📜 Feature Live concert ticket prices

Feature article
I don't know if it's just my area, but I've noticed in the past decade or two that prices for any act I've wanted to see in my area are grossly higher than in other areas. I don't know if it's the unwillingness of performers to want to come to this state, or corner of the state (can't say I blame them--I hate it here also), or greedy promoters or concert venues, or what the deal is.

I received an email from Al Stewart this past week. Aside from wine and historic tales, he's back out touring with his band, The Empty Pockets. There's one venue in the state with tickets. The base ticket price is $65, general admission, for some small artist theater way on the other side of the state. But if you want a seat guaranteed to have an "unrestricted" view, you have to pay an extra $35 donation to the theater. So that's $100 each. Before fees.

I check a venue 3½ hours and 230 miles away in a neighboring state. Prices range from $29 to $49, before fees. Another one, slightly closer, has ticket prices from $35 to $50, before fees.

Ironically, the venue in our state is the same distance away, so it's a no-brainer to head to one of the other two venues, get assigned seating so I know I wouldn't be stuck in some dank corner with a poor view. But this issue is nothing new, since I've priced many touring acts in the past, and without fail, any I have checked that were local have just about always been more than in surrounding areas.

And about those fees. The real kicker is feeding the Ticketmaster machine. The kind of business they conduct is not anything I want to support so for that reason alone, I'll skip going to any gig where buying tickets involves Ticketmaster or any of the other names they operate under. If it's possible to buy a ticket direct from a box office without Ticketmaster fees, I'd be all in.

So, the cost is one reason, of a few, why I rarely attend live music events, especially those which are ticketed. I'm all for supporting the artist(s), but when prices are so vastly different from surrounding areas, or the price overall is just too damned high, I won't spend the money. No matter how much I like the artist. There were some major tours I wanted to see in the past 15 or so years (Rush's R40/farewell tour being the most recent), and had every opportunity to get good tickets, but the double whammy of high price and standing in some generic sports arena to witness poor sound quality and sit amongst all that humanity to catch who-knows-what diseases completely turned me off.

And speaking of sound...many touring acts these days are just too damned loud. I already have minor hearing issues, and I'm not about to risk what I have left on some damn fool engineer's idea of "good sound" being ear-damaging loudness. Granted, I can wear musician's earplugs that will knock the sound level way down, but what's the point of that?

I don't mind attending small clubs locally where the music is good and the venue intimate, but we rarely ever get any of the groups I want to see in this area. Or when they do arrive, the demand is so high that tickets are gone almost instantly.

Poor Al Stewart. As much as I want to see his live show (they are quite enjoyable, as Al tells stories in between the songs), it may not happen. But if it does, I'll be making the trip to avoid whatever curse this miserable state has on ticket prices.

Anyone else as fed up with concert tickets, and concerts in general, as I am?
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
And speaking of sound...many touring acts these days are just too damned loud. I already have minor hearing issues, and I'm not about to risk what I have left on some damn fool engineer's idea of "good sound" being ear-damaging loudness. Granted, I can wear musician's earplugs that will knock the sound level way down, but what's the point of that?
Ugh! Loud concerts! Way too loud.

Do you know who headlined the loudest concert I ever saw? Sheryl Crow!

She was performing at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA. I think I managed to get some comp tickets through the radio station salesperson that handled the account. The Tower Theater is somewhat well-known as a concert venue. I saw Renaissance there in one of the most memorable a beautiful concerts ever. And Paul Simon performed there in a concert we had on LaserDisc. We also saw The Moody Blues there in one of Ray Thomas' last-ever gigs with the band. All of these sounded wonderful which was part of the attraction of this theater. It was an old movie house in its glory days, and my high school even held its commencement exercises there as our auditorium was too small.

But Sheryl Crow's concert? I think my ears are still ringing - and we were up in the balcony!

As for ticket prices, most of the time we just don't go to very many concerts. We went over to Clearwater to see Jackson Browne, and we did two Sergio Mendes shows in Florida - one in Sarasota and one in Orlando. As I recall, those tickets weren't too terribly pricey, but they were more than I really would have wanted to pay.

