Cheap Concert Tickets!

I am off to see a double bill — Elvis Costello/Police. Crappy Economy be damned, I paid up for awesome seats. Elvis is ostensibly the opener, but really, I would see him alone if I had the chance. And the Police is a long overdue catch up — I was supposed to see them at My Father’s Place in Roslyn in 1978 or so, but somehow screwed up the opportunity. This is my first time seeing them.

As we noted back in early July, $10 Concert Tickets! (Another Weird Economic Indicator) — concerts are doing poorly.    

I spoke recently with several music industry "Insiders" about this — they all said the same thing: Touring is terrible this year. They blamed high gas prices, a weak economy and poor job market. The combination does not lead to a LETS PARTY mentality amongst ticket buyers.

A few quotes:

"I saw Melissa Etheridge’s business manager last night (he also handles a client of mine).  He told me that some dates on Melissa’s tour aren’t even hitting 60% of total capacity.  The promoters are getting killed.  She’s doing venues size from 2000-5000 seats and her guarantees are $300k.  I think you can do the math!

I’m hearing these stories more and more."

and this:

"I work on a lot of tours mostly for arena or even stadium acts (U2, Springsteen, Bowie, Police). While I
can’t say that those clients have had trouble moving tickets, I can say that we
are in the process of doing some new deals with the major “one-stop” promoters,
and they most certainly are aware of/nervous about the crappy economy and the
import of the art/science of ticket pricing (and related price

and finally this:

"Nice to know that someone out there still goes to see live music."



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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. VennData commented on Aug 5

    Lollapalooza was this weekend: Bloc Party, Lupe Fiasco, Rage Against the Machine, and Nine Inch Nails were phenomenal.

    I’ve seen Wilco a couple dozen times, they were at the same time as RATM. (see Greg Kot’s review in the paper formerly known as Chicago’s best newspaper.)

    While musically not as interesting nor diverse as Chicago’s Pitchfork festival – and a different ‘level’ of attendee – the weekend in Grant Park was sold out all three days. That’s 75,000 people at $200 a ticket. It was a financial and musical success. So was Pitchfork a few weeks back.

    Not sure what tours aren’t working, but those promoters can learn a thing about concerts from these two Chicago greats.

  2. leftback commented on Aug 5

    I don’t want to go to Chelsea !!!

    Have a blast Bazza, Elvis is always fantastic live.

  3. haileris commented on Aug 5

    “Summer Concert Stimulus Package”?! Is that for real? HAHA

  4. AC commented on Aug 5

    Not for nothing, but something’s missing from that Melissa Etheridge quotation. At a 5,000 seat venue, the tickets would have to average $600 each just to pay the guarantee. Maybe she’s got sponsors or something?

  5. Tony commented on Aug 5

    Ten Bucks!!!

    Man, they’re going to have to pay me a heck of a lot more than that to see Toby Keith and Montgomery Gentry.

    Maybe they’re looking for Bear Stearns accountants like AC to go to these concerts.

  6. Bob commented on Aug 5


            one hand <.....> other hand
    concerts tickets <...> gas
    concerts tickets <...> gas
    concerts tickets <...> gas
    concerts tickets <...> gas

    You do the math. I need to get to work, and attending a concert does not help that goal……..

  7. LarryO commented on Aug 6

    Is this not another sign that deflation, not inflation, is coming?

  8. BelowTheCrowd commented on Aug 6

    Springsteen cancelled plans for a final leg of his current tour and will wrap up at the end of this month. The reason, as I’m told, is that things weren’t selling out quite so quickly or completely during his last swing through the west and they were concerned about the situation getting worse.

    I can vouch for the fact that at the spring shows in San Jose and Orange County, there were plenty of decent seats available at or close to face value right before the show. That’s a big change in just six months.

    A friend in the ticket business locally tells me he’s cut back significantly on purchases of less-than-fantastic tickets. He’s been caught holding the bag too many times recently with mid-range tickets that he can’t unload at a profit.


