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"Plenty of good seats still available..." (Misc. ramblings on prices, scalping, and the economy of live shows)


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On 12/8/2017 at 11:06 AM, cmooreNC said:

I can't argue with the statements made in the original post other than the comment about the setlist.  I'm sure the band has retained full artistic control over their shows, such that they're the ones deciding what songs they're playing.  Other than that, I'd say your general discussion about pricing is pretty spot on.

Biggest mistake they're making in the whole scenario, though, is that they continue to price GA tickets well BELOW what the market is willing to pay.  I'm pretty sure that this is a band decision, not a Live Nation decision. That forces some of the tickets for seats into the higher price ranges where the market is saying that they shouldn't be, as they're not selling.  To have tickets on the floor priced at $76-$80 while everything comparable around them (basically the whole lower level, except for limited view areas where the ticket holders can't see the screens) is priced at $330 or more clearly indicates that these tickets are priced way too low.  Those tickets, then, become the ones the resellers most want, as they present the greatest opportunity for good profit margins for their original "investments."  Thus the immediate situation where demand (both by real fans and by resellers) outstrips the available supply straight out of the gate at the onsale.  If GA's were priced at face values of $200-$250 initially, this problem wouldn't occur and probably all of at least the upper level seats could have been priced more reasonably.  Would there have been bitching and moaning from the diehard fans that are used to getting floor tickets at prices below Fair Market Value?  Sure.  But we wouldn't have been seeing what's going on now ---- overpriced uppers going unsold and diehard fans bitching and moaning because the only way they can get GA tickets is on the resale market at prices that are roughly 200-400% above "face" (where they should have been priced to begin with).  The end result is a scenario where the band is "trying to have it's cake and eat it too," because their shows are now overpriced in a lot of areas (making sure that the artist is not "leaving money on the table," as the original post describes) and yet still under priced for the tickets (GA floor tix) that get attendees closest to the stage and band (with the exception of the Red Zone tickets).

What we're seeing is proof that you can't do both.  Either you price your tickets such that the resale market has some opportunity for re-sellers to potentially make a profit, or you price everything high enough that re-sellers are really taking a risk when they speculate on their ticket "investments" by buying ticket inventory that is pretty much priced at market to begin with.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out by the time the shows occur.  At the outset there clearly were some pricing mistakes made.  In my opinion the biggest is the continued "under market value" pricing of GA tickets and that can't be corrected, as those tickets are all sold.  As for the rest of the unsold inventory, yes, there will definitely be price adjustments taking place - whether "disguised" or obvious - or there will be empty seats at many of these shows.  I doubt the latter will be allowed to happen.

 

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The market for concert tickets has always fascinated me as a microcosm of the supply and demand economy.  Plus, as an avid music and sports fan, I wanted to understand how this economy worked, in orde

NBayer - I think a lot of your observations about the mechanics of ticket sales are correct. Where I disagree, and this may be more of an opinion disagreement than a factual dispute, is in this s

I agree. Most of these types of issues could be fixed with a better staff, or at the very least better training. The question is: who is responsible for that, TM or the venue? From what I've heard, TM

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On 12/11/2017 at 1:45 AM, Manohlive said:

I think that too.  I just read that the problem with CC only is people who do not have plastic get shut out of the show.

But, isn't that already happening now?

For example - every single major concert I've bought tickets to for the past years, including every arena and stadium show, has stated on the Ticketmaster page that tickets are not available for sale at the box office on the first day of the sale.  Most of these type of shows either sell out completely in the first day, or all of the best seats are gone the first day.  So if you're someone who needs to go down to the box office and pay with cash in the first place, you've probably been out of luck for some time.  Is that completely fair?  No, but I don't think CCE changes that equation significantly.

 

On 12/12/2017 at 9:19 AM, hicksong said:

I get the impression that the “intent” was there but I am not sure if that was the “goal”, too many loopholes for scalpers to sneak through.

It's really surprising to me how many more loopholes there are on this tour compared to the last tour.

 

On 12/11/2017 at 1:30 PM, 504jumper said:

like this idea, too. What I noticed at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Ca. was that the devices the staff were using took several seconds for each CC holder. They worked as quickly as they could, but swiping the card and waiting to the tickets to print, took time.