We did go to a couple of fairly expensive ticket shows in the past 10 years. These were both orchestras playing to an on-screen movie. One was a Harry Potter movie with the score performed live. The other was a Star Trek show with music from all of the shows and movies played live while on-screen images complimented the music. Both were excellent and I have no regrets about whatever they cost.

Of course, way back in the day, tickets were a lot cheaper, even for the biggest acts. None were bigger than Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass in the 60s. Here's my stub - $7.50.

1648913686621.png
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
Those were the days! It's interesting that so many of the live albums we listen to that were recorded in the early to mid 70s were probably under $10. The J. Geils album "Live" Full House was recorded locally at the Cinderella Ballroom before they were widely known, and I'm betting tickets were $3-$5 each, as this was a band like many others, shlepping their instruments around the area in cars or vans with almost no road crew.

One I've wanted to see in recent years is The Mavericks but, after reading about how loud a couple of their concerts were (not to mention the high local prices which are, again, higher than in surrounding areas), I decided to pass. A shame, since they put on a great show that is 2-3 hours long, with no opener.

We do have one jazz club which isn't too far from the house, but as yet, I have not seen anyone I've really wanted to go hear. Maybe if a couple of local musicians I know are playing, I'll make a trip there. We have a major jazz festival every Labor Day weekend (a jazz label is headquartered here, and the owner's generosity is what funds a lot of it), but the last time I attended, it was too packed with people to make it enjoyable.

The saddest part is that I like to support artists, but their own activities (deafening sound levels) or activities of the promoters and/or venues (price gouging) prevent me from doing so.

The musicians' ear plugs, sure, I can handle those, and may do so if I need to attend a concert in the future. But otherwise I'm voting with my wallet.
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
I think one reason the prices are higher is, that's the only way musicians make any money these days. Nobody buys albums any more, and streaming pay is low compared to albums. So it's concert tickets and "merch" (which is also vastly overpriced) that's left to pay the musicians' bills.

I'm on our local fair board, so I have a hand in booking our entertainment every year. Our concerts here are generally people who weren't pop megastars, but had a string of country hits. The cost of this type of entertainment has gone up a lot in the past few years. It used to be you could get an act with a lot of hit singles for 20 or 25k, but these days anyone with much of a name is going to be at least in the 40s, or more. If an act has had numerous hits in the past 15 years, then you're probably looking in the 100k range or more, depending on their status today. If they had a lot of pop hits, or are still charting today, then they're often well into the six figures. Superstars are in the million-plus range.

As for the ticket prices... along with the prices themselves, I've gotten more picky about where we're sitting as I've gotten older. My wife is vertically-challenged when it comes to standing in a concert crowd, and we've both reached the point where we'd rather sit than stand anyway. If we can't get seats somewhere in the front third of the house, we're generally not going... and seats in those areas are nigh impossible to get sometimes due to all the ridiculous "pre-sale" nonsense that has invaded the concert industry. All the good seats are glommed up by the fan club people or the people who are willing to pay "VIP" prices for the front three rows.

The service charges are the worst. Depending on who you're seeing, the big concert venue near us (Metrapark in Billings) adds on anywhere up to $32 PER TICKET in "convenience" and "internet" and "service" fees. (At least they don't charge for parking...well unless you want to park in the "premium lot," that'll cost you $15.) But those stupid fees have made me reconsider several concerts we were thinking about seeing.

By contrast, I saw one of the very first rock concerts in this same venue. It was Bachman-Turner Overdrive with Heart and A&M act Head East opening. It cost $6, there were no fees, no reserved seats and we got front-row standing room. Those were the days indeed.

When we saw Herb and Lani in Seattle a few years ago, the tickets had been on sale for a couple of weeks before we decided to go, but I was still able to score front-row seats.... after buying them, I was worried maybe there was something wrong with those seats since they hadn't sold yet! But it was one of the best concert experiences we ever had.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Now that I think about it, the $7.50 ticket was about twice what a record album cost.

So these days, a $30 record should translate to a $60 ticket, $40 to $80, and so on.
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
If we can't get seats somewhere in the front third of the house, we're generally not going... and seats in those areas are nigh impossible to get sometimes due to all the ridiculous "pre-sale" nonsense that has invaded the concert industry. All the good seats are glommed up by the fan club people or the people who are willing to pay "VIP" prices for the front three rows.
There have also been accusations of "brokers" (aka legal scalpers) who scoop them up immediately, then resell at much higher prices. I think even Ticketmaster was accused of running a second business as a ticket reseller, so, pretty much benefiting themselves by buying up tickets as they went on sale, creating scarcity.

