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Kokua Festival

Making money out of Jack Johnson’s ‘environmental’ concert

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Nelson Alcantara  Mar 20, 2008

The cause is laudable enough, but what is it ultimately achieving? Jack Johnson’s concert for the environment called Kokua Festival is on its fifth year running, and over the years has attracted well-known musicians, even Willie Nelson showed up in 2006. Must be worth checking out, right? Why not? The ad says it will be on April 19 and 20th at the Waikiki Shell. Let’s see, I am not schedule to travel anywhere, so I am up for it.

Or so I thought. It turns out that securing tickets to the Kokua Festival is akin to modern day quest for the Holy Grail. Ok, I am exaggerating a bit, but read on to get the idea.

It appears that this year’s edition of the now annually-held musicfest managed to “sell out” in just 20 minutes. 20 minutes, huh? Sure Jack Johnson is popular, but there had to be more going on than it seemed. A few more clicks to try to secure some tickets then voila! Tickets are available. Lots of them. But they have all supposedly landed in the hands of tickets scalpels. Sites show a price ranging from US$185 to US$1900! Does the Jack Johnson know this or is he in on it? Sadly if he is, it is truly sad to be parading under the guise of an environmental cause for monetary gain or even for fame. That would be really low, right?

And who are these tickets brokers trying to make money out of what otherwise may, for all intents and purposes, have been a worthy cause. Surely they are not from Hawaii. Because, quite frankly, that is very un-Ohana-like (unfamilylike). Let’s expose them one-by-one, shall we?

A Florida-based company called, which claims to “Tickets are always available, almost never sold out,” sells tickets from US$200 to US$1095; Texas-based sells tickets from US$172 to US$899; Illinois-based sells tickets from US$205 to US$1215; another Illinois-based company called advertises tickets ranging from US$173 to US$974; and, California-based sells tickets from 191 to 947. The grand daddy of the group and undoubtedly the most ridiculous is an eBay seller called “jar0m.” That seller wants his row center tickets for US$4,999.

None of these companies are from Hawaii and that the only one likely to be making money off of this concert who is actually from Hawaii is Jack Johnson, who happens to live in the same town as I am. I don’t know him nor do I know what he looks like. I may have had an encounter with the guy at our local Foodland store and didn’t even know it. But, who knows?

Maybe it is the nature of the concert business now, but it sure looks like ticket scalpels have the best tickets, and unfortunately for those who want to see this concert while contributing to a worthy cause end up paying ridiculous price for it.

And what about that Jack Johnson fella? Well, our altruistic musician himself has decided to “auction” off some of the tickets. A section at, Mr. Jack “Concert for the Environment” Johnson has a section called “Kokua Festival Charity Auction” where front to third row tickets are being auctioned from $148. Of course, bidders end up paying way more than that by the end of the week-long bidding process.

Out of sheer frustration and in a desperate attempt to secure some tickets, and a last ditch hope to avoid those money-stealing ticket scalpels, I decided to bid on what was touted as “front-row” tickets. With beginning bid of US$148 per piece for a front-row seat, I hesitantly obliged. For charity. Well, as is the game in the bidding world, the price of course goes up by the hour. By day three, am outbidded again and has submitted one final bid for $330 per ticket. However, with a few days before the end of the auction, it is unlikely that I will win the tickets. Wondering if tickets scalpels are trying outbid each other on these tickets as well. Perhaps. Nature of the business, I suppose.

Unhappy that the only way to secure tickets to this cause is to succumb to the mercy of these ticket scalpels, I’d taken it upon myself to write to the Jack Johnson via his website. To no avail, of course. Not even an acknowledgement. Busy guy, I know. Besides he has a worthy cause to prepare for.

But where does that leave the little guys who can really truly only afford that US$20 ticket? They can’t join in on the fun of a concert for environment? Where is the justice in that? A concert for the environment. Right. A meager attempt to watch a show that I was semi-interested in seeing turned to full-scale quest. Maybe I should retire the idea of contributing to a worthy environmental cause. Heck, I would have settled for a mini-price of witnessing the Jack Johnson jam with the Dave Matthews.

Kokua Festival’s Website states this year, an “opportunity to offset the emissions generated by their travel to the festival. An option will be available at ticket points of purchase to contribute an additional $2 toward carbon offsets that will help reduce the CO2 impact of fans’ travel. Evolution Sage, the Kokua Festival’s offset partner, will use the carbon credits that are purchased to fund renewable energy programs in Hawaii. If you are flying into Hawaii for the Kokua Festival, we encourage you to consider making your entire trip carbon-neutral via additional offsets.” Commendable effort, but why not first facilitate a ticket scalpels-free event and really deliver some true great entertainment then tackle environmental issues after? We’re just suggesting, of course.

Making money out of Jack Johnson’s ‘environmental’ concert

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