Scalpers 'steal' precious song festival

  • 2008-03-19
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

SONG & DANCE: Many people won't get the chance to see the festival, which takes place every four years and is a very popular event. Cynics say that scalpers have snapped up all tickets for quick profit.

RIGA - Organizers of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival Bureau blamed scalpers for buying up most of the tickets in the Latvian Song Festival and promptly filed a request to the economic police to probe the matter, as tickets to the event sold out in hours this week, causing anger and frustration across Latvian society.
In booths all over the country people queued from early morning but were still unable to get tickets leading many to hurl abuse at the organizers. 

More than 36,000 tickets to the event went out the door before noon on the day they went on sale. The demand was so great that the Bilesu Paradize (ticket paradise) Web site crashed.

Other sources also claimed that a few scalpers  bought thousands of the tickets at a time 's in hopes that the majority of concert-goers would be forced to turn to them to buy tickets at a higher rate.

Aiva Rozenberga, a spokeswoman for the Latvian Folk Art Center, said she suspected that some of the buyers were scalpers, but there was not much anyone could have done to screen customers.

"We cannot control the buyers and ask them if they buy the tickets for friends, families or in order to sell them at the entrance," Rozenberga told the Baltic News Service.

Investigators, however, said that while they were investigating the possibility of criminal involvement, there was not much they could do about ticket sales.

A state police representative noted that it was not illegal for people to buy a large number of tickets as long as they do not try to resell them for a higher price.

"At this moment in Latvian criminal code there is not a special point about this 's it is a free economy, and people can buy and sell what they want. There is only [a law requiring] tax payments for the business. If I buy many tickets and sell for the same price then it is not against the law," the representative said.

A search of some of the most popular Latvian Web advertisement bulletins revealed a large number of people asking for tickets but none up for sale 's even for the listed price.

A police representative who spoke to The Baltic Times complained bitterly of her own inability to find tickets to the event, She lay the blame squarely at the feet of the organizers. She said that in years past there had been a limit to the number of tickets which could be sold.

"I think it is not a criminal case, it is more a problem with the organization... it should be [the case that] people can only buy some tickets," she said. 

In response to the high demand for tickets, event organizers have said that they are prepared to increase the number of tickets for sale. In a March 17 interview with public radio, Romans Vanags, head of the Song and Dance Festival's office, said stage designers were installing additional seating in front of the open-air stage in Mezaparks and the Daugava stadium.

"We think that it would be possible to provide about 4,000 tickets to the opening concert in Mezaparks... and the same number of tickets to the closing concert," the chief organizer said.

He said about 20,000 tickets to the event had been booked in advance for foreign delegates and special guests, while the other two thirds 's about 40,000 tickets 's went out to the general public.
Most of the tickets cost less than 5 lats (7.1 euros).

The 14th Latvian Song and Dance Festival is set to become the largest in the event's history. It will run from July 5-12 and feature more than 30 concerts by choirs, dance groups, orchestras and folk music instrument ensembles in addition to a number of smaller cultural events such as a traditional Latvian dress show.
Public television and public radio will broadcast the largest concerts, which will also be available on the festival's Web site,