I've never looked, but I've often wondered if all those expensive unsold seats end up selling for pennies on the dollar about an hour prior to the show.

My biggest issue is that there is something going on in our area where promoters, venues, maybe both (?), are jacking prices way up beyond what the acts are charging. Why else would similar-sized venues in surrounding states be consistently lower (with all of them maybe within 10-15% of each other) than ours? Like you say, groups have the fees they charge to play at venues. After that, it's up to a promoter to sell tickets and make money based on what the group charges. It's not like a group is going to charge double for a 3,000 seat theater in one area over another, unless there were unusual circumstances (distance traveled, etc.).

In years past, a major local venue (which happens to be an outdoor amphitheater) would sell lawn tickets or, you could often buy vouchers for lawn tickets that were dirt cheap. Before the gig, you could take those to the box office and upgrade those to unsold pavillion seats. That is how, in the days of $30-$40 tickets almost 20 years ago, I was able to get upgraded seats close to the stage for the Doobie Brothers for only $12 each. (The voucher was either free, or was so cheap that it was only a dollar per person.) The same venue used to charge for parking as you drove in, but they finally changed over to adding a couple of dollars per ticket to cover it.
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
I've never looked, but I've often wondered if all those expensive unsold seats end up selling for pennies on the dollar about an hour prior to the show.

I think what happens is, a day or two before the show, the promoter will announce "more great seats just released!" or something to that effect. These seats could be anywhere in the venue and will be sold for the going price for that section. They are usually seats that were held for fan club or "VIP" sales that didn't sell, or they were meant for the promoter to be given to friends of the artist, radio station or fan club contest winners, If the seats turn out not to be needed for those things, the seats are released for sale to the public.

I know in our contracts at the fair, the promoter always requires a number of tickets in the "first ten rows" or similar, that are held until two days before the show for their fanclub people; and the artist's agent can also request tickets to be held for the artists' family or friends, although in our small town there's never any need for those because we're so off the beaten path!
 

GDBY2LV

Well-Known Member
If you go on Ticketmaster and look at a venue map for seats after the on sale, the blue dots are unsold Ticketmaster seats for sale, the pink dots are resale tickets that customers or brokers have for sale. Usually very expensive. Ticketmaster gets a percentage of those resale tickets too. Sometimes there are special seats they are marked with another symbol you can buy in there. The Hollywood Bowl is a prime example of this. The New Order tickets that were originally $295, are now going for as much as $2,500 or more. It’s a racket I think, but legal scalping allowed.
Ticketmaster was a pain for sure. We had it at Blockbuster Music and The Wherehouse. The same scalpers lined up for every show. Before computers took over. They tried everything to be first in line. Even bribes, which meant losing your job if you were caught. Then we had to start giving out wristbands 30 minutes before the on sale. The computer picked the starting number for first in line, so they wouldn’t camp out over night. We sure got great seats though for local and Los Angeles shows in the 90’s. We would just keep checking every day for added seats. It usually worked to our advantage.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
We had bought tickets to The Corrs last US show in 2004 in Boston. They were pretty good seats, maybe ten rows back. As it turned out, our sister station at the time in Boston was "hosting" the concert and the promotion people there offered us front row seats. That was an amazing view of the concert, to be sure.

Someone in The Corrs entourage was backstage taking photos to post on their website. On this one, you can see me applauding - brightened oval, black shirt.DSC01106enlrg.jpg
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
Reserved seats combined with the internet are probably the biggest drivers of the ticket prices and availability problem, when you get right down to it. When I was in my 20s and Fleetwood Mac came to Billings (right after Rumours was released, so they were hotter than fire then), tickets were $7.50. There was no rush to get them. I waited until the next time I was in Billings, stopped by Budget Tapes & Records and bought tickets. Maybe there were fewer fans wanting to go in those days, I don't know. But there was never any pressure to get tickets immediately when they went on sale. And of course there was no advantage for being in the fan club either, except maybe you got a newsletter telling when the band would be in your area.

