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Pretty sexy making your own clothes, I think. -- Bono, on Ali's Edun clothing line, 2005 (Vogue)

Vertigo 2005: Money Changes Everything

I've seen a lot in 20+ years as a U2 fan, but never would I have guessed I'd see the day that U2 fans talk about a class action lawsuit against the band. Yet, with what happened during Tuesday's U2.com members-only pre-sale for Vertigo Tour concert tickets, legal action is being discussed seriously on mailing lists and message boards. Fans were planning to call Principle Management -- both the Dublin and New York offices -- first thing this morning. Other fans want to protest by sending back their U2.com membership cards or refusing to buy tour merchandise. And in the incredibly unscientific poll on @U2's home page, more than 92% of fans who have voted think U2.com members should be able to get a refund.

How did we get here? Why?

Because we couldn't get presale tickets yesterday, you'll say. Because U2.com crashed or Ticketmaster's web site crashed, or the password you got didn't work, or within 30 seconds of the presale opening the only available tickets were in the upper level behind the stage, or you didn't have enough information about the stage and seating arrangements.

All of that's true, but didn't the same thing happen to us during the Elevation Tour presale in 2001? It did, and we wrote an "open letter" to U2 about it: Maybe You Could Educate Our Minds. So we've been through this before, haven't we? Why are we all up in arms again? Why is this year, this tour, different?

One word: money.

In 2001, U2.com sent us all the same password and put us through the same procedure, with the same results that we experienced Tuesday. But it was free, and there were no guarantees. When it happened then, we were angry and disappointed. When it happened yesterday, we felt those same things, but also something new: conned, fleeced, swindled.... Call it what you want, but here's the bottom line: U2.com members just paid $40 for the same exact thing you got for free in 2001. (Or $20 if you're a former Propaganda subscriber that wasn't double-charged for your U2.com membership.)

Oh, sure, U2.com memberships include benefits like a "special introductory gift"..."a U2.com email address"..."members-only message boards"...and so forth. But let's face it: No one opened their wallet for that stuff. And the powers-that-be know it. In every sales pitch for a U2.com membership, the first benefit listed was always "priority ticketing" for the 2005 tour.

And that's the problem here, isn't it? They kept tossing around phrases like "being a U2.Com Member offers you guaranteed priority booking" (from a mid-December email), "membership also qualifies you for priority booking of concert tickets" (late November email), and "U2.Com have secured some of the best available tickets for U2.Com Subscribers" (currently stated on U2.com). And let's not forget the promise made to former Propaganda members: "Propaganda subscribers who join U2.Com go straight to the front of the line when the concert tickets are made available." (late November email)

It's pretty clear that none of that happened on Tuesday. Yes, some U2.com members got tickets. A few even got the highly coveted GA tickets for floor access. But with so few tickets available, what chance did we really have for "guaranteed priority booking"? Fanfire has been telling fans recently that they've sold upwards of 100,000 U2.com memberships. Some fans have done the math, and they say only 26,000 presale tickets were available yesterday. Put two and two together and you're left wondering: Why would U2.com talk about "guaranteed priority booking" knowing their contract with Ticketmaster would leave so many paid members out in the cold during the presale?

So, just like three years ago, we have more questions than we have answers. We're left in a bad place with bad feelings. Not about the music, and maybe not about the band, but certainly about how the band treats its most loyal fans. The difference this time is that we paid for this. And that's why, for the first time in 20+ years, many of us are feeling things and saying things we never thought possible about our favorite band.

U2 has taken us on a wonderful ride for more than two decades. But how'd we end up here? And how do we go back? I liked it better before.

© @U2, 2005.