Ultimately, though, I think this could be fixed and made more efficient.  I've been to two credit card entry venues before (I live in New York State, where it is illegal, so it's only when I travel for a show that I experience it).  I did CCE for the U2 shows in East Rutherford and Philadelphia in 2017.  It worked like a charm for me.  For the Philadelphia show, I had GA and had been in line all day, and the CCE process didn't appear to slow down that line.  They scanned our credit cards and checked IDs while we were in line, long before the doors actually opened.  For the East Rutherford show, I had seats, and I simply walked up to the gate, swiped my card, showed my ID, and was let in.  It was honestly the shortest line that I've ever had at that venue.

Undoubtedly, the people using the devices need both training and practice on them, and the venue probably needs to ensure that all available gates are being used which may mean hiring a few extra ticket takers than they normally would for a regular "rip the ticket" type event.  But, as ticket buyers, we're routinely charged ticketing fees of $20 or higher for each ticket, and at many venues, charged an additional $5 "venue management" or "facility" fee.  We're being charged through the nose on fees, and the money from those fees should be used for stuff like this.  If Ticketmaster wants to charge over $20 extra for fees, they can use some of that money to ensure that the venue can handle redeeming the tickets that they've sold.  If each venue wants to charge $5 extra, they can use some of that money to ensure that the venue is properly staffed and that the entry process is smooth.

I know I'm here complaining a bunch, and I worry I may give the impression that I hate everything, all the time, and that's really not true.  But it's just immensely frustrating to me how going to a live concert used to be my favorite activity in the world, but all of these different little things keep getting in the way of just being able to go and have a good time.  I don't think anybody is saying that the artist or the venue don't deserve to be paid for their performance or facility, but for how expensive the tickets are to begin with, and then all of the fees added, I feel like we as ticket buyers have done our part, and we're not getting the quality of experience that those dollars should buy.

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2 hours ago, vertigojds said:

But, isn't that already happening now?

For example - every single major concert I've bought tickets to for the past years, including every arena and stadium show, has stated on the Ticketmaster page that tickets are not available for sale at the box office on the first day of the sale.  Most of these type of shows either sell out completely in the first day, or all of the best seats are gone the first day.  So if you're someone who needs to go down to the box office and pay with cash in the first place, you've probably been out of luck for some time.  Is that completely fair?  No, but I don't think CCE changes that equation significantly.

 

It's really surprising to me how many more loopholes there are on this tour compared to the last tour.

 

Ultimately, though, I think this could be fixed and made more efficient.  I've been to two credit card entry venues before (I live in New York State, where it is illegal, so it's only when I travel for a show that I experience it).  I did CCE for the U2 shows in East Rutherford and Philadelphia in 2017.  It worked like a charm for me.  For the Philadelphia show, I had GA and had been in line all day, and the CCE process didn't appear to slow down that line.  They scanned our credit cards and checked IDs while we were in line, long before the doors actually opened.  For the East Rutherford show, I had seats, and I simply walked up to the gate, swiped my card, showed my ID, and was let in.  It was honestly the shortest line that I've ever had at that venue.

Undoubtedly, the people using the devices need both training and practice on them, and the venue probably needs to ensure that all available gates are being used which may mean hiring a few extra ticket takers than they normally would for a regular "rip the ticket" type event.  But, as ticket buyers, we're routinely charged ticketing fees of $20 or higher for each ticket, and at many venues, charged an additional $5 "venue management" or "facility" fee.  We're being charged through the nose on fees, and the money from those fees should be used for stuff like this.  If Ticketmaster wants to charge over $20 extra for fees, they can use some of that money to ensure that the venue can handle redeeming the tickets that they've sold.  If each venue wants to charge $5 extra, they can use some of that money to ensure that the venue is properly staffed and that the entry process is smooth.

I know I'm here complaining a bunch, and I worry I may give the impression that I hate everything, all the time, and that's really not true.  But it's just immensely frustrating to me how going to a live concert used to be my favorite activity in the world, but all of these different little things keep getting in the way of just being able to go and have a good time.  I don't think anybody is saying that the artist or the venue don't deserve to be paid for their performance or facility, but for how expensive the tickets are to begin with, and then all of the fees added, I feel like we as ticket buyers have done our part, and we're not getting the quality of experience that those dollars should buy.

