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Cheap Concert Seats Due After Cruel Summer Of 2010

08:01 AM Monday 12/27/10 | |

Concertgoers sick of ballooning ticket prices should have some extra pocket change to rattle with their rock 'n' roll in the new year.

2010 was tough for the concert business as high prices kept many fans at home. Promoters now say they plan to make shows more affordable in 2011. But they'll also try to sell more T-shirts and other merchandise to make up for lost revenue.

Heading into last summer, usually the busiest time of the year, prices were set too high despite the sluggish economy. Managers and promoters believed fans would keep paying for the one or two concerts they see on average each year.

Instead, many stayed home and dozens of shows were canceled. Lots of venues filled seats with fire-sale prices.

Now, rather than charge lots early and offer discounts later, some promoters say they'll offer cheaper tickets from the start, partly because they know fans will spend as much as usual on beer and tchotchkes when they arrive.

ZZ Top, for one, expects to set prices below the 2010 average of $55. Some tickets will go for as little as $10.

  • ZZ Top

    St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Fla.
    September 16, 2010

    (John Davisson)


"It's time to give the value back," said Carl Stubner, manager of the long-bearded rock band from Texas. "We'll find other ways to make money."

That doesn't mean all acts will be cheap - not even Cheap Trick, whose tickets for 2011 are selling for around $80 with fees. Fans of hot performers including Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga also shouldn't expect to get much of a break.

Neil Diamond, for instance, who's continuing his comeback tour in New Zealand in February, said he'd like to bring ticket prices down, but can't because of the size of his production.

"As the shows get bigger, the expenses get bigger, so it's got to be translated somehow to the ticket price," he told The Associated Press. "If I just used the guitar it'd be a lot simpler, but then I'd have to put 50 people out of work."

Overall, though, more artists than ever are going out on the road to make up for falling CD sales. With more tickets on sale and consumers still pinching pennies, the pressure on prices is down.

Concert attendance fell 12 percent in the first half of 2010, compared with the same period a year ago, according to trade magazine Pollstar. The world's largest concert promoter, Live Nation Entertainment Inc., said attendance from July to September dropped 16 percent from a year ago, even after it slashed fees and prices for dozens of acts, including Rod Stewart.

"It's just getting too expensive," says Michael Nemcik, who lost his job as a stockbroker in 2009 and now works as a bartender in Los Angeles. He went to about a dozen concerts in 2010, about half as many as the year before. Paying more than $200 for decent seats to see A Perfect Circle in November was just too much.

  • Lady Gaga

    O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
    November 17, 2010

    (AP Photo / CTK)


"I'm a little more hesitant on spending money than I used to be," he said.

Concert ticket prices had climbed steadily until recently, beginning in the 1990s when promoters began moving from one-price-fits-all ticketing to a tiered model that charges much higher prices for seats close to the stage.

North American concert ticket prices rose from an average $26 in 1996 to a peak of $67 in 2008, an increase four times faster than inflation. That doesn't include ticket fees for everything from "order processing" to "convenience," which can tack on $10 or more.

In 2009, ticket prices came down by about a buck, as managers braced for the worst of the recession. Fans responded by buying 12 percent more tickets than in 2008. Promoters figured fans were coming back for more in 2010 and raised prices. It backfired.

That's when the promoters had to offer deep discounts to fill seats. The average ticket cost a little less than $61 in the first half of 2010. Second-half numbers are expected to show a drop, too, because the discounts have continued.

"People felt they could go back to pushing the envelope again," Pollstar editor-in-chief Gary Bongiovanni said. "The economy has proven that a lot of people probably reached too far."

Although the average isn't expected to fall drastically in 2011, there'll be bargains at the back of the house.

Prices for front row seats may actually go up as part of Live Nation's bid to grab revenue that might otherwise go to ticket resellers. But the company has said it wants to cut prices even further for the cheap seats to let in more fans.

When Live Nation cut prices in 2010, fans spent about the same amount as always - nearly $18 in North American amphitheaters - on beer, merchandise and other stuff, all of which helps the company's bottom line because it owns major venues including the House of Blues in 13 cities.

Live Nation also is developing a long-overdue shopping basket for its websites to lure fans to spend their ticket savings on CDs, clothes and other items, and it recently rolled out an iPhone app that could be used in the future to sell merchandise.

None of those extra businesses works unless fans buy tickets, though.

"We know that if you lower the price, they'll come," Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino told investors in November.

But some of the most powerful managers in the business are motivated to secure as much money as they can for their artists, and Live Nation faces pressure to outbid rival concert promoters by paying artists more. Artists struggling to make up for income lost to plummeting CD sales also may push fans to pay more. Those factors can cause prices to inch up.

