A Monkey To See Jacko

Fans desperate to see any of Michael Jackson’s growing number of comeback performances at London’s O2 could have to pay a monkey (£500) for the best seats, according to The Times.

The paper claims show promoter AEG has struck a secret deal to sell the best seats at more than 10 times face value.

Online ticket reseller viagogo is reportedly selling hundreds of so-called premium tickets for each performance at the 20,000-capacity arena, in East London, at about £500 each, compared with their face value of between £50 and £75.

The move means that both AEG Live and viagogo stand to make huge extra financial returns, while reducing the availability and standard of seats to fans trying to buy through Ticketmaster, the official “primary” ticket seller.

Neither side is willing to comment. Both AEG and viagogo’s usual press offices referred the matter to The Outside Organisation, one of the U.K.’s leading PR companies, which isn’t saying anything.

“I don’t have an official statement on this for you at this time. Should anything change I will let you know,” Outside representative Celena Aponte told Pollstar.

“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,” said an earlier AEG statement.

About 10,000 tickets for each of the 10 concerts announced last week went on sale to fans who registered on Jackson’s Web site. However, demand was so high that the Ticketmaster 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 Times report says that outside the official ticket sale, AEG Live approached secondary ticketing companies and offered to provide them with up to 1,000 tickets for each performance.

The paper says AEG Live is thought to have offered the tickets on the understanding that they’d be sold at about £500 each, with 80 percent of the revenue returning to AEG Live and the secondary ticketing company taking the remaining 20 percent.

On March 11 viagogo had tickets for seats closest to the stage for thousands of pounds. Other seats in prime locations seemed to be on sale at surprisingly uniform rates, with many priced at £418 and £659.

At press time it wasn’t possible to get comment from the Concert Promoters Association, of which AEG is a member, although the matter may become the subject of industry discussion during the ILMC weekend (March 12-15).

Last month, the U.K. government announced a consultation into ticket touting and urged concert organizers to be innovative and come up with new ways of preventing touts from making money from reselling tickets.