Sounds Off: Concert Ticket Prices

| Sun, Jul 22, 2001

Columns, Sounds Off

HOLLYWOOD – Six thousand dollars for a Madonna ticket?

Yeah, you heard it right.

The cost of seeing your favorite performer is getting steeper, and the number of fans who are able to afford going to concerts decrease day after day.

Rock concerts and live tours have seen a significant drop in ticket sales for the first six months of this year. The top 50 acts sold two million fewer tickets-from 12.9 million to 10.9 million–and suffered a 12 percent drop from the first six months of last year, the concert trade magazine Pollstar said in its midyear report.

According to Pollstar‘s editor-in-chief Gary Bonjiovanni, ticket prices in 1998 cost $32.71, whereas in the first half of 2001 they have gone up to $46.69. He added that concert tickets “are nonessential items that people have to buy out of their discretionary funds.”

One reason cited for the increase is the introduction in the 1990s of premium pricing for the best seats, which the industry enacted in response to the high prices some concertgoers would pay for a scalper for their tickets.

But, according to, the downturn in the economy may have kept some fans from attending concerts, while the high sales for some of the hottest tours will prompt concertgoers to be more selective.

Let’s take the Material Girl–for some reason that name is almost suitable–as an example. When tickets for the American leg of the Drowned World Tour went on sale in May, the concert tickets valued at $150 each sold out within 15 minutes.

Though music fans complain about the high cost of seeing Madonna, they continue to shell out money to buy the tickets. Some, in fact, decide to purchase better seats through brokers and scalpers, often paying hundreds of dollars more than face value.

The ticket agency Todd’s is one of the many ticket brokers selling Madonna tickets on the Internet. Their tickets to her opening night show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in August are being sold for an unbelievable sum of $6,000 per seat. Now how is that for a bargain?

“We serve like a travel agent,” Daniel Gentry, sports manager at All Events Tickets Inc., who specialize in re-selling sports and concert tickets, said. “When people call us for a ticket, we go out there and find it for them.”

Brokers serve as second buyers, who will buy the ticket from ticket holders, whether it is Ticketmaster or even an artist’s fan club member, and then resell them to third parties.

“We resell the tickets for more depending on how hard it is [for the public] to find the seat,” Gentry said. “But it is very justified to pay a lot of money for a show, depending on the performer such as Madonna.”

Celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Elton John, and George Michael might not think the same way, after they were declined free tickets to Madonna’s London performance in July.

“If you want a ticket for one of her shows, you have to pay,” Madonna’s spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg told the New York Post on July 11.

Yeah, like Madonna needs the money that badly. Somehow, my gut feeling tells me Madonna would have no problem granting free tickets to her pals Rosie O’Donnell and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Pollstar revealed the top four most grossing artists for the first half of 2001.

The Irish rockers of U2 had the highest grossing concert draw of the first sixth months of 2001, generating $69 million in ticket sales after 50 shows. Billy Joel and Elton John come in second grossing $57.2 million after 31 shows. In third place, the Backstreet Boys, with $51.6 million in sales so far into their Black and Blue tour (currently postponed until A.J. McLean leaves rehab for treatment for alcoholism). The boys of ‘N Sync pulled in fourth place with $38.7 million in ticket sales.

Not too long ago, I ran across an old The Doors concert handbill, with Jefferson Airplane as an opening act for a New York performance in 1966. The cost? Five dollars at the door.

Wow, times have changed.

Sometimes it’s hard to say “no” to an opportunity to see an artist whom we’d really like to see. Spending $150 dollars at a concert with a big production is not as outrageous (I confess, I did that for ‘N Sync). But when the price for a single seat reaches $6,000, it’s time to give it a second thought.

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