I agree. Most of these types of issues could be fixed with a better staff, or at the very least better training. The question is: who is responsible for that, TM or the venue? From what I've heard, TM is notoriously cheap in regards to staffing at the lower levels. I always thought that all of those fees paid for stuff like that. But my guess is, they are probably finding areas where that can cut costs and that is one of them. Some of the staff is okay, but I got the feeling many of them were new at it. I will also venture a guess and say that they probably have a lot of turnover, which again creates training issues.

And I'm right there with you in the fact that going to a live concert was one of the best things in the world. In my youth, I went to as many as I could afford. Now, I'm down to one band. They are my favorite and I've been a fan for a very long time. So it is a little sad to know that this awesome experience can be marred extraneous things like pre-sale fiascos, inadequate staffing and downright ineptitude. I've long accepted the rising costs of tickets (ZOO TV was $27.50 for me) and thankfully, I make more money now to afford it.

I personally think the fees charged should be enough to hire a better team to manage properly to prevent delays/bottlenecks/etc., but what do I know?

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9 hours ago, vertigojds said:

But, as ticket buyers, we're routinely charged ticketing fees of $20 or higher for each ticket, and at many venues, charged an additional $5 "venue management" or "facility" fee.

This is something that I find unjust. The mighty “Ticketmaster fee” , this is greed at its best, bastards....

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On 12/12/2017 at 9:37 AM, Ilovebono said:

I can't argue with the statements made in the original post other than the comment about the setlist.  I'm sure the band has retained full artistic control over their shows, such that they're the ones deciding what songs they're playing. 

One clarification about my set list comment...  

I agree that the band does retain artistic control over their set. However, as a practical matter, there is no way the contract with Live Nation doesn't influence the type of show they play. Why? Because Live Nation doesn't back the brinks truck up and dump gobs of money unless you sell out arenas and stadiums. Doing that requires that  you play your hits.  I would argue what we have seen since the Vertigo Tour is a pretty straightforward formula: 6-7 songs of the album being toured with, and then a staple of remaining hits that are constant, and only a few slots for something out of the ordinary. With JT, it was that album plus basically the same hits used over and over again.  And on the 360 tour, by the last leg, that was basically a greatest hits show with very little off of NLOTH.  Vertigo was the last tour with wildly varying openers and set lists.  Heck, they even routinely plucked guitar players out of the crowd to play impromptu covers.  My favorite recent tours have been Vertigo and Innnocene/Experience, but I digress...

Not that this has anything to do with the recent prices, or make them more affordable for any individual fan, remember that early in their career, the band spent a ton on elaborate touring sets while also making a conscious decision to eat much of that cost to keep ticket prices low.  Zoo TV had to cost a fortune. If i recall, my pretty decent tickets to both the indoor and outdoor legs was less than thirty bucks. Pop-Mart was equally expensive. I'm not suggesting that they are hurting financially, but I think that historical context should be understood as well.  

Finally, this is way off topic, but I'll throw it in anyway....  I finally received my free CD's from my concert tix purchases yesterday, and I am now more excited to see this show than I've been about any show for quite some time.  The Little Things That Give You Away blew my away when the closed with it in Dublin this summer.  Now after getting to hear the studio version, its as good as anything the band has ever done. And Get Out of Your Own way is an earworm I just can't stop humming.  This is brilliant stuff.  I'm hoping we get what we got on the Zoo TV tour, which opened with I think the first 8 songs of Achtung Baby. The band had the best album on the planet and knew it.  I hope we get that again...

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On 12/11/2017 at 12:31 AM, Manohlive said:

You said, in the beginning of your post, that the artist wanted the money the scalpers were getting, or something of the sort. That is exactly what a good friend who manages a box office in Milwaukee says to me.  He started in ticketing 35 years ago and watched it all happen.  He pretty much called it. "You watch; sooner or later the performers are gonna want what the scalpers get and why shouldn't they?  It's their intellectual property and talent that precipitates the revenue. Why should some opportunistic jerk on the street get it?".   I hated hearing that, but knew he was right.

I am a rabid Pearl Jam fan.  I get high off Pearl Jam too.  It is a completely different experience, as you said.  They keep the price lower and it's all about the setlist and playing it live.  There are no bells and whistles. 

I love both approaches because I love the music.  If Pearl Jam was really expensive...I'd still try to go no matter.  It's a question of how much something is worth to the person buying the ticket.  You said this too.

Always great to meet a fellow Milwaukean and Pearl Jam fan.  Did you catch the 3.5 hour Lightning Bolt show a few years back where they played all of Yield?  And sang happy birthday to Tom Petty.  Amazing show.  

