Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ratcheting up the ticket price

James P has sent us an interesting report from the LA Times on ticket prices in the US. The most eye-catching detail is that Prince followed the same pricing logic for Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as he has for his forthcoming Millennium Dome gigs, taking the 3121 title of his album as a starting point. Only, rather than making them £31.21, he went with $3121. No, there's no missing decimal point there, but at least it was three grand for two tickets. He's all heart.

This is against a background of escalating ticket charges in the US - suddenly, all pop stars are Gordon Gekko:

"In the past, artists have been more sensitive to not wanting to be perceived as charging high ticket prices," said Don Passman, a Los Angeles attorney and author of "All You Need to Know About the Music Business."

"The stigma on that has changed."

The average concert ticket price climbed to $61.58 last year from $25.81 in 1996. Tickets are generally priced based on the acts — and the demographics of their fans. The Cheetah Girls, for example, sold their tickets for an average of $35; Fallout Boy, $27. Seeing Barbra Streisand cost an average of $298.

While the Prince tickets were eye-watering, compared with the top-end of the market that's virtually charitable:
This summer, folks willing to pony up $15,000 for a ticket can see Prince, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, James Taylor and Dave Matthews in a five-concert, 1,000-seat series in the Hamptons in New York. Guests will dine on food prepared by what organizers call "celebrated chefs," peruse art exhibits and be entertained before the concert by illusionist and stuntman David Blaine. And they promise no long waits for the bathroom.

And what's the logic behind charging fifteen grand for Matthews and Joel?

Well, you remember how in the Commons this week Harvey Goldsmith was explaining how promoters carefully set their prices to be fair rather than grabbing the gig-goer by the testicles and shaking like the secondary marketeers do? Apparently, American promoters don't feel the same:
"Our clients told us over and over that they wanted to see the big names perform but didn't want the hassle that came along with attending a concert in a big stadium," said Joe Meli, chief executive of Bulldog Entertainment, the "Hampton Social" promoter.

"We believe our ticket price is in line with what ticket-reselling websites such as StubHub already get for high-profile events."

That makes a certain, ruthless, business logic - although with the built-in risk of pricing acts like Joel out of the mass market at a time when their largest sales come through the three-ninetynine CD bins in petrol stations - but does mean that, in future, promoters can hardly use "secondary sales rip people off by charging higher prices" as a line of attack, can they?