Another day, another Live Nation controversy. Don’t worry though, it’s not about the proposed merger with Ticketmaster. This time the dustup is over parking fees.
New York Daily News music critic Jim Farber raised a fuss yesterday about PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., tacking a $6 parking fee onto each ticket – whether you arrive in a car or not.
Farber went to the man on the street for some opinions on the fee and got the kind of comments you might expect.
“I passed on buying six tickets to the Def Leppard concert because I don’t want to pay six times for parking,” said Gary Kane, 39, of Brooklyn.
“I know people that drop off their kids when there’s a show like the Jonas Brothers, and then pick them up,” he noted. “Why should they have to pay on every ticket?”
Vincent Torre, 42, of Brooklyn, said he sometimes takes the bus to PNC, formerly known as the Garden State Arts Center.
“I’m already paying bus fare,” he said. “Why should I pay for parking? I think it’s disgraceful.”
So what’s up with everyone having to pay six bucks whether they park or not? Live Nation spokesman John Vlautin provided Pollstar with a statement that alleges the fee is nothing new.
We have always operated under a system at PNC Bank Arts Center where parking is charged as a per ticket fee. This policy is in place to alleviate traffic issues that would be caused by customers stopping to pay a parking fee at the lot entrance.
The charge is calculated based on our research that the average music fan comes to PNC with 2 people in their car. This fee (formerly called a facility fee) has always been in place at the venue, and in fact was lowered by 8 percent in 2007. The per-ticket charge helps to ensure that all fans can enter the venue in a timely and safe manner.
Got that? In order to make things easier for people who drive to the show and park, the venue charges everybody $6. Gee, that seems fair. And LN has actually done fans a favor by clearing up what that mysterious “facility fee” was.
Any way you cut it though, Live Nation benefits the most from this arrangement because, as Farber points out, it makes a lot of money.
Under its per-ticket parking fee scheme, a vehicle carrying three people gets charged $18 to park a single car. If six people arrive together, they pay $36.
By contrast, Nassau Coliseum charges a flat fee of $7 per car, the Meadowlands’ venues take $15, and Jones Beach doesn’t charge anything.
(Incidentally, the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater is also run by Live Nation.)
So what was the outcome of all this hubbub? Well, today Farber reported that the separate parking charge had been eliminated from Live Nation’s Web site and added into the ticket price – for a while.
When the Daily News called to ask about the sneaky switch, and why there was no real change in overall ticket prices, Live Nation suddenly reversed itself and again itemized the parking fee on its Internet purchase page.
Sounds like Farber’s stories rattled somebody in the company.
Okay, bottom line time. At the end of the day, Live Nation isn’t charging fans any more than it did last year.
But the decision to start calling the $6 charge a “parking fee” was a poorly thought out move that amounts to yet another black eye for a company that’s trying to sway public opinion in its favor.
And just a thought here: If Live Nation is really trying to decrease traffic and make things safer for fans arriving at the venue, wouldn’t it be smarter to encourage ridesharing by rewarding people who carpool by charging them lower parking fees instead of higher ones? Besides, then they could claim they’re helping the environment too.
Read Farber’s stories on the PNC parking fee here and here.