Rapino said the company may simply have to walk away from some deals and hold fewer shows, especially ones that have low or no profit margins.

  • U2

    Luzhniki Grand Sports Arena, Moscow, Russia
    August 25, 2010

    (AP Photo)


Demi Lovato, whose Camp Rock 2 tour with the Jonas Brothers had to cancel a dozen North American shows in 2010, told the AP recently that she'll do her best to keep prices reasonable for a solo tour planned for 2011 to promote her third album. (Her camp says the tour is still on track, despite her entering treatment for "emotional and physical issues.")

"I have best friends that aren't in the industry and are dealing with just buying groceries and things like that, so I want to do my part," she said.


  1. cincyconcertfan wrote:

    08:44 AM, Dec 29, 2010

    Meet and Greet Prostitution is the worse new practice.   This is where the artist becomes a whore and Live Nation/Ticketmaster or the artist’s fan club is their pimp and they sell fans the opportunity to meet the artist, get a premium seat to the show and some merchandise.  Along with other premium seating packages this takes even more of the best seats away from the average income fan.  Fans get about a minute in bed with the artist:  a handshake and a photo.  The artist laughs all the way to the bank and quickly washes their hands afterwards leaving the fan thinking they are the best of friends when in fact the fan is just another john to them.  This practice is disgusting and an insult to fans

  2. DeltaSigChi4 wrote:

    08:44 AM, Dec 29, 2010

    @fireball11 I emphasize with your lot in life and hope you find another means to acquire your tickets for shows in a less expensive manner. Bon Jovi and his tour is entirely too popular to find tickets below face value on fora like CL, but a lot of other tours are not. Look to make a last minute (or day) transaction with someone who has a ticket(s) they will not use; you'll see the same show at a discounted price.

    @ahhhhhh I truly do love music, but it is impossible for everyone to enjoy the same shows. Even large settings like Empire Polo Club has shown signs of over*crowding in recent years during Coachella; moreover since the context of this discussion is based on the pricing model(s) of live shows, I am vigorously against shows that sell out (already) at their current prices having their ticket prices decreased. Artists and those supporting the artists should be the ones benefiting monetarily from the tour, not touts. When ticket prices to highly sought after tours are lowered, the common fan pays more when they have to go to the secondary market after the immediate sell-out. Either tours should move to the Bob Dylan-SF-ticket at door model, or keep prices EXACTLY at what they are for popular tours, or even increase the cost. Increase the cost.


  3. ahhhhhh wrote:

    07:07 PM, Dec 28, 2010

    To Delta, What the heck do fans having or not having culture have to do with outrageous ticket prices?

    If you truly loved live music you would want it to be experienced by all and you wouldnt be so pompous.

    We are all doing what we can.

  4. Trainarollin wrote:

    11:54 AM, Dec 28, 2010

    Well, let's see. If you are an agent and promoter "A" offers you $75,000 for a performance by The Chickenfoot. Two days later promoter "B" offers The Chickenfoot  $100,000 for a show in the same market what offer would the agent accept ?  Unfortunatly the agent takes promoter "B's" offer of $100,000 and now the promoter has to sell expensive tickets to justify his silly guarantee.  Show gets cancelled because of soft ticket sales.  Promoter "B"'s offer left a cancelled date and nobody got paid.  Who was the Joker here?

  5. fireball11 wrote:

    10:32 AM, Dec 28, 2010

    I consider myself very cultured, Delta, but tic prices are still way to high.  I am disabled and thus live mostly on SSI ... and I cannot afford most shows ... at least ones by huge artist.  And Bon Jovi charges over $500 to sit in the pit, and he decides his own prices ... I love the band, but out of principle, refuse to attend their concerts, even in the cheapest seats.  

    At least Neil Diamonds reasoning seems very fair.  And Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty have never been shy about their outrage toward the tix industry.  But, most other guys are just your basic multi-millionares who are just out for as much cash as they can milk from a gullible public.  And if you're disabled and on SSI, like myself, institutional discrimination is brought into the picture.

  6. bigsled wrote:

    10:21 AM, Dec 28, 2010

    I've been going to concerts since 1979 . I wont pay over 100.00 for the good seats and i dont buy the cheaper seats which are only upper level seats. The concert indusrt is a joke . And the tickets that funnel into the brokers by ticketmaster is a joke. Thats why they are sold out in 5 min. If ticketmaster/promoter/artist cant sell them at the inflated price thru the brokers they funnel them back into ticketmaster at face value again. Total scam !!

    Its funny you never see country artists sell for more than 80.00 . Chenney chesney, etc sell out everywhere . How come they dont rape the fans ,mmmm .