  9. Khyron commented on Aug 6

    I treated myself to Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution tour when it came to Nissan Pavilion in VA back on 27 July. Great music all around.

    It was very obvious the effect the economy has had on the tour. There were plenty of great seats available in my section, and I probably could have stolen one closer if I wasn’t happy with where I was. I purchased late (2 weeks prior) through AmEx (love Platinum) and I swear the price went DOWN to about $75 (ticket alone) from about $120 when I priced a few weeks before. I didn’t record this difference, but I remember wanting to say to the AmEx rep “Are you for real?!!?”. I had to contain my excitement on the phone with him. And there was a good amount of space down in The Pit, but I didn’t care to deal with moshing.

    It was truly ugly, and that was with a decent turnout. I’d hate to see how the venues and promoters really did.

    But maybe now I can catch Maroon 5 live.

  10. Jas Ras commented on Aug 6

    Hope that the Police were as great as they were at Wrigley Field last summer! I too, paid through the nose to see them as I had missed my opportunity in the 80’s… Another band I would do that for–Talking Heads. Missed opportunities to see them two different times–and then they broke up… I quietly hope that they get back together and do a reunion tour sometime in my life…

    A great “don’t miss” show this summer that is coming your way—WILCO. Just saw them the other night and it was a fantastic show. Tweedy and band seemed to be as ease with themselves and were truly dishing out some wonderful tunes!

  11. George commented on Aug 6

    Hey, Jas–

    Byrne and Eno are touring this fall to support a new album. Now is your chance.

    Saw Robert Plant and the otherworldly Alison Krauss in Raleigh and Asheville. They sold out a maybe 5,000 seat arena in the latter, but in Raleigh’s indoor b-ball arena that could hold 20,000, maybe 2/3rds of the seats were unsold. It was Led Zeppelin-lite, and the fans did not show.

    Saw REM play a perfunctory, even mean-spirited show, that appeared sold out. Never again for those guys.

  12. Paul commented on Aug 6

    My Father’s Place??? That takes me back, lot of good times there; first but unfortunately not the last time a place a great music venue closed. Just bought tickets for the final Police show $50 donation to Public TV plus $20 in charges. Wish Costello was playing but B52’s instead. My friend is doing a baseball stadium tour and Springsteen is playing in St. Louis when he is there, said plenty of great seats still available including seats as low as $30. Times are hard.

  13. edhopper commented on Aug 6

    I was there, sitting in the cheap ($70!) nose bleed seats.
    Great Concert. The Police sounded great. Amazing what they can do with just two guitars and drums. (Some groups seem to have more “extra” musicians on stage than group members.
    I, also missed seeing the Police first time around, so this was very special.
    What amazed me was people leaving before the last encore song, I guess to “beat the traffic”.
    Let me get this straight. One of the biggest bands in Rock reunite after 25 years for a tour, they will have their Farewell Concert at the Garden three days later, and you leave to save 20 minutes. Good priorities.

  14. sawillso commented on Aug 6

    According to Pollstar who tracks the industry, H1 attendance was off 5% with pricing up about 5% to drive flat revenue. I think it’s pretty difficult to extrapolate from one or two concerts but no one is expecting a gangbusters year this year given the economy and the lack of big-name tours. If you look back over the past couple years at summer amphitheater tours, those amps were roughly 50% filled for the summer, so anything’s an improvement over that.

  15. MShapiro commented on Aug 6

    “A friend in the ticket business locally…”

    He’s a scalper – who are not that far removed from Real Estate Brokers or I-bankers – and they usually obtain their tickets in unscrupulous ways. Pardon me if I don’t shed a tear.

