Angry about Hannah Montana concert ticket prices rocketing into the stratosphere? Cheer up. At least it's not La Scala.
When Milan's renowned La Scala theater opens its 2007-2008 concert season on Dec. 7 with a production of Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde, you'll pay an eye-popping 2,000 euros ($2,829) for the best seats in the house. That's face value. Feel better now?
Forget scalping and software. To get the top tickets at any high-profile concert or athletic event these days, prepare to haul in cash by the bucket, even if you're first in line. And the best of the best? Make that a wheelbarrow. We poked around the worlds of professional sports and the performing arts to hunt down the priciest seats.
Take tickets for a New York Rangers regular-season game. They haven't won a Stanley Cup championship since 1994, but "VIP ringside" at center ice in Madison Square Garden will set you back $1,004.50, making them the most expensive regular-season, single-game seats in professional sports. (Wonder what they do with the added 50 cents?)
Or how 'bout them Yankees? Major League Baseball's Bronx Bombers haven't been to the World Series since 2003 and they haven't won it since 2000. But that doesn't stop the team from selling the priciest seats in baseball--$400 a pop to sit near home plate or along the first and third-base lines at Yankee Stadium.
Our aim was not to identify which teams, performers or venues charged the highest average ticket prices. Rather, we searched for the single most expensive ticket in 2007 for pro sports around the world, as well as Broadway, popular and classical music and dance.
We looked at face-value ticket prices for events that were open to the general public. We left out luxury suites and premium seats that included the price of food catering or required multi-event or multi-year commitments.
For athletic events, we limited ourselves to regular-season tickets that were available on a single-game basis. That excluded playoff games, championship series and World Cup tournaments. For the performing arts, we limited ourselves to performances at an art troupe's home concert hall and excluded one-off charity events.
Rising ticket prices around the world are rooted in part in the growing Internet ticket market. Online auctions with transparent prices have caused the scalping business to come of age. Now venues themselves are keeping pace.
"The problem is finding the right price,'' says Katya Novikova, head of press relations for Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. "If we have cheap tickets, it doesn't mean that people will get cheap tickets."
The Bolshoi happens to be one venue where a high ticket price would seem to make sense. It is home to perhaps the most celebrated ballet company in the world. So it's not shocking that the most expensive ticket for a ballet performance in 2007 will be for its annual New Year's Eve performance of The Nutcracker. A limited number of student tickets will be available for a mere 30 rubles (about $1.20). But the best seats will go for 12,000 rubles ($481). (The Bolshoi is in the midst of renovations, so this year's performance will be staged in a neighboring theater.)
Similarly, the World Boxing Council light middleweight title match between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. commanded the highest ticket price in boxing this year--$2,000 for seats on the floor at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, Mel Brooks' massive, Tony Award-winning success with the Broadway adaptation of his 1968 film The Producers is translating into huge expectations for his next foray onto the Great White Way: a musical version of Young Frankenstein. The play is in previews at the Hilton Theater in Times Square and opens officially in November. Its top ticket price of $450 for weekend performances startled Broadway when it was announced.
There were some unexpected results as well. The most expensive face-value ticket for a pop music concert in 2007? According to Pollstar, it's the $280 to see Barry Manilow at Madison Square Garden in January. That's surprising on two levels. First, the price seemed like a bargain compared to the $350 a pop that Madonna got at the Garden last year, much less the top-tier $750 tickets that Barbra Streisand sold during her 2006 fall tour. Second ... Barry Manilow?
Sports also had its share of surprises. Amid the soul-searching in Britain about the commercialization of British soccer, you might expect, say, Manchester United or Arsenal to charge the most for a game ticket. But it turns out that neither can match the top ticket price of 170 euros ($240) that Spain's FC Barcelona will charge for each of its two matches in December against archrival Real Madrid.
Super-expensive seats at prestigious events aren't for the rich alone. Just ask Debbie Wolfe, a reservation specialist for Grandstand Motor Sports in Leicestershire, England.
Grandstand books travel packages for customers interested in attending the world's leading motor sports events, like the Daytona 500, Le Mans and the glitziest auto race of all, the Monaco Grand Prix.
Monaco commands a top ticket price of 430 euros ($609) for a grandstand seat, the highest in all of racing. Yet Wolfe says that not everyone who springs for such an extravagance is super rich.
"We get a lot of people booking for Monaco for a 50th or 60th birthday or a 20th wedding anniversary,'' she says. "It's a wide range of people."
Vidya Ram and Vivian Wai-yin Kwok contributed to this report.