Each year, thousands of music fans flock to venues all over the world to see their favorite artist or band perform live in concert. While many fans plan to attend multiple concerts over the course of the spring or summer, or even follow their favorite act as they tour city to city, it seems that most people have to now carefully pick what concerts they attend due to the inflation of ticket prices.
Like anything else, ticket prices have varied year to year, often increasing as an artist gains popularity and due to the rising costs of artist, management, production, venue and sponsor demands, among other factors. Huntington Beach, CA resident Criss Heller is an avid concertgoer but blames scalpers and Ticketmaster fees on the rising prices.
“I think a lot of the problems creep up with the added fees that sites like Ticketmaster add on. For example, if you see a show you like that’s $40 for a ticket, you can afford that, but then after all these fees get added on, a $40 ticket becomes a $60 ticket, and if you want to get more than one, it can become very expensive and out of the buyer’s price range. For the most part, I don’t think people mind paying face value for concert tickets, but the added fees really seem to piss a lot of people off.”
Heller respects the artists who have decided to take a stand and do what they can to prevent these types of hindrances.
“I give a lot of credit to artists like Tom Petty who know they’ve achieved such a status that they know they can charge exorbitant amounts for their shows, but make it a point to keep ticket prices down as much as possible. These days I’m also noticing more and more artists coming up with creative ways to stop scalpers. We hear a lot about how musicians want as many of the TRUE fans of their music as possible to be able to get into the shows, and I think they’re doing everything they can to make that happen.”
“I think a lot of the problems creep up with the added fees that sites like Ticketmaster add on.”
Despite this, and the fact that the United States is five years into a recession, artists still manage to sell out night after night and even add additional shows to meet demand when available. And, many fans still manage to attend multiple concerts each season even if it is a little rough on the pocketbook.
Simi Valley, CA native Susan Navarro commutes nearly 45 minutes to an hour or more, depending on Los Angeles area traffic, to attend all of her shows. She says though not always easy, artists have to find a fair price that fans can afford.
“From the fans standpoint, they are quite a bit pricey! $150 should really be the maximum for a ticket, short of a benefit or charity event. From the musician’s standpoint, I have to pay for every crew member, the roadies, camera and lighting crews, and, management will get their cut before my band and I will get our cuts. How do I price them so it is both fair to the fans, but I don’t end up broke before the tour ends?”
The concert industry has dramatically changed over the last 20 years of my concert going experience so much that it brings back a type of nostalgia when I recall the memories surrounding the entire experience. I remember the days where an authorized Ticketmaster dealer would hand out “line tickets” and start selling tickets from the number they randomly drew in order to keep things fair, even if you were the first in line. Those who were unfortunate enough, like myself, to often get a number that fell before the drawn number, would have to go to the back of the line in hopes of still scoring decent seats by the time it was your turn at the window. However, tickets were roughly $30 to $45 each which allowed me to attend numerous concerts over the course of any given summer.
It was also during this time that only fan club members had the opportunity for a meet and greet with their favorite artist whenever they came to town, and pre-sales were few and far between unless you were a member of an artist’s fan club. I even camped out once for front row tickets that included a meet and greet. But those days are long gone now with the internet, sponsored pre-sales, and VIP packages that many artists have unveiled over the last few years.
Pre-sales can be the epitome of concert attendees wanting reserved seating close to the stage. What were once obtained by camping outside of the box office or by calling your local Ticketmaster location early, now usually requires a credit card from the sponsored party or fan club membership. However, Navarro thinks pre-sales have their benefits.
“When a customer can obtain either a pre-sale code or a preferred credit card prior to general audience sale, it comes in handy as a fan, who will get priority on seating. More than likely, it will be from approximately 20 rows from the front, then work outward. (Usually, any closer, and it requires an expensive All Access VIP ticket).”
However, Heller said he’s been on both ends of pre-sales and it all depends on how they’re set up.
“Tom Petty’s Highway Companions club ($45 annual membership) offered a pre-sale lottery for the Fonda Theater shows in L.A.–since this is only a 1,000-seat theater and tickets would be very tough to get otherwise. I decided not to pay the $45 just to have a CHANCE at getting tix early. On the other hand, last year Mumford & Sons gave fans the opportunity to sign up for FREE on their ArtistArena page, and fans would be e-mailed a password to use on a pre-sale. That was absolutely worth it, as I ended up getting box seats dead center at the Hollywood Bowl.”
Most often, VIP packages include one reserved seat, pre- and post-party access, special VIP members only area, VIP parking, VIP only merch and more, including a meet and greet opportunity with the artist. However, the meet and greet doesn’t apply to Britney Spears, who just announced a $1,500 Meet & Greet VIP package with her two year Las Vegas residency, and included the following disclaimer: “Britney Spears WILL NOT PARTICIPATE in any Meet & Greet or pre/post show activities.” Instead, fans can meet with Spears’ dancers, acrobats, aerialists and band. How can you call that a meet and greet package when the artist isn’t even participating in the process? Sounds like B.S. to me.
Technology can also impact ticket prices. Navarro says it’s the improvement of sound that is worth it to her.
“I have seen a vast improvement in the sound equipment since the 70’s! It’s nice to be in front of an amp fairly close and not hear ear bleeding distortion! Technology is leading the way in having a pleasant, rocking concert experience. The only drawback is technology is pricing out the concert goer. When there are tough economic times going on, the concert goer is less likely to spend a lot of money on tickets. Of course, die hards like myself will find a way to obtain a ticket, and that is the bottom line, isn’t it?”
“When a customer can obtain either a pre-sale code or a preferred credit card prior to general audience sale, it comes in handy as a fan, who will get priority on seating.”
However, Heller has had a different experience with technology while pre-ordering The Rolling Stones tickets in April.
“I took advantage of a pre-sale for the Stones show in Anaheim in which Citibank Cardmembers could buy tickets early. The Stones are definitely an exception to what I talked about earlier, the cheapest seat to that show is $150. But I’d never seen them live before, and I wanted to see them at least once in my life. I signed onto the Ticketmaster site right when the pre-sale began at 10 am. The first several times I tried to buy the tickets, I got essentially a ‘try again’ message.
“A few thoughts entered my mind…Does this pre-sale not cover the cheapest seats? Did they sell out THAT quickly? Or are there so many people trying to get in on this that I’m literally a millisecond too late every time? I’m sure a lot of people would have given up after about five minutes of this, which is a real problem that Ticketmaster needs to address.
“Finally, after 38 minutes of trying over and over again, I finally got through and got my tickets. Two tickets, $150 each, and as mentioned earlier, another $52 in processing fees, which in my mind is way too much, but the seats look pretty decent though, about halfway up the upper deck, and a few sections away from the stage.”
As a musician, I understand the business side of things and get the increased ticket prices and various VIP packages. The band has to pay every crew member, roadie, camera and lighting crews, recording engineer, and the list goes on and on. Keep in mind that management gets their cut (usually 25 to 30%) before the band even sees a cent. What about the venue? Well, the venue buys the talent and must recoup their costs through ticket prices as well as food and beverage sales. However, the artist and venue both benefit by sponsorship and endorsement deals. The VIP offers just give the artist more of an opportunity to capitalize on their popularity.
With that said, as a fan, is the concert itself worth the hassle, pricing and experience of purchasing tickets? Is it worth paying an exorbitant amount of money for a few hours of fun on your night off? Or, have artists gotten creative with their marketing techniques that fans just can’t pass up the opportunity to get up close and personal, even if it is just for a few lousy minutes of an act’s time? Most you of you think so or you wouldn’t be attending…