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Fame and celebrity

System for Andy Lau tickets jammed for hours as fans scramble to secure seats for Hong Kong star’s show

Booking through the Urbtix website, mobile phone app and hotline, was set to start at 10am, but platforms could not be accessed as early as an hour before

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2018, 11:38am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2018, 11:11pm

A bid by organisers of Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau Tak-wah’s concert to combat ticket scalping ended in fans struggling throughout most of Tuesday to access a severely jammed sales website.

Online and phone ticket sales systems for the “heavenly king’s” show were inaccessible just hours before 60,000 tickets were made available.

The platforms had become vital for securing highly sought-after tickets to the Canto-pop icon’s performances from December 15 to January 3 at the Hong Kong Coliseum after sales were suspended at box offices following a knife attack last week at a counter queue.

Even with the overloaded systems on Tuesday, tickets were snapped up within hours, with online scalpers touting them at almost 10 times the original price.

Calls for real name system for showgoers in Hong Kong so scalpers can’t profit

At 8pm, one site was selling a ticket for a second row seat for the last show on January 3 for HK$8,500.

The official Facebook page of the concert, “My Love Andy Lau World Tour”, was flooded with complaints by disappointed fans. User Peter Chen wrote: “Just couldn’t get through ... Adopt a real-name system please.” He was referring to a suggestion for showgoers to register with their names to buy tickets.

In the August 26 knife incident, a 58-year-old mainland man, who was second in line outside the ticket office at Youth Square, Chai Wan, was punched and attacked with a knife. Two days later, police arrested four suspected triad members in connection with the case.

On Tuesday, bookings through the Urbtix website, as well as its mobile phone app and hotline, were set to open at 10am. Tickets for a total of 20 performances were available for sale. Prices ranged from HK$380 to HK$980 (US$125).

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But at 8am, the systems were reportedly inaccessible. Many claimed they could not enter the platforms throughout the day, until after 5.30pm when tickets had sold out. A message on the website read: “The system is working normally but is now processing ticket purchases by a large number of customers. All internet ticketing slots are currently filled. Please wait a moment.”

The message also stated that users would be granted access “automatically”.

By 11.30am, some 80 per cent of tickets were snapped up, and by noon, only 2,700 were left. Sales ended by 5.25pm with all tickets sold out.

At 7.30pm, outside the official channel, scalped tickets began surfacing. On another site, a ticket in the 11th row for a December 15 show was going for HK$3,060.

Buying concert tickets in Hong Kong – a fraught exercise

An outcry over scalping in the city erupted earlier this year after tickets to some popular shows were snapped up and resold for nearly 20 times the original price. In April, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said officials would consider making ticket scalping a criminal offence for shows at government venues.

It is like building a 20-lane highway leading to the Cross Harbour Tunnel, but it won’t ease congestion if it is still a two-lane tunnel
Francis Fong, Hong Kong Information Technology Federation

Scalping tickets for shows at private venues is a crime and carries a fine of HK$2,000. However, that law does not apply to facilities run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, such as the Hong Kong Coliseum.

A spokesman for the department, which manages the Urbtix system, said the platform had been working “normally” throughout Tuesday. He said the congestion was because of the huge amount of user traffic since 8am.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said providing a system for online ticket sales was not addressing the issue.

“The system was just overloaded when hundreds of thousands of people were trying to access it at the same time” Fong said. “Increasing the bandwidth won’t help much. It is like building a 20-lane highway leading to the Cross Harbour Tunnel, but it won’t ease congestion if it is still a two-lane tunnel.

“The move will also not stop scalping, let alone make it easier for fans to buy tickets.”

He said “a real-name registration system” should be the ultimate solution.

The Performing Industry Association, whose members organise more than 90 per cent of mega pop concerts held in Hong Kong, reiterated its call for the government to increase penalties for ticket scalping.

But it opposed the idea of ticket sales through name registration, saying this would only give rise to more confusion with endless queues if fans who went to a show had to wait outside the venue to have their identities verified based on tickets bought.

Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao