Fans, promoters count cost of cancelled Jackson tour

Queues for tickets to Michael Jackson's concert wind outside the O2 Arena in London on March, 13, 2009.
For almost four months, fans of Michael Jackson were holding what were deemed by concert promoters AEG Live as the "Hottest Tickets on the Planet."

Now some 750,000 fans have been left with passes that, while steeped in sentimentality, won’t entitle them to see the hyped spectacular that was promised to be Jackson’s farewell tour. It’s unclear whether all fans will receive a full refund. Early Friday morning, AEG Live’s Web site was still promoting the tour, announcing there were just “17 days until show time.” A link to the Official Web site contained tributes to Jackson from senior Sony executives. The 02 Arena Web site announced this morning that ticketing information would be available “in due course.” Last night, spokesperson Lucy Ellison told CNN: “There will be a process put in place for ticketing. I don’t know what it is at the moment. We’ll leave it for his family to say what they want to say before we discuss ticketing information.” Callers to Ticketmaster’s customer service number were greeted with a recorded message, “Ticketmaster is aware of the news relating to Michael Jackson. We have no official information at this stage. As soon as we have any information we will immediately contact all customers who have booked tickets through Ticketmaster.” Seatwave, Europe’s biggest online market for fan-to-fan ticket sales, told CNN that customers who bought tickets via its Web site would receive a full refund, the cost of which would be covered by an insurance claim which could top £2 million ($3.2 million).

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“This is what you buy insurance for. Unfortunately it’s always for these kind of terrible circumstances,” Joe Cohen, Founder and CEO of Seatwave told CNN. Michael Jackson was scheduled to play 50 shows at the O2 Arena in London, a grueling schedule for even the fittest pop star, according to celebrity media advisor, Simon Astaire. “He needed money, there is no question about that, hence his 50 dates at the O2. It’s easy to say today and I think one has to be respectful today, but it was a stretch to do 50 concerts in the way he wanted to do in that time frame. Even for the fittest, most grounded individual it’s very, very difficult,” he told CNN. According to estimates by “Billboard,” unconfirmed by the promoters, Jackson’s final tour would have netted the singer $50 million in ticket and merchandise sales. Back in March, tickets for an initial run of ten concerts sold out at the astonishing rate of 11 tickets per second, a feat Chris Edmonds, the Managing Director of Ticketmaster UK called a “live entertainment phenomenon.” In the same press statement, Edmonds confirmed that more dates had been added taking the total number of performances to 50. The London shows were to be the first step in a multi-phase package with Jackson which included plans for recorded music and movies, including a 3-D live concert film and a 3-D movie based on Jackson’s “Thriller” music video. It’s not known at this stage how much of the cost of Jackson’s cancelled concerts will be shouldered by promoters AEG Live, and how much will be recouped through insurers. Part of the concert series was insured through Lloyds of London. Spokesman Louise Shields told CNN that “any losses are not likely to be significant.” Jackson’s sudden and unexpected death is expected to spark a surge for demand for his recordings and memorabilia. It’s believed there is little left of his multi-billion pound fortune, a consequence of bad decisions which included a propensity to live beyond his means.

“From what I understand he was doing these concerts to survive financially,” Astaire told CNN. “That’s the tragedy of it, is that ultimately we’re talking about him, wealth, his strangeness, and it’s submerging the extraordinary talent that he is.”