November 28, 2011 by Anne Most
As concert ticket prices skyrocket, concertgoers are becoming less inclined to buy tickets, hurting the music industry, the “Ticket Masters” panel informed students in the Mitchell Auditorium at the Bossone Research Enterprise Center Nov. 17.
The panel was presented by the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design and the Kal and Lucille Rudman Institute for Entertainment Industry Studies, in partnership with the LeBow College of Business.
The panel revolved around the book “Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped.” The authors of the book are Dean Budnick and Josh Baron, editors of Relix magazine. Baron, Tom Moon, Sean Agnew, David Cooper and Jim McCafferty led the panel. Approximately 250 people attended.
In the past few years, CD sales have decreased dramatically because people have been more inclined to download music online and have preferred attending live shows, Moon, author and former music columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, said. That being said, with the raising of ticket prices by companies such as Ticketmaster and Live Nation, people are now sticking their noses in the air to buying tickets.
According to Agnew, a concert promoter, founder of R5 Productions and partner in Union Transfer, the best way to keep fans from turning their backs on concerts is to keep the shows cheap, affordable and honest.
So why are ticket prices exponentially higher than they were 10 years ago?
“People in [the music] industry are greedy and want money,” Baron said.
Buying a concert ticket no longer involves just buying a concert ticket. Tickets to many big-name shows at big-name venues have so many additional fees that the price of a ticket more than doubles, according to Baron.
“Consumers pointed to … Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour,” Budnick and Baron wrote in their book, “in which a single $20 lawn ticket could cost nearly $50 after a ‘facility charge’ ($12), ‘convenience charge’ ($10.50), ‘order processing fee’ ($5.20) and ‘TicketFast Delivery,” i.e., print-at-home ticketing ($2.50).”
At this point a fan must think about whether a lawn ticket is worth burning a hole in his or her wallet.
Many are quick to blame Ticketmaster for increased ticket prices but don’t stop to think about the promoters, the venue or the artist. Companies like Ticketmaster split fees with promoters, so the promoters raise the prices to make a bigger profit, Baron said. According to Agnew, it is ultimately the promoters, venues and artists that raise the prices of tickets.
‘The true monopoly in the business is the artist,” Baron agreed.
Artists are the ultimate determining factors of ticket prices. Artists such as The Rolling Stones and Madonna will be able to increase prices to ridiculous levels because they know they have the pull, the panel discussed. Smaller-named bands do not have as much influence or power to ask the people to pay too much for a ticket.
Some bands are an exception, such as Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam is popular enough that they can charge a heinous amount of money for tickets and get away with it, but in 1994 they wanted to keep ticket prices low for their spring tour, Baron said. Ticketmaster wouldn’t have it, insisting on adding service charges to the tickets.
“Pearl Jam’s team had carefully scrutinized Tickmaster’s contracts and found three loopholes, never publicly discussed, that they could exploit,” Budnick and Baron wrote.
Another reason for increased ticket prices is the lack of venues and touring acts, Moon said. Since there aren’t as many venues available to artists, tickets and fees are naturally going to be more expensive.
While all seems hopeless in the music industry, there is a solution that could attract concertgoers: Artists connecting with their fans, according to Cooper, founder of Pearl Jam tour ticketing, ETM, FT&T and Direct to Fan.
Cooper said that bands who connect with their fans by coming out after a show to interact with them are more likely to attract more concertgoers. It’s all about word of mouth: A happy fan talks, attracting more fans who want that personal connection with the band. Cooper couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of connecting with the fans, repeating it several times throughout the panel.
“Outside of creating your art, concentrate on talking to your fans,” Cooper advised.
VIP-level tickets are helping artists to make personal connections, as well as make more money, so it’s a win-win situation, Cooper said. VIP tickets add value to a show and connect to the fans.
McCafferty, the ticketing director of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, said that he is amazed with bands like U2 who communicate with their fans and don’t allow their labels to control them.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have helped artists to connect with their fans and advertise concerts. Before Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel started reaching out to fans via Twitter and Facebook, some of his shows had less than 100 attendees. Put Twitter and Facebook in the mix, and his shows sell out in 35 seconds, Agnew said.
For more information on the rise of concert ticket prices, pick up a copy of “Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped.”