  16. Mr Blifil commented on Aug 6

    I’ll go you one better. I missed my chance to see Metallica and Megadeth at Irving Plaza, to see The Clash at Bonds, to see Motorhead at the Palladium, to see The Undertones at wherever that venue was…

    You get the idea. On the upside I got to see Barry Manilow, Steve Martin, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Jethro Tull at giant stadia, before I swore off big venues for clubs. And I got to see the original Bad Religion, the original Social Distortion, the Bad Brains, Henry in Black Flag, Liquid Liquid at the Mudd Club, Ramones, UK Subs, etc. So I guess it all evens out in the end.

    Nowadays I just sit around and play the piano. Much more entertaining.

  17. David Eoll commented on Aug 6

    Not for nothing, but something’s missing from that Melissa Etheridge quotation. At a 5,000 seat venue, the tickets would have to average $600 each just to pay the guarantee. Maybe she’s got sponsors or something?

    Posted by: AC | Aug 5, 2008 8:44:51 PM

    Naw, she’s just better at math. (300,000 / 5000) = 60 not 600.

  18. Joe commented on Aug 6

    I’ll be another proponent for Lollapalooza here in Chi-Town. It was a blast and WELL worth the $200 bux for three days of well-booked talent with a whole lotta local flavor, although I would like to catch Head of Femur at one of these.

    Other perks were the reasonable food and bev prices. No overly ridiculous markup. I can honestly say that going to a three-day festival where beers are only $5 bucks was outstanding. Of course I know plenty of people would laugh at me for saying that about a $5 Bud Light, but if you see as many shows (and festivals) as I do, that is pretty cheeeep for any show outside of a small dive joint. There were plenty of shirts in the $20 dollar range too. I paid a bit extra ($30) to buy the “green” Wilco shirt.

  19. Jonathan commented on Aug 6

    @ Joe: “Of course I know plenty of people would laugh at me for saying that about a $5 Bud Light”

    I’m not laughing. Just saw the Yanks, and had to figure out whether it was worth getting 14oz of Miller Lite for $9.50 or 10oz of Grolsch for $8.50. Went with the Grolsch. Water, alone, was $5.

  20. stevief commented on Aug 6

    I saw Elvis Costello in Golden Gate Park for Free! Last year! In ’85, saw REM in various and surdry gymnasiums for $7 a pop. I wonder what REM tix are going for now.

  21. Paul Kolber commented on Aug 6

    I wanted to see Melissa Etheridge on this tour (I heard her current shows are nearly 3 hours long), but (to my recollection) her tickets were waaaaaay overpriced…roughly $125 each. I’m sorry, but she’s not big enough to command this kind of price. I’ll sit this tour out and wait ’til next tour when she’s a little more humble (or her promoters come to their senses).

    I’m in the Philadelphia area and I haven’t seen any reduction in ticket prices. Tickets for The Who are $202 each. I love The Who, but for this amount of $$$, I can see 2 Bruce Springsteen shows. That’s a no-brainer for me. Also, The Who have been offcially releasing all of their performances on both audio and video for several years now. For $30, I can own the DVD of the show. In this case, that will certainly satisfy me.

    This week I saw/am seeing Aimee Mann (approx. $50 per ticket after surcharges), Duffy ($30) and KT Tunstall ($35). All of these shows are in small theaters/clubs. Maybe small local or largely unknown artists are charging $10, but most artists of any notoriety are still charging substantial $$$ for their tickets.

  22. rojomojo commented on Aug 6

    I saw the James Gang charging $75-150 last year and can recall paying $1.50 for them in my youth. Jeff Beck, with Rod Stewart, Nicky Hopkins and Ron Wood–$1.50.

    Hendrix and Traffic, 4 th row, $6.00.

    Janis Joplin, 6th row, $4.50.

    A while ago I made up my mind to see mostly up and coming minor acts like Galactic, Modeski, Martin and Wood, et al as they were normally less than $30 in small venues.


  23. deltaverde commented on Aug 6

    Named my son Declan after Elvis. Have fun.

  24. bigby commented on Aug 6

    I don’t remember seeing you at Elvis in GG Park last year, Jonathan, if that’s your real name (plus I don’t even know you…do you remember the Blue Angels screaming overhead from Fleet Week? I think they were trying to tell us something…).

