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Sunday, June 05, 2016

Not Hip To Be Scalped - It's Tragic

As somebody who was born, raised, and currently living in Canada, I happen to have a lot of pride in my nation.

When it comes down to it - in my unapologetic and biased opinion - I believe that Canada is one of the greatest nations on the entire planet because of its very unique features.  We are the nation that created the dish known as the poutine that despite its tendency to give you a heart attack is the ultimate Canadian comfort food.  We are the nation that invented the great sport of basketball - and yet we only have one team in the NBA.  What's up with that?  And, we are also the nation that abolished the penny from our currency - which in turn has made things more expensive - but hey, at least we also have some cool looking currency in both coin and bill form!

Another thing that Canada has is some really fantastic musical talent.

From The Guess Who and Chilliwack to Hedley and Carly Rae Jepsen, there are a number of Canadian artists who have contributed to the soundtracks of our lives.  I imagine most of us have probably owned at least one album of Bryan Adams, Alanis Morissette, Barenaked Ladies, and Celine Dion in our lives.  Well, okay, maybe most of us only have one Celine Dion song in our collections.  And for 95% of us, it's probably that song from "Titanic".  The point is that Canadian music is fantastic for the most part.

(And yes, we know that we gave you all Justin Bieber.  Save your stones and lit torches.  Besides, I kind of sort of like the song "Sorry".)

One of the bands that almost every Canadian knows and loves is The Tragically Hip.  And, the band - which was founded in Kingston, Ontario in the early 1980s - has been rocking out the provinces and territories of this great nation ever since.  I'll be the first to admit that I do enjoy quite a few of their singles, and while I will not claim to be the band's biggest fan (mainly because I know quite a few who have me beat!), I will state that any time I have heard them in television interviews, they have always seemed very gracious and honoured by the support given to them by their fans, which is refreshing to see.  And while they have attracted fans all over the world, it is Canada where the band is most loved.

And honestly how can anybody hate The Tragically Hip?  Their music is fantastic.  Have a listen to "Ahead By a Century" from 1996!

Or, how about "Bobcaygeon" from 1998?

Or even perhaps my favourite Hip song, "Courage" from 1992?

I seriously could list their entire discography here on this blog post and it still wouldn't do this band justice. 

Of course, it's fitting that I post the song "Courage".  Because the lead singer of the band, Gord Downie, is probably mustering up all the courage that he has to embark in what could very well be the last few months of his life.

It was a sucker punch to the gut for most Canadians the day after Victoria Day weekend when it was announced that Downie, 52, had a brain tumour that was deemed inoperable.  Worse, the cancer that he had was one of the most aggressive kinds that there was.  It is unknown exactly how much time Downie will have left, but the prognosis is not good.

It's hard enough to deal with a cancer diagnosis.  I've known quite a few people who have died from the disease, or who have had major hardships as a direct result of it.  I can only imagine what Downie, his family, and his bandmates are going through right now, and my thoughts are definitely with all of them at this time.

But, Downie has made the decision that he wants to make the most of whatever time he has left, and he and the Hip have decided to give their fans a couple of going away presents.  A new album by the band is set to drop June 17 - which I am predicting will be hard to find in stores unless you download it from iTunes - and the band will embark on one final cross-country tour this summer.  The final date will be held in the very city that their career began - Kingston, Ontario.

Now, living fairly close by to Kingston, it would be nice to go see them in concert to support the band, but I know that tickets would have been extremely hard to get given the high demand for them.  Certainly I know many of my friends have tried to get tickets, but came up empty.

But I don't think any of them could have prepared for just how hard it would be to actually score some tickets to any of the band's shows.  And to be honest with you, I'm not very happy about how it went down thanks to some incredibly greedy people who have used a man's disease to earn some fast cash.

In this day and age, scalpers have always been associated with high-profile concerts.  Suppose you have a ticket to, oh, let's just say going with the Canadian theme here, Three Days Grace.  And suppose that an average concert ticket would cost $75 to get inside.  Scalpers would buy one hundred tickets, and resell them for $325 - making a huge profit off the original ticket price. 

Despite the fact that scalping is an illegal offence in some places (I know my province of Ontario has a law in place), it is surprisingly ignored, and thus is the reason why scalpers continue to be a problem in the music industry.

As a result of scalpers monopolizing the ticket sales through online websites like Ticketmaster, the tickets sold at face value in record time.  Meanwhile, the scalpers were selling the very tickets to Tragically Hip fans for double, triple...even fifty times the price of the ticket!

As far as I'm concerned, this is NOT what The Tragically Hip would have wanted at all.  And, I can guarantee you that fans of the band have considered this to be an all-time low.  And honestly, I can't say I blame them for having that opinion.

It's bad enough that scalpers have put a high price on a show that a lot of people have wanted to go to.  But for them to purposely do it knowing that this tour is going to be the last time that The Tragically Hip will play in front of a live audience.  I think there's a special place in hell for people like that.

But, I am definitely not going to suggest something like finding a scalper and literally taking a scalpel to his scalp.  That sort of contradicts my new zen state.  What I am suggesting is that governments work with ticket retailers to fix the system so that scalpers receive heavier punishments for scalping.  I am also suggesting that online retailers implement systems that prevent people (including spambots) from purchasing any more than six tickets per transaction.  That may not stop them entirely, but it might slow them down enough for people to have a fighting chance to legitimately get their tickets.

Another radical idea would be to sell tickets the same way they did thirty-three years ago when the Hip were just starting out - no online sales at all.  Instead, you line up at an actual ticket booth and wait in line to buy tickets.  And if scalpers show up wanting hundreds of tickets, they can be escorted out of line!  Maybe going back to a pre-technology world would be a radical, yet necessary step to ensure that more tickets go to more fans.

Whatever the case, I'm sure that things look bleak for fans of The Tragically Hip, and I certainly hope that these scalpers can look at themselves in the mirror having done this.  At the very least, they could have used the profits from the scalped tickets and donated it to a Canadian cancer charity so that research could be done to save more lives.  But I guess that would be asking for too much, right?

In the meantime, for fans who don't have tickets, I will suggest that you check your local radio stations.  I would imagine that some stations were given tickets to give away as a promotion, or they bought up tickets themselves to offer up as prizes.  It would be in your best interest to listen for these contests if you really want to see the band perform.

And I have also heard that the CBC is interested in simulcasting the band's final concert on live television.  At the very least, I hope that a deal is reached.  After all, everyone who is a fan of the band should deserve to see them - and not have to pay an arm and a leg to do it. 

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