Hannah Spotting In Arkansas

Arkansas has decided it needs some Hannah Montana detective work of its own.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel began an investigation into state scalping law violations following the 12-minute sellout of the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus "Best of Both Worlds" show at North Little Rock’s Alltel Arena.

McDaniel is on the case after the Kansas City, Mo., city council asked a Ticketmaster rep to explain Hannahgate and after the Missouri AG filed lawsuits against three out-of-state ticket brokers for selling seats to Hannah’s Sprint Center show.

"All hell broke loose with Hannah Montana," Justin Allen, the chief deputy attorney general in Arkansas, told the New York Times. "The tickets were gone in 12 minutes and when people turned around, they were selling at online sites for sometimes as much as 10 times the face value."

McDaniel demanded documents from five ticket sales Web sites October 3rd after issuing a consumer alert September 21st that cautioned parents to do research about who they were buying tickets from.

A spokesman for McDaniel’s office said the investigation is focused on whether ticket brokers used computer software to basically hack into Ticketmaster’s Web site and get past the "Captcha" (the oft-used password of squiggly letters and numbers) to buy large quantities of tickets. Also, the investigation is looking into whether the Web sites list fictitious tickets in order to see how much consumers are willing to shell out.

Putting two and two together, Pollstar contacted the venue that Hannah Montana / Miley Cyrus is scheduled to visit in Arkansas.

Michael Marion, the GM of Alltel Arena, told Pollstar the arena has been working with the AG’s office in their investigation.

"You know, scalping is illegal in Arkansas. A fair amount of tickets are being scalped. I’m not sure what solutions he can come up with but if scalpers are doing things to cut in front of legitimate fans buying tickets, I’m all for stopping them," Marion said.

Marion said his 11-year-old son Jonah tipped him off six months ago that the tween-queen’s 54-date tour was going to be big. While Jonah’s finger may have been on the pulse, not many predicted just how big the 14-year-old daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus was really going to be.

"Back in the ’80s, with Bruce Springsteen, was the last time I had seen such huge demand," Marion said.

The GM said that the last time the arena had such a quick sellout was ’Nsync in 2000, which sold out in two hours, compared to the 43,000 fans that tried to snatch up Hannah tickets to the 18,000-capacity arena within minutes.

Marion thinks the show would have sold out even faster if the arena didn’t try out a measure to ward off scalpers.

When purchasing tickets, ticket buyers were only allowed to purchase them if they entered an Arkansas zip code.

It is a concept that has been put to use by sports teams and for events like the Garth Brooks stand in Kansas City. It wasn’t advertised in order to catch the scalpers off guard and Marion said it only worked for the arena because the venue is located in the middle of the state.

Even with that measure in place, simple math says there were still many more unhappy fans and parents than those who received tickets to see their idol. Marion said the arena has responded back to every complaint – and he has had to explain how ticketing works to some parents who might not have bought a concert ticket in 20 years.

"I think even without the scalpers it would have sold out because the demand is so high," Marion said.

Ticketmaster has already filed a lawsuit against RMG Technologies, a company that runs TicketBrokerTools.com which, according to the complaint, is renting scalpers software that allows them to get their hands on tickets fast and in bulk.

According to Ticketmaster’s suit, by using RMG’s software brokers "are bombarding Ticketmaster’s Web site with millions of automated ticket requests that can constitute up to 80 percent of all ticket requests made." This denies "the public access to tens of thousands of tickets so that RMG’s customers can purchase and resell those tickets to the same public at inflated prices."

RMG attorney Jay Coggan denied any wrongdoing in a court filing of his own.

"This may be the only time in the history of litigation that any seller sued its customers for paying them too much money," he wrote.

In an interview with the New York Times, Coggan added, "Ticketmaster isn’t losing any money – they’re getting paid full dollar for every ticket sold."

An interesting sidebar: Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel sent the U.S. District Court Central District of California a letter dated September 21st to give his opinion on the case, which has been consolidated with four others.

The court didn’t really care for his efforts to help out. It was noted in the civil minutes that, "The Court wishes to advise the parties that this wholly inappropriate letter will have no influence on this Court’s decisions in this case."

Ticketmaster also recently filed a motion for an injunction to stop RMG from selling their software and a hearing was scheduled for October 15th.

Alltel’s GM, for one, is on Ticketmaster’s side.

"I think that [the lawsuit’s] a great idea. If people are cheating when it comes to buying tickets, I think that’s flat-out wrong and people who are buying tickets should be fans of the show. That’s just my old-fashioned opinion," Marion said.