Concert ticket prices are skyrocketing.
It’s gotten bad, and in the new book Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped, authors (and editors at Relix) Josh Baron and Dean Budnick examine how and why they’ve risen dramatically, especially in the last decade.
On Thursday, Baron will be on hand at Drexel University to discuss how the industry got here and where it’s headed. Joining him will be R5 Productions and Union Transfer promoter Sean Agnew, founder of Pearl Jam tour ticketing David Cooper and Jim McCafferty, ticketing director of the Mann Center for Performing arts. Moderating the whole thing is Tom Moon, former Philadelphia Inquirer music writer and author of the indispensable 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die.
We caught up with Baron for a quick preview of what to expect.
It seems people have been complaining about the price of concert tickets forever. Is this problem more perception than reality?
Yes and no. Fans have complained about the high price of tickets for years- and they’ve complained about the often accompanying services fees, too. Even when they were 25 cents. However, there was a signifigant increase in average ticket prices that was out of step with the economic times and trends beginning in the late ’90s with promoter consolidation under SFX. That’s when ticket prices—in our opinion—jumped the shark.
Folks like Ticketmaster and Live Nation get lots of the blame for high ticket prices, but aren’t the artists just as culpable?
Absolutely. If an artist wants to keep ticket prices and service fees down, they can simply take less money. For bigger artists, ticket prices can only go so low in regard to the expense of putting on a tour what with production, venue rental, etc. and a need for some profit—but still, they can decide whether they want to charge $75 per ticket for an arena show versus $150.
What single fact about ticketed events would shock the public most if they knew it went on?
That artists are frequently the source for the best tickets that end up on secondary ticketing sites like StubHub and TicketsNow.
What can people expect from the panel at Drexel on Thursday?
A lively discussion about how ticketing—and by extension the concert industry—really works. It might not be make you feel any better but at least you’ll know how it all works.
Thurs., Nov. 17, 7pm. Free. With Sean Agnew, Tom Moon + Josh Baron. Antoinette Westphal College, 3140 Market St. 215.895.1029. drexel.edu/westphal
PW's Music Issue 2014