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40 minutes ago, nbayer said:

Because Live Nation doesn't back the brinks truck up and dump gobs of money unless you sell out arenas and stadiums. Doing that requires that  you play your hits.

The irony there is that U2 never had trouble selling out shows even when they mixed up their sets more.  The Vertigo tour was a sell-out across the board, and that tour featured different opening songs, different closing songs, entirely different configurations of the main set and encores, etc.  We got more obscure songs we never thought we'd hear live like "The First Time," hits like "Where The Streets Have No Name" and "One," fan favorites like "The Electric Co" and "An Cat Dubh-Into The Heart" and singles that hadn't been played in ages like "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses."  This upcoming tour is the first time I can remember U2 shows not selling out almost instantly.  I don't think people started hating U2 overnight; I don't think something magically happened in the NYC area that reduced demand from the 8 completely sold out shows they played in 2015 to the 4 not-at-all-sold-out area shows they'll play in 2018.  I don't think they lost half their audience.  I think half their audience decided that they couldn't or wouldn't spend $330 per ticket (plus an additional $50 per ticket in fees) for seats in high rows in the upper level far away from the main stage.

I feel like the expectation of the crowd has changed -- not just for U2, but for all acts -- as the prices have gone up.  When tickets were priced at reasonable rates, it seemed as if the crowd was made up with a larger percentage of fans who knew more than just the radio songs.  But as prices have gone up, it seems more and more that tickets are purchased by a more affluent audience that has less of a connection to the music and is more interested in a fun night out, or showing everyone on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook where they've been that night.  And that audience, which has paid huge amounts of money for tickets, is demanding that bands play the songs that they know the best, and only those songs.  I remember before the price surging really took off in the concert industry in the early-to-mid-2000s, you could actually go to a show and hear a song you didn't know, and the audience would actually go with it.  Now, it seems the instant a band starts playing a song that the crowd doesn't know, they check out completely.  I frankly don't understand spending money to see a show, whether it's $50 or $500, and not watching the whole thing, but that's what so many people do nowadays.

I tried to get a pair of tickets to see the singer Pink for my wife and I was stunned at the prices.  Not only was she charging what U2 were asking or more for certain sections, but they monetized everything.  For example, they're charging a $20-40 premium for aisle seats.  If your seat happens to be on the aisle, it costs $40 more than the one next to it.  The Ticketmaster page helpfully described the "aisle seat offer" as the option to "Choose from the best available aisle seats and enjoy the convenience of easy access to refreshments, restrooms and venue exits."  It used to just be a cool bonus if you got an aisle seat, but now it's something you'll be charged extra for.  And look how it's being marketed.  Essentially, it's saying "Give us more money and we will make it super convenient for you to do other things besides watching the show."

The experience is just so different now than it used to be, and I can't help but think that the money has something to do with that.

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18 hours ago, vertigojds said:

tried to get a pair of tickets to see the singer Pink for my wife and I was stunned at the prices.

Not a Pink fan but for kicks I was checking out various artist’s prices... yes I was shocked at the price for Pink tickets, I checked Taylor Swift as well, her prices for her GA sections were close to $900, with that you got some box that had “stuff” but really, come on !  Pink close to $700 for lower side seats, I think the days of live concerts with a decent seat for me are over. 

These prices make U2 tickets seem affordable. However I have to sit and laugh and then wonder.... WTF , come on .. really ?? 

Feeling grateful I can catch them in Philly without going into crazy debt. 

These prices are fucked ....

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Great post. I would love to see scalpers taken out but this is not effective. I as well as many fans (who can afford the tickets) are priced out not only because it's a ridiculous price to pay $330 plus fees for upper seats.. but also because U2 has just completed their second tour in a couple years!!  I am lucky to say I saw them in May 2016 Innocence for two shows, September 2016 for their Dreamfest fundraiser in SF, and May 2017 for the Joshua Tree.  While I would certainly be interested to see my favorite band for their next tour.. no way in HELL am I shelling out those $$$$!   I have no urgency to see them play these 'soft' songs live.  I suppose I'll look to see if the tickets appear on Goldstar (pretty embarassing for the band).   Meantime, I'll just happily watch some of their live DVD performances with riveting guitar drum and bass, until they at some point announce a final tour.

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