Are Fans Being Priced Out of the Concert Market?

By Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 4 | Posted Nov. 16, 2011

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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

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1. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 08:52AM

“It's gotten so bad that people don't even question the ridiculous fees. Look what dummy Eagles fans willingly shell out per game, face value or StubHub. Look at the prices at the Kimmel Center where I the same EXACT performance at Temple will have a price 1/3 of that at the Kimmel. Look at the so-called "Fringe" festival where some events cost around $50!

I am one of the few people who put a limit on what I will pay for a concert ($25) which means I miss a lot of concerts, but I don't miss a lot of good shows since I correspondingly stick to venues like Johnny Brenda's, KFN, and The Troc where the experience is much better and ticket prices are typically $10 and I can avoid any of the needless fees.”

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2. RA said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 12:55PM

“Agreed. Greed is the driving force of this problem. Greed and may be inflation. Venue owners charge more now than 20 years ago just because maintenance supplies and hand labor goes up withinflation BUT if the artists' management n record labels decide to keep prices down n sell out the place with low tix prices then it can be done. Union Transfer is a new, beautiful venue thats breaking the mold of charging the fans the price of construction. They know that the moreaffordable the ticket, the more sellouts theyll have and theyll make their money back in due time. The whole tocketmastet schtik worked because they owned the venues. With more venues comes more choices and the prices hav to come down. I dont go to U2 or Foo Fightrrs because I know Ill get ripped off. Instead, UT or the Troc will do fine.

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3. BW said... on Nov 16, 2011 at 03:50PM

“Greed may be the driving force of this problem, but it doesn't rest solely on the artist. If the artist agrees to take little profit and the tickets are cheap, the margin between the cheap prices and the market value will just be largely claimed by scalpers. You may think that its disgusting that artists put their own tickets on StubHub, but at least they are claiming market value instead of a scalper who does nothing but buy low and sell high for a quick profit.”

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4. bella said... on Nov 23, 2011 at 12:47PM

“Someone should have most of the concert promoters arrested! WorldCafe has the balls to tack on a HUGE 25%-35% "processing fee" !! How can they justify that?”

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