of them as I thought. This is one of the more disappointing nights since I've been in the business. I was really counting on this with how horrible the Astros are selling for us this year too."

A check of — the "secondary" online ticket market giant — showed more of the same. Two seats in section 107, row 19 were going for $155 each when the Gaga show was less than three hours away. StubHub sellers are still asking for  around $240 per ticket for those type of seats for Monday night's concert — with one delusional seller trying to peddle off two third-row seats for $499 each. (Seats almost always go down the closer you get to the actual event on ticket broker websites).

For all the hype over Gaga's Bayou City appearance, it's becoming harder and harder for anyone to argue that these are some of the most significant concerts Houston has seen.

Of course, it could be argued — with face value starting at $49.50 for the worst seats — that Gaga tickets being overpriced from the beginning is what really killed the scalping market, and some of the buzz. The worldwide malaise that's been gripping the concert market — forcing even big acts to cancel shows — makes any sell outs (no matter how soft) a little more impressive as well.

You couldn't doubt the dedication of 100-plus fans ( a good-sized crowd, if not a corpse flower-worthy one) with general admission floor seats who lined up in the 95-degree afternoon heat to wait until the doors opened to sprint to the best possible spots. Many were decked out in costumes and body paint, awaiting a glimpse of the object of their worship.

"You have to be young to like Lady Gaga," 19-year-old Jessica Spiers said. "But not so young that our parents are going to be buying us $300 seats like all those Justin Bieber kids. And when you're young without mommy and daddy's credit card, you don't have money to pay extra.

"We paid enough. Lady Gaga fans aren't dumb. We have common sense."

Spiers paused to excuse herself for a moment. Some of the black paint on her forehead was running into her eyes.

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Lady Gaga may be the ultimate showwoman, but she's not a scalper's best friend.
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If you wanted to get into Lady Gaga's Sunday night show at the Toyota Center, you could — often for less than face value. Courtesy photo