  7. bigsled wrote:

    10:20 AM, Dec 28, 2010

    I've been going to concerts since 1979 . I wont pay over 100.00 for the good seats and i dont buy the cheaper seats which are only upper level seats. The concert indusrt is a joke . And the tickets that funnel into the brokers by ticketmaster is a joke. Thats why they are sold out in 5 min. If ticketmaster/promoter/artist cant sell them at the inflated price thru the brokers they funnel them back into ticketmaster at face value again. Total scam !!

    Its funny you never see country artists sell for more than 80.00 . Chenney chesney, etc sell out everywhere . How come they dont rape the fans ,mmmm .

  8. DeltaSigChi4 wrote:

    08:29 AM, Dec 28, 2010

    I went to more shows in 2010 than I did in 2009, and no I am not a rich man (at least not in finances). I am rich in culture. For those that are too cheap, or don't care enough to spend on seeing a premium live show, then stay home. No one will miss your cheap asses at the shows.


  9. lungman wrote:

    07:46 AM, Dec 28, 2010

    i'll beleive it when i see it...

    i went to over 2 dozen shows in '08 and was down to 7 shows in '10. the large arena and stadium shows are just too expensive these days. add on the line-ups, cost of concessions, parking, etc, etc. i'm sticking to the $30-$40 small venue/club shows. if i want a t-shirt now, i buy it off the band's website usually for half the price including shipping, than what they charge at the show.

    i passed up on show like tom petty, whom i would love to see, but sorry, $150 for the floor is way too much. i can buy all their cd's for that amount. i still see that most reasonable ticket prices for the large arena show are still the hard rock/heavy metal bands, whom seem to care a little more for their fans' pocketbooks, with the exception of a greedy few  like, (gag), ozzy and kiss. rush is the only band i have ever paid more than $100 for,  being my first time seeing them, and they played for over two and half hours, but i wouldn't spend that much too see them again. i don't care what anyone says, no one is worth a hundred bucks, especially when they tour non-stop, and only charged $20-$30 a ticket, less than 20 years ago.

    livenation started to heavily discount some of their shows last year, but up here in the great white north, there wasn't much indication of those discounts. i would rather have cheaper, good seats all around, than $10 shitty lawn seats.

    i think it's great that some of these older, classic bands are touring more, but come on, every single year, and with no new material? they're just gonna price their way out of a job, and it won't bother me one bit.

    the industry seems to think that paperless is the way to go, to defeat the scalpers, but it doesn't work in so many other ways. how about this concept? limiting ticket purchases to maximum of 4 tix would work, and you wouldn't have to put up with the bs of paperless. the last paperless show i went to, iron maiden, the paperless lineup was so long and slow, i missed the whole opening act (dream theatre) and was at the show an hour before the doors opened. BS!!!

    i'd love to take my gal (she wants to go real bad) to latest cirque du soleil, but come on, $400 for 2 upper level, crappy seats??? thank goodness she's not very demanding....

  10. mrshark wrote:

    02:27 PM, Dec 27, 2010

     As far as Sporting events go,  the idea is to buy season tickets and then scalp them on STUB-HUB for a bigger price, especially for competitive teams.    This seems to be the trend.

     With the invention of HDTV and BLU-RAY  I get nice 7 to 1 sound and great  picture in my living room for much cheaper price.

     These groups and promoters need to get with it.  You want us there the price has to get better.  Cant afford the GAS and everything else on top of the ticket.

  11. Trainarollin wrote:

    02:09 PM, Dec 27, 2010

    I never hear any one complain about service charges or how much food and drink are at sporting events ?  A good hockey ticket will set you back at least $200.00 (face value) and I see families in those seats eating like it's the last supper. The official jerseys I see fans wearing with their favorite players name on the back are also $200 and up.

    What about WWE ?  I never hear people complain about merch prices or food prices there.

    If an entertainer is good enough people will pay whatever it takes.

  12. live concert freak wrote:

    01:09 PM, Dec 27, 2010

    Well it looks like the Live scam nation and the ticketmasterthief have finally listened to the fans. If you price the tickets to high with your fees and service charges .."WE WILL NOT COME!!!" I love going to concerts it is the greatest relief of every day life to get lost in the music for an evening...  However any band that wants to "Hit the homerun on a show" and screw the true fans out of the experience I will never listen to you again!!!  Just like the Eagles did on the "reunion tour" I took every CD, Tape, and  Album and threw them out!! If they come on the radio station is turned immediately!!!  We as fans need to voice our objections to the high ticket prices the only way we know how, The empty seats in the venues have SCREAMED loud and clear we are not going to take it anymore!!!!!!!! Next on the list is to ban lip syncing for all the "NEW POP" artists coming along. If you can't do it live then sit home!!!!!!  It works in Austrailia!!!