Concert Ticket Prices Rise, Sales Fall

ByCatherine Valenti

July 9, 2001 -- The cost of seeing your favorite band is getting steeper — and some fans are staying away as a result.

The average price of a concert ticket during the first six months of the year was $46.69 — 4.2 percent higher than the average cost of a ticket for the same period last year, according to the latest figures from music industry magazine Pollstar.

That price is almost 7 percent higher than the average for all of 2000, and an even more startling 43 percent increase over what concert tickets cost just three years ago, according to Pollstar.

Sales Suffer

But while ticket prices are steadily increasing, ticket sales are not following suit.

Around 10.9 million tickets were sold during the first half of the year, down 15.5 percent from the 12.9 million tickets sold in the first six months of 2000. Gross sales also decreased to $508.2 million from $579.3 million for the first half of last year, says Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar editor-in-chief.

The downturn in the economy may have kept some fans out in the parking lot this year, while the high price of some of the year's hottest tours is probably prompting concert goers to be more selective, says Bongiovanni.

Billy Joel and Elton John's "Face-to-Face" tour was the most expensive of the first half with an average ticket price of $100.95, according to Pollstar. U2's "Elevation" tour, the highest-grossing act of the first half with ticket sales of $69 million, boasted an average ticket price of $76.18. Some U2 tickets sold for as high as $130.

Top Grossing Tours

And there are no signs of slowdown in the second half of 2001. Madonna's "Drowned World Tour," which hits North America at the end of July, are selling for as much as $250 a show. Tickets for the Material Girl's shows at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas are selling for as much as $350.

"The really hot acts will be able to command pretty much what they want," says Bongiovanni. "The problem is the acts that are not on somebody's must-see list. Even if you're a real big fan, you've got to make your choices."

A recent Eric Clapton show at New York City's Madison Square Garden spurred the to-spend-or-not-to-spend dilemma among many concertgoers.

Dahlit Ehrlich, 25, of New York decided to sit the concert out. Even though she's a big fan of Clapton, she found the ticket prices too expensive at $80. But that didn't stop Rob Garcia, 28, who spent more than $100 for floor seats to the show.

"If I really like a group that I want to see, I'll spend the money," says Garcia.

Blame the Scalpers

Though consumers may complain about the high cost of seeing Madonna, Bongiovanni says the music industry is just responding to market demand. In the mid-'90s, artists and concert promoters started realizing that many of the people sitting in the best seats had bought their tickets from scalpers, often paying hundreds of dollars more than face value.

Since the industry was not seeing any of that profit, concert organizers decided to start charging premium prices for the best seats. Pink Floyd was the first rock band to adopt this pricing model on its world tour in 1994, says Bongiovanni.

By 1999, almost every concert tour had adopted the tiered system of ticket pricing, as evidenced in the dramatic 18 percent jump in the average price of a concert ticket that year.

Concerts ... A Luxury?

Other industry watchers note that consolidation in the concert industry, along with ever increasing service charges and facility prices, is helping to fuel the rise in ticket costs.

"I think that the proliferation of national touring and the competition among the few independent promoters that remain against the larger companies has driven ticket prices very high," says John Scher, president and chief executive officer of Metropolitan Entertainment Group, which produces concert tours both in the Northeast and nationally.

Scher says he thinks that concert tickets prices have increased to the point where attending a musical event has become more of a luxury item for many Americans. And though that might be the case, he doesn't see that trend decreasing any time soon.

"My experience has been that when the economy has weakened, the concert business has not weakened," says Scher.

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