PHOTO SHOWS THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE.
PHOTO FOR METRO 980807.
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Returning to perform for Australians ... Prince.

THEY have waited years for his Australian return, but Prince fans were left seeing purple yesterday.

Many of the pop royal's fans who logged on to the Ticketek website yesterday to buy tickets to his Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane shows were furious when all they got were error messages and timed-out transactions.

Disgruntled fans took to Twitter and Facebook, with many who had desperately hoped to snare tickets complaining of being allocated seats and entering payment details, only to lose their tickets after being shown an error message. Some said their transactions suddenly ''timed out'', and others could not access the website at all to get tickets for the Welcome 2 Australia tour, which begins in Sydney on May 11.

One fan on Ticketek's Facebook page said: ''Ticketek you SUCK. I kept getting repeated error messages, which in turn meant I lost out on tickets to see Prince (a once in a lifetime opportunity). Pull your heads in and sort out your issues.''

Another said: ''Ticketek is a complete joke. Why can't we have had a more reliable source to purchase tickets from. I should have seen this coming.''

But Ticketek defended its site yesterday and said that ''at no time throughout the course of the morning'' was the system off line and the heavy traffic was simply a result of a huge demand from devoted fans. "We are aware that some customers experienced a 'timed-out transaction' and whilst we understand this can frustrate eager fans, it is important to understand that a limit on the time allowed per transaction is one of the key measures put in place to ensure fair access to as many fans as possible,'' the managing director of Ticketek, Cameron Hoy, said.

Tickets were selling on eBay by 10am, some at cost price and others at more than $1000.

Fans of the British band Radiohead were hit with similar problems in February, when they tried to buy tickets on the Ticketmaster website.