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Trapped In The Rip-Off Closet

Can R. Kelly fans get a refund for that disaster of a show on Saturday? [Updated]

It sounded too good to be true, which means, of course, that it was: R. Kelly, the man behind “I Believe I Can Fly,” “Bump ‘N Grind,” “I’m A Flirt” and more, singing at a North Austin strip club for “an intimate night with R. Kelly”? With tickets starting at a mere $30?

Not really. As reported elsewhere, this wasn’t actually a performance by R. Kelly — merely an appearance. And now, as might be expected, people who spent anywhere from $30 to $500 for tickets to the event are outraged that the cash they ponied up to hear the man sing only got to hear him sing about 75 seconds worth of “Ignition (Remix).” The rest of the evening involved Kels requesting that the “beautiful ladies” in the venue join him in the VIP area, and explaining that he “hadn’t been paid to sing.”

People who spent anywhere from $30 to $500 for tickets to the event are outraged that the cash they ponied up to hear the man sing only got to hear him sing about 75 seconds worth of “Ignition (Remix).”

Which raises the question: Who’s to blame for this? Is it R. Kelly, whose name was on the fliers, or the promoter, who offered no indication when selling tickets to the show that it would merely be a chance to watch R. Kelly smoke cigars and get cranky with people who feel ripped off?

And more importantly, if you were one of the people who spent a not-insignificant amount of money expecting to see an R. Kelly concert on Saturday night, what can you do to get a refund?

While the venue, as Devon Tincknell points out on Austinist, was adorned with signs reading “no refunds,” that may not be enough to keep fans from getting their money back. The tickets were sold through San Francisco-based website Eventbrite, whose Vanessa Hope-Schneider learned about the Kelly incident this morning.

“Typically, we can’t issue refunds on behalf of an organizer, unless we can confirm that there was some fraud,” she explains to CultureMap. Which shouldn’t be a problem — while the event info didn’t explicitly promise that Kels would be singing, when selling tickets to a night with “Grammy Award Winning Artist R. Kelly,” the onus is on the promoter to explain up front what said artist will be doing that night if it’s not singing. Or, to put it another way: How would you expect the show to be advertised if he were singing?

Hope-Schneider is careful to protect the brand of the software company she works for, which otherwise sells tickets to events that are precisely as advertised. “Eventbrite isn’t exactly where this story is,” she says, “but I would recommend that people contact our support team and let them know. If people who purchased tickets are reporting this behavior to support, then we’re going to begin to look into the event,” adding that she’d alert them to what happened on Saturday in Austin herself.

Meanwhile, calls to the show’s promoter, Exit Black, are going straight to voicemail. That’s probably to be expected, given the number of frustrated ticket-buyers who are probably not taking “no refunds” for an answer. But it doesn’t do much to bolster the credibility of a promoter who opted to leave the words “not performing” — or even “hosted by” — off of the ticket page for its “Intimate Night With R. Kelly.”

Finally, for his part, Kelly was telling the truth: at the event, a promoter explained to the hostile crowd that R. Kelly gets paid $250,000 if he's actually going to perform — which also explains why a singer whose 2011 appearance in Houston had him play an 19,300-capacity arena was suddenly popping in to an under-utilized Austin strip club a year later. It’s hard to blame him for the fact that the promoter didn’t mention that he wouldn’t be singing in advance — though, while his reputation isn’t likely to get any worse, yelling that you weren’t paid enough at a bunch of fans who bought tickets expecting to hear you sing isn’t really a great look.

While his reputation isn’t likely to get any worse, yelling that you weren’t paid enough at a bunch of fans who bought tickets expecting to hear you sing isn’t really a great look.

Mostly, the R. Kelly show at The Mansion on Saturday night was a big mess. R. Kelly is probably only dimly aware that he was there at all, and the promoter who sold the tickets without telling people that the singer wouldn’t be singing isn’t answering phone calls.

At least the company that facilitated the ticket sales seems to care. “People can contact our support line (1-800-350-8850) if they have questions or want to look into getting a refund,” Eventbrite’s Hope-Schneider says.

Consider that your little bit of hope when your back’s against the ropes.

UPDATE: Blogger Julie Sunday has gotten an update from Eventbrite, who will be issuing refunds. Says Sunday:

"Got confirmation from Eventbrite that those who request refunds for this event will in fact get them. The company was mum about total sales for the event, making it impossible to determine the scale of the fraud perpetrated in Austin on Saturday. If you attended Saturday's show, you can contact Eventbrite here."

Video from the night:

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