Marketing / 04.23.18
Are Venues Pricing Fans Out of the Game?
A new proposed law for the state of Michigan would tax major sporting and entertainment events an additional $3 per ticket under the proposed Sporting Entertainment Tax Act, introduced by Sen. Coleman Young (D-Detroit) in the Michigan Senate. The proposed legislation would add a $3 excise tax per ticket for all games and concerts at venues with a seating capacity of 5,000 or more in Michigan cities with a population of 500,000 or more (in other words, Detroit). That would include all Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers home games, along with concerts at Chene Park, Comerica Park, Ford Field, the Fox Theatre and Little Caesars Arena.
According to Young, the money would go toward hiring and equipping more firefighters, police officers and emergency medical service personnel in Detroit. He added that the funds raised also could be used for police funerals. In a recent interview with MLive.com, Young said, "If [officers] die in the line of duty, there should be enough money in the city to pay for their funeral." Young said the idea for the tax came about after a number of cops and firefighters approached him over the past year or so to discuss ways to provide more financial assistance to first responders in Detroit.
"This is not a tax for revenue-raising purposes," he recently told the Detroit Free Press. "I'm levying it so police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel can provide their services at an optimal rate."
Of course, the downside is that the cost of sporting events and live concerts would get even pricier than they already are if the bill becomes law. That could be dangerous for attendance numbers. Just this month, the New York Times in an article on Live Nation reported that ticket prices are at record highs.
Across the board, live-event ticket prices are trending upward. In the live music sphere, artists are charging more and more for concert tickets, due to the fact that they’re not raking in a ton of revenue from streaming services and record sales. Staging is also getting more extravagant (read: expensive) by the show, as audience expectations for thrilling events keep rising. On top of all that, venues are understandably prioritizing event security, which is timely and important — but translates to higher ticket prices for fans.
In the sports arena, the newly enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows no company deduction for activity generally considered to be entertainment, amusement or recreation. Companies have had to start asking themselves, “Should that stadium suite be renewed?” and “Does that ball game outing still make fiscal sense?” In March, CBSSports.com broke down a recent PlayNJ report to outline costs of attending an MLB game. The article title? “New study breaks down the costs of being an MLB fan, and it isn’t cheap.”
It's too early to tell if other major U.S. cities and states will follow Young's lead and propose similar taxes to pay for public services. And before we get too ahead of ourselves, political observers are doubtful Young's proposal will even receive a hearing in the Republican-controlled state Senate and House of Representatives.
However, with increasing ticket costs all around, the very proposal of a bill like this raises a question. Are we heading toward a ticketing environment that prices out affordability?
Going to a favorite artist’s concert or attending a baseball game shouldn’t necessarily be a luxury. There are different pricing tiers for all of these events, but with recent tax additions — like the Michigan proposal — the price of the lower-cost tickets starts to creep up. How do ticketing professionals provide the right tickets for the right price to all of their patrons — not just those who can afford it?
Some venues are getting creative with how they’re selling tickets to continue to make the experience accessible for all.
Subscription series are big with lovers of live classical and symphonic music. For instance, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has a deal through which fans can subscribe to any three upcoming CSO concerts and save 20 percent. Meanwhile, the Pacific Symphony offers its season ticket-holders a wide array of special privileges, including savings of up to 50 percent compared with the price of buying each ticket separately. In addition, season ticket-holders can purchase additional concert tickets for any series at 20 percent off regular ticket prices.
If pop or rock music is your thing, and the band you want to see has yet to make it big, they might be looking for help to publicize their concerts. Fans can get in touch with them or their manager via social media and ask if they are offering tickets in return for spreading the word about upcoming shows. In addition, music venues and music festivals often have volunteer lists. Those who sign up in advance might be able to see their favorite band or performer by working for part of the admission cost.
Some Major League Baseball teams may follow the lead of the Baltimore Orioles. Back in March, the Baltimore Orioles announced the launch of Kids Cheer Free, a program in which an adult who buys an upper-deck ticket can receive two additional free tickets for the same game as long as the accompanying fans are 9 years old or younger. Letting kids in for free isn't just a ploy to lighten the burden on moms’ and dads' wallets; Orioles Executive Vice President John P. Angelos is hopeful the effort will breed a new generation of baseball fans who will choose Baltimore over the Washington Nationals, the Major League Baseball team that plays just 40 miles down the road.
Others may take a page from the Oakland A's playbook. Just recently, the A's gave away all of their available tickets for a Tuesday game against the Chicago White Sox in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the team's first game in the city. Since parking is always free on Tuesdays, it was a cheaper-than-cheap outing for the A's faithful. The A's received more than 300,000 ticket requests, and Oakland Alameda Coliseum was packed with fans who bought concessions, souvenirs and memorabilia.
The Cincinnati Reds, meanwhile, have relaunched an offer that gets fans a monthly "subscription" to the team’s home games for a flat price of $29.99 per month. Fans purchasing the subscription get a ticket in the top six rows of Great American Ball Park's upper deck to each home game during the month.
These venues’ creativity might just keep them in the game. Ticket prices may be rising, but the shows must go on.
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Tags: Sports , Music , Social Media , Ticketmaster , Theater , Stadium , Digital Marketing