from Rock & Rap Confidential/1999

Ten years ago, two tickets to a rock concert cost an average of $38.40. Today, they cost $69.54. Itís not a mystery why. Three years ago, after strenuous complaints by Pearl Jam led to a Congressional hearing, the Justice Department declared that Ticketmaster, which controls 80 per cent of major venue ticketing, was not an illegal monopoly. So when, two years later, SFX, Inc., a major radio chain, added most of the major concert promotion firms to its portfolio, no one squawked.

The result is that each concert ticket now costs an average of $4-per ticket, not per order- just in Ticketmaster "service charges" and $3.50 for a "facility fee"-a bizarre thing, given that the facility is presumably already charging the performers to rent it for the night. Ten years ago, the per-ticket fee was at most $1, if it existed at all. There was no such thing as a "facility fee."

Of course, the venues, especially the outdoor amphitheatres ("sheds") with short seasons, sometimes charge almost no rent since they are desperate for the acts that can insure a steady stream of customers. Anyhow, parking (about $5 a car, although some places charge per ticket for that, too), concessions, and corporate signage provide the owners with plenty of dough. In other words, the "facility fee" shifts the rent from the act to you. The rest of the increase comes from the artists. It used to be considered bad for a performerís image to charge more than a typical fan could hope to pay. After the Eagles, Rolling Stones, and Barbra Streisand got away with charging hundreds of dollars per seat in 1997, the lid came off. Now itís just considered stupid to leave money lying on the table.

But skyrocketing prices are also driven by the fact that, within the basic monopoly that SFX, Inc. bought with almost a billion dollars, there is a degree of competition, notably from Canadian Michael Cohl. The only way to guarantee a flow of shows is to buy major acts at higher and higher prices. The guarantee per show for the Bob Dylan/Paul Simon tour is $500,000. As a promoter recently told Billboard, the difference between a $200,000 guarantee and a $400,000 guarantee is a $40 ticket versus a $75 ticket.

The musicians who arenít lucky enough to be in a superstar band not only donít see any profit from high prices, they work extra day jobs because of them. If youíve just spent $135 for a pair of Springsteen tickets, how do you justify going to a club the next couple of weekends? You probably donít. And if the clubs are empty, where does the next generation of live bands come from?

[from Rock & Rap Confidential/1999]

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