July 12, 2007 — -- There are many ways to spend $15,000: buy that new car, order a couture gown, snatch up 25 iPhones.
But for nearly 1,500 stinking rich music lovers, there was another option: Drop that 15 grand on a single ticket to the 2007 Hampton Social @ Ross concert series, which kicks off this weekend with a performance by Prince in ritzy East Hampton, N.Y.
For the exorbitant price tag, ticket buyers will get the chance to see Prince, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Billy Joel, James Taylor and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in separate shows during July and August in an "intimate" outdoor setting. Along with the music, attendees will enjoy extravagant side entertainment like art exhibits and magic by David Blaine.
While the experience may be worth it to those with cash to spare, many critics are questioning the lure of such an excessive event.
"The concept of prestige ticketing is not entirely new," Spin Magazine assistant editor Kyle Anderson told ABCNEWS.com, "but I've never seen anything at this level of expense or decadence. It just seems kind of silly."
Silly or not, the series is already "practically sold out," according to Nicole Kotovos, the public relations representative for Bulldog Entertainment, the event's organizer.
Even with plush couches in cozy outdoor tents and black truffle tartlettes on the menu, Anderson finds the ticket price exorbitant for what he calls a "shrug-worthy" lineup.
While tickets to some of Prince's most recent performances have fetched more than $3,000, the high cost of this series is a huge markup for Dave Matthews and James Taylor, whose fans can normally catch a concert for less than $50.
"Who is going to pay that much money to see Dave Matthews?" Anderson told ABCNEWS.com. "There doesn't seem to be that level of rarity."
Anderson believes the ticket price would be somewhat more justified if the performances were one-time comeback shows or, at the very least, if the artists were showcasing new material.
Todd Palmer, director of business development for Virb Inc., which owns PureVolume.com, a Web site devoted to promoting emerging bands, agreed. "These guys have been around for a while," said Palmer. "I'm not sure they even have new albums out. That makes it that much harder to justify the ticket prices."
And while pricey tickets are common for high-profile fundraisers, according to Kotovos, the 2007 Hampton Social @ Ross concert series, is not a charity event.
Despite such criticisms, many Hampton regulars aren't batting an eyelash at the series' cost, and think the lineup is well worth it.
"It's about the party," said Hamptons Magazine East End editor Collin Graham. "It makes the music more accessible to a wide variety of people and it's going to make more people want to go."
"These are legendary artists from every age bracket," explained Kotovos. "We wanted to keep it local, but cater to every age group."
And when compared to the cost of premium seats in big concert venues, said Kotovos, the series' prices are warranted. "The market value right now is $2,000 to $4,000 for front row seats at some of the bigger venues like Madison Square Garden," she explained. "For that money you get a private intimate setting. It's like having that concert in your backyard."
And since the tickets are transferable, a pass holder can attend just the shows they prefer, and temporarily loan their tickets to others for $3,000 per show.
"It's for music lovers. There are a lot of them that can afford that price bracket and looking for a better experience," added Kotovos.
Questions of worth aside, in order to sell $15,000 tickets, promoters had to seek out wealthy customers.
"It's out here in the Hamptons, playground of the rich and famous," said Graham, of the tony beach towns where summer homes are regularly bought and sold for millions. "It wouldn't have the same draw anywhere else with the prices as they are."
"[Event organizers] make no bones about the kind of crowd that they're courting," said Anderson, who believes most of the acts are geared towards an older, more successful demographic. "They thought, 'If we're going to cater a show to a specific tax bracket, we may as well hold it in a place where that tax bracket is going to be.'"
As much as for the music, Anderson believes many buyers will come simply to see and be seen.
"A big part of this is people going so they can say that they were there," explained Anderson. "There might be a sense of one-upping each other."
Palmer agrees: "I think it's basically a chance for people to say they spent that much money on their ticket."
Whatever their reasons, hundreds have already purchased tickets, including some "big names," according to Kotovos.
Building on the current buzz, Bulldog Entertainment is in the process of organizing similar high-priced events in cities around the world when the Social @ Ross series ends in late August.
But for Kyle Anderson, no matter where the event is held, only one performance really seems worthy of such a price tag:
"I think it would take the resurrected corpses of the dead Beatles," said Anderson laughing. "You'd probably get people to pay that much to see the zombie John Lennon."