    Anyway, I saw REM for $5 with The Neats at Bucknell University in about Feb, 1985. Talked to the band afterwards. 6 months later, after Fables had been out awhile, I saw them again at Penn State for the outrageous price of $12 and they dinna talk to none of us, the bastages…).

    However, Elvis played with Nick Lowe in about ’88 and Nick came down to the pub afterwards. Nice bloke…

    A hard working, good in concert band to see if you like Wilco is Lucero, who are currently touring, for the REM-1985-esque price of $12. I’ve seen them 2-3 times and each show has been excellent.

  25. forty2 commented on Aug 6

    Sigur Rós in Boston, Sept 19: $35 face. Check-out price: $55.

    Fuck you, Ticketmaster.

  26. AndrewBW commented on Aug 6

    In, if I remember correctly, December 1980, the Police were scheduled to play an unannounced concert at the Ritz Ballroom. I was home sick with a miserable cold and listening to WNEW when they made the one and only announcement of the show. Well, I bundled myself up good and tight and hurried downtown. I got there around noon and stood in line for about two hours in the snow and freezing cold before finally getting a ticket. The show was at something like 8 p.m., and feeling absolutely wretched I went back home to stay warm until it was time to go.

    Fell asleep.

    Woke up at midnight.

  27. Albatross commented on Aug 6

    Ok, let me give you a recent price list from this summer concerts from Istanbul:

    Metallica (stadium concert 40K+, tickets range from $250-vip to $50, packed stadium)
    Judas Priest- range from $150 to $50, around 6K people
    Lenny Kravitz range from $150 to $50 ~6K people
    Local concerts (mostly popular Turkish singers) range from $250 to $50, ~4-5K people

    Oh, turkish lira is almost equal to USD (1 USD=1.16 ytl as of today).

    So, from what I see throughout Europe, the concert tickets are still expensive thx to very low USD, and people still care for great bands i.e. Metallica.

    Best from Istanbul, keep up the good work Barry.

  28. Parvis commented on Aug 6

    Is it just me, or do most of these truly expensive acts seem to be just from the last generation of music? Pitchfork, Coachella, and Lollapalooza tickets may be $200, but per hour of music the cost of newer bands seems to be a TENTH of what fossils like the Police are charging.

  29. tyoung commented on Aug 6

    I missed Tom Waits.

  30. Ray Radlein commented on Aug 6

    I did see The Police in 1979 (the very week that Regatta de Blanc was released), and was more than wiling to pay through the nose for the reunion (great show, BTW).

    Springsteen, too, this time around (first show after Danny’s funeral).

    That said, my bar for high-priced venues has always been pretty high, and my preference has always been for up-and-coming acts at small venues. Unfortunately, now that we live out in the sticks, those venues are far, far away, and getting there is a major logistical undertaking — which lends itself to “event” concerts like Springsteen and the Police more than, say, Arcade Fire or Neko Case.

  31. jmay commented on Aug 6

    Barry –

    If you’ve never heard the live recording of “God Only Knows” with Elvis and the Brodsky Quartet, you must track it down as soon as possible. It’s mind-blowing.


    $10 for Toby Keith is $9 too much.

  32. Toro commented on Aug 6

    Saw Judas Priest in Saskatoon a few weeks ago. It rocked! Well, it rocked for a bunch of old guys on stage, but it was good nonetheless!

  33. greghags commented on Aug 6

    Went to John Mellencamp at Jones Beach in July. Paid for nosebleed tix, but so few tickets sold they moved the nosebleeds ticket holders down to better seats and closed off the whole nosebleed section—- and there were still plenty of unsold seats below the closed off nosebleed section….
    A great concert none the less…

  34. Yaoba commented on Aug 15

    It is just not a good time if you are in the music industry. I have been to 10 shows this year for an article I am writing, but all of my tickets UNDER face value at Just the way it is going right now.

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