On show day, we arrived about 3 hours before showtime, got in line, and when the doors opened there was indeed a mad rush for the floor to get as close to the stage as possible. Nobody was killed or trampled though, it was just a bunch of excited fans running across the floor.

I remember we first secured a spot maybe 30 feet from the stage. As it got closer to showtime we started to "ease" our way closer. I still remember being directly in front of the speakers on the left side of the stage when the lights went out, and I can still feel the BOOM, BOOM, BOOM of Mick Fleetwood's bass drum kicking off the opening tune, which was "Say You Love Me." A few more maneuvers later and we were dead center stage, front row.

For $7.50.

When the powers that be discovered that people were more than willing to pay hundreds of dollars (or more!) to see their heroes up close, that was when the concert industry pretty much jumped the shark.
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
Funny I remembered this, but in high school, The Police were touring for Ghost In The Machine. To get to the band room meant walking past the school office and front doors. My buddy came from the hallway to the band room and said, "Police tickets just went on sale." I immediately turned right, waved him along, and we walked right out the front door without me even slowing down. But by the time we got to the wrecka stow, of course they were sold out already.

It seems like the early 80s were about the time in this area that fans began lining up at the record stores early to get tickets when they went on sale at 10am, depending on how popular the group was.

I guess I was lucky with my timing as I got tickets for Prince on his 1999 (the album) tour and our seats were right behind the mixing desk, where I wanted them. He was wildly popular in this area. When I bought these tickets, he only had three gigs lined up at the auditorium. Since all three sold out so quickly, three more gigs were added, for a total of six, with two of the three newly added dates being matinee performances. (The auditorium seats about 4,300, and over 25,900 total seats were sold between all performances.) He returned in April and sold out our hockey arena, which was about 21,600 seats.

My best score was back in 2003. 1am on a Saturday morning, I remembered Peter Gabriel was in town the following evening (Sunday), and decided to check ticket availability. I'd tried a few times in the weeks prior, but they only had lawn seats. Some of those tickets must have opened up at the last minute, because I scored two aisle seats, nine rows from the stage.

I can only imagine what kind of a mess both tickets would have been to acquire in modern times. Between the high prices and legal scalpers, I wouldn't even bother today.
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
The only time I ever bought tickets for more than the face value was for Phil Collins on his "Seriously Live" tour. It was at the Forum in L.A. I think the tickets were around $75 but they cost me about $125 each, but it was worth it -- the show was outstanding.

I remember sitting there before the show with my friend Darren and we were talking about what songs Phil might play. I said that I'd really like to hear "Hand in Hand," which is an instrumental from his first solo album that really showcases his drumming. We agreed that there was no way he would play that song, given it was not a hit and was an instrumental -- after all, Phil had a LOT of hits he needed to play.

The lights went down, the music started....and it turned out he OPENED the show with "Hand In Hand!" That was one of the more "magical" concert experiences I ever had.
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
The Toledo Zoo has a handful of concerts each summer, and their latest member email showed that the Doobie Brothers (with Michael McDonald! for their 50th anniversary) will be there in July 6. Ticketmaster handles the ticketing, as dreaded. Only, now they have a new disclaimer pop up that ticket prices are now "dynamic," meaning they can jack the price up based on their opinion of the demand. "In some instances, events on our platform may have tickets that are “market-priced,” so ticket and fee prices may adjust over time based on demand. This is similar to how airline tickets and hotel rooms are sold and is commonly referred to as “Dynamic Pricing.”"

Yeah, no. This isn't a hotel or airline ticket. This is a two-hour concert. And as much as I've liked the Doobs over the years, the pricing is way out of line. With the Doobs tickets starting at $114.50 each (this morning--maybe tomorrow they'll be double?), that pretty much seals the deal. In this economy? What are they thinking? This is an outdoor venue, so tickets are rain or shine, with no umbrellas allowed, and if the band quits after the first song, we're screwed.

ZZ Top will be there on July 1 and their tickets start at $28.75 for a "verified resale ticket" and the rest for standard tickets are $45 or $63.50. So at least the prices are more reasonable.
 
Top Bottom