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Broadway ticket-buying now easier for fans, not re-sellers

Deepti Hajela, Associated Press

People pass the Walter Kerr Theater, home to the Broadway show "Springsteen on Broadway," in New York's Theater District, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. The upcoming show will be the one of the latest to offer up tickets for sale using new technology, called Verified Fan, to try to keep re-sellers and brokers from snapping them all up. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) -- For longtime Bruce Springsteen fan Debbie Elster, there's never been any doubt the competition to get tickets for his upcoming Broadway shows is going to be fierce.

But she's feeling a little more hopeful, thanks to a new online verification system for ticket-buying that aims to keep more tickets in the hands of fans rather than re-sellers who seemingly snap them up and put them on the market, often for several times the face value.

Known as Verified Fan, the program from Ticketmaster requires people to register for a specific sale in advance, with information including their names, phone numbers and emails.

The registrations are reviewed, including past ticket purchase history and even social media accounts, with an eye toward determining whether they're more likely to be event attendees. Those accepted get unique codes that they can use when they go to buy tickets on the sale date.

The premise is that by vetting registrants, it's more likely that actual fans would be the ones getting the first crack at hot tickets, instead of brokers and re-sellers.

"That makes me feel better," said Elster, 66, a videographer who lives in Margate, Florida. "That makes me feel like I have a chance maybe, more of a chance than usual."

Verified Fan has been used for concert sales for artists such as Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles, and is now showing up for Broadway sales. "Springsteen on Broadway," running from Oct. 3 to Nov. 26, is using the system, as is another show expected to be a hot prospect, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," opening next spring.

The producers of the immensely popular "Hamilton" announced Tuesday that a new block of tickets for the show would go on sale through Verified Fan. That show has been the subject of a huge re-sale market, with tickets going for hundreds of dollars if not more than the face values.

Premium seats for "Hamilton" run as high as $849, with prices on the secondary ticket markets more than double that amount. While "Hamilton" has put aside a few digital lottery seats for $10, the average ticket last week went for $282.65.

Those kinds of prices make Ayodele Williams, 44, of Philadelphia, outraged. She and her sister were in New York last week to see a performance of "Hamilton," and they had tickets they consider themselves lucky to have snagged at face value last fall.

"It's become so expensive and rigged," Williams said. "If you have some kind of system or algorithm that allows you to buy all these tickets, you're going to get them and then all you're doing is re-selling. You're not doing it for the love of the show really. You're doing it for the love of the money."

David Marcus, executive vice president for Ticketmaster, said that was the point of the registration system: to give fans a better experience.

"It's intended to make the initial distribution fairer," he said, to fight against a system where brokers are the first ones out of the gate for tickets. Re-sale has a role, he said, but it shouldn't be the oversize one it's playing.

He said so far the program has been working. Of the more than a million tickets distributed through Verified Fan since it began beta testing late last year, less than 5 percent have gone onto the secondary re-sale market.

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Associated Press writer Mariah Brown contributed to this report.