In what just might be the most daring stunt since Evel Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon, concert promoter AEG Live has added another 20 shows to Jackson’s upcoming residency at the venue.

The latest run of dates kicks off January 9 and runs through the end of February. Tickets for all 50 shows go on sale to the general public March 13.

For all of you out there thinking this thing can’t possibly go off without some kind of a hitch (I’ll admit, I’m with you there), you won’t even have to wait until the first show.

A press release from AEG Live says this about ticket sales to date:

The figures speak for themselves – 360,000 tickets sold in 18 hours during the presale so far, that is 20,000 tickets per hour, 333 tickets per minute!

Sounds like things are running smoothly, right? Not exactly. The Times of London reports there was a little bump in the road during the presale that upset some fans.

About 10,000 tickets for each of the ten concerts announced last week went on sale yesterday morning on Ticketmaster to fans who had registered their interest on Jackson’s Web site. However, demand was so high that the Web site crashed, leading the promoters to announce another 20 dates – which also quickly sold out. It is thought that nearly 300,000 seats have been sold so far. The remaining tickets for each show will go on sale tomorrow.

Okay, minor problem. Not a big deal. That kind of thing is to be expected. This is Michael Jackson we’re talking about here and he hasn’t done a full-scale tour in more than a dozen years.

Jackson’s reasons for undertaking this gargantuan effort after so long away from the stage are pretty obvious. He needs to polish up his image in the worst way and he really, really needs the money. And it looks like he’ll walk away from this with a lot of it.

How much? Well The Times helpfully did a little math:

The live music industry is notoriously secretive about how ticket prices are split, but ten nights at the 22,000-capacity London venue at about £70 [roughly $96] a ticket will gross £15,400,00 [$21.2 million]. There will be deductions – venue hire, promotion cost, tax, production and musicians fees – but Jackson could easily walk away with several million pounds.

While noting “the paper’s show accountant doesn’t appear to have bothered about such things as VAT or PRS,” Pollstar’s John Gammon took things one step further and calculated that over the course of 50 shows, “Jacko’s take would come to $106 million.”

The Times also estimates the singer’s paycheck will get bumped up by a few other items.

Songwriter’s royalties will boost this. These are based on three percent of gross ticket sales; this equals £462,000 [around $634,000] to be split between Jackson and his co-writers.

Then there is the merchandise (T-shirts, tour programmes and other branded goods) and the knock-on effect on album sales. If a leading brand steps in as sponsor, Jackson’s pay cheque could double, given the scale of media attention that the shows will attract.

If this all goes according to plan (and that’s a really, really big if), MJ will earn enough dough to keep him in sequined gloves and military jackets into his seventies.

So what is AEG’s motivation for undertaking such a big project with an extremely risky star? After all, Jackson has a reputation for somehow torpedoing big schemes and they’ve already sunk a ton of capital into this plan.

It’s simple really; The company is poised to clean up bigtime. And that’s where things really start to get rocky. If fans were upset about crashing servers, they’re going to love this next little piece of info The Times dug up (new villain alert!).

But The Times understands that outside the official sale of the tickets, AEG Live approached secondary ticketing companies – which allow people to resell tickets to sporting and music events – offering to provide them directly with between 500 and 1,000 tickets for each performance.

It is thought that AEG Live offered the tickets on the understanding that they were sold at about £500 [roughly $687] each, with 80 percent of the revenue returning to AEG Live and the secondary ticketing company taking the remaining 20 percent.

They what?

A lot of you got pretty heated when we learned that choice seats get pulled from general sales to be marked up as platinum or VIP tickets on Ticketmaster. Now here’s concrete proof that AEG Live is doing exactly what some people have been claiming: working hand in hand with a secondary ticketing site to sell tickets at a significant markup.

What does the company have to say about the matter? To quote Dick Cheney, “So what?”

AEG Live did not deny its links to Viagogo. The company previously said in a statement: “In an effort to ensure fans are able to purchase premium tickets and exchange tickets directly with other fans, AEG Live has entered into an agreement with Viagogo. The online site allows people to buy and sell live event tickets in a safe and guaranteed way.”

A source close to AEG Live said: “This is the hottest ticket of the decade. To suggest that there won’t be a premium market is unrealistic. We want to make sure it is done properly and fans are not buying the tickets in some dodgy back alley. This is only a small minority of tickets. The aim all along has been to make sure that the majority of the arena is filled with real fans. There are systems in place to make sure people cannot buy multiple tickets and sell them on.”

Mustn’t have people reselling blocks of tickets at outrageous prices. That’s apparently AEG Live’s job.

Yes, 1,000 tickets out of 22,000 is a small number. However, this is a really slippery slope.

Although I still think its kind of sucks, I can understand the artist or promoter diverting blocks of tickets to sell as VIP or platinum tickets at a premium through a primary ticketing site. But doing it through a secondary site at the very least has the appearance of a shady deal. After all, who’s making sure it’s only 1,000 tickets per show?