Leadership / 04.16.19
A Fan’s Perspective: We’re Being Priced Out of Concerts
I can’t find the words to properly explain how much I love concerts. If you’re a fan of live music, you’re probably smiling right now because you just get it.
Up until 2019, spring had been my favorite time of year because it’s when summer concerts go on sale. Lots of them! My friends and I pick the tours we most want to see, then decide if we’re going to attend at home or travel to experience a new venue. Amphitheaters usually top our list and we’ve been to so many across North America — from the Gorge, Greek Theatre, Les Schwab Amphitheater and Blossom Music Center to Saratoga PAC, Alpine Valley, BB&T Pavilion, Darien Lake PAC and Budweiser Stage. We’re also no stranger to club, arena and stadium shows, with past trips including major tourist destinations and some pretty random cities too.
This year however, the struggle is real. Following the success of Taylor Swift’s 2018 Reputation tour, more concerts sold through primary sellers like Ticketmaster and Live Nation are being offered at market pricing. We completely understand the shift in strategy and support the fact that money is going to the artists we love versus scalpers, though it makes it harder for us to cover the cost of multiple shows and frequent travel. We’re not seat snobs either and can have a great time on the lawns at most venues. Though when we sit at the back we want to feel like we got a great deal, especially because it’s often pretty crowded and there’s the risk of getting wet if it rains.
So we talked, then voted to have a “Plan B” year. We’ve always enjoyed shows in our hometown and we’re big fans of scooping up tickets through Groupon and Live Nation’s annual National Concert Week promotion, which usually runs from late April to early May. Heck, we’ll go see almost any band or artist if the price is right.
The problem is that this year we feel like we’re being priced out of attending shows at the major venues in our hometown too. We attribute this change to slow ticketing and dynamic pricing, which we’re encountering both with primary and secondary sellers.
We’ve seen Platinum seats for summer shows at our home amphitheater priced as high as $600 a seat and lawns are over $75 for some shows. That doesn’t feel like a deal to us. The Chainsmokers tour, coming to an arena near you this fall, is over $350 for a GA floor ticket because they’re combined with a soundcheck package, and even the nosebleeds are not cheap at about $80. Of course all these prices are subject to change based on demand as the shows approach.
Prices on Groupon are increasing with demand this year too, something we haven’t seen (or noticed) in the past. As an example, we bought four lawns from Groupon to see Heart. They were $20 each. We watched them creep up in five dollar increments for a few days. At the time of writing, these same tickets are now $54.75 each on Groupon, which is equal to face value on Ticketmaster.
Last year, buying lawn seats proved to be a great strategy for us. This is because many of the shows we attended offered seat upgrades for $20-$30 through Experience by Live Nation. This has been a win–win, as it was a way for tours to generate additional revenue from unsold inventory and a great way for us as fans to score last-minute reserved seats.
That said, not every band and artist offered Experience upgrades. More than once, when there was no Experience offer, we decided to try to upgrade off the lawn and into reserved seats. To our surprise, we were turned away at the ticket office. We were standing there with credit cards in hand trying to pay more to see the show, but they wouldn’t upsell us into better seats because we had purchased National Concert Week tickets. Our only option was to buy new seats in our preferred location and throw out or give away the tickets we had already purchased, which we weren’t willing to do. Turning away upsell revenue didn’t seem like a solid business practice, and it was also frustrating to us as fans. In these instances, we usually upgraded ourselves by identifying empty rows on the seat map just before sales went offline around 9 p.m., then walked confidently to those seats to watch the main act.
As I was putting together the information for this article, I thought to myself, “Wow, I’m being kind of negative — maybe I’m not really being priced out of seeing good shows.” So, I decided to look for seats to another summer concert that my friends and I could get excited about. I searched online, then found out that One Republic is playing two nights at a 1,550-capacity venue in Niagara Falls, Canada. That’s a show we’d take a trip to see — great band, small venue and a really cool place to visit. Tickets weren’t on sale yet, though I was skeptical when I read that prices would start at $150. I put the on-sale date in my calendar anyway and decided I’d take a look.
About 10 or 15 minutes before the on-sale, I joined the virtual waiting room for both shows – one on my computer and the other on my phone. I also called in to see how I’d fare with a telephone representative. Sadly, after pressing numbers and listening to various recorded messages for several minutes, I received a disappointing final recording —I could not in fact buy tickets for this show over the phone. I shook my head and wondered why there was a phone number published for these specific shows. It was annoying, but I was still in the online queue.
There were lots of seats to choose from when the show finally went on sale. Floors were a whopping $289.25 each. The mezzanine wasn’t much better at $232.75 per seat.
After clicking around for a bit, I decided it wasn’t worth the money. Especially because that’s just the cost of a ticket. There would be travel, meals and accommodations too. I found a One Republic concert on YouTube, cranked the volume and thought about what I could spend that money on instead. Seems I’m not the only fan who decided not to make a purchase as there are still some amazing seats available several days later.
Normally by this time of year, we’d have tickets to a ton of shows. Not so this year. So far, as a group, we’re attending far fewer concerts in 2019, with seats secured for acts including Cher, Twenty One Pilots, The Who, Heart, Queen + Adam Lambert, KoRn and Alice In Chains, and Rick Springfield, among others. There are many more acts that we’d like to see coming through town, including some of our all-time favorite bands, but we’re being much more selective in what we buy because we just can’t justify some of today’s higher ticket prices.
Right now, we’re crossing our fingers for more Groupon deals, reasonably priced lawns, Experience upgrade offers and more tour announcements. We’re also watching to see if prices will come down for shows we’d like to see while discussing other ways to experience concerts by the bands and artists we love. In the meantime, to get our live music fix, we’ll attend the shows we’ve already got planned and throw our support behind some up-and-coming acts in smaller local venues.
This is the first article in a special INTIX Access series about live music entertainment ticketing, as told by fans who are buying tickets and attending shows.
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Tags: Music , Ticketmaster , Reselling , StubHub , Secondary Ticketing , Venues