Life In The Nosebleed Section

If there’s one constant gripe in today’s concert industry, it’s that ticket prices are too high. Whatever the reason (high artist guarantees, promoter consolidation, ticketing fees, etc.), the image problem doesn’t seem as bad in other types of entertainment.

One reporter summed up the situation bluntly: “The live entertainment world – and in particular the popular-music concert world – is unique in its willingness to punish or neglect its fan base,” the Chicago Tribune‘s Mark Caro wrote in a recent article.

Other types of live entertainment, like Broadway theatricals, are at least making an effort. Though the face value of Broadway tickets have risen 31 percent since 1998, the actual price paid for those tickets has gone up by only 24 percent, according to The New York Times. There’s a lot of factors involved, including two-fers, coupon discounts and special prices for students.

And then, according to the Times, there’s the TKTS booth in Times Square. The booth sells discounted tickets to dozens of Broadway shows to those who want to suffer the inconvenience of standing in line the day of the show.

Yet, it’s that same queue – filled with out-of-work actors and students looking for 50 percent discounts on lower-quality seats – that helps Broadway generate profit. The NYC theatre business thrives, in part, by making sure that demographic is cared for and that seats are filled.

Meanwhile, a fan of the Indianapolis Colts recently paid $35 for his entire family (wife and three kids) to see the NFL team play at the city’s RCA Dome. That was a good deal for Tom Mitchell, even if the seats were in the nosebleed section and he had to buy them from eBay.

Normally, the tickets would be $15 apiece.

Likewise, it costs about $10 to see the Indiana Pacers – reportedly the cheapest ticket in the National Basketball Association. Once again, the tickets are for the cheap seats, and a lot of the value is a direct result of the endorsements, sponsorships, venue advertising and other secondary income that helps to pay the team’s bills.

David Benner, the Pacer’s director of public information, said the 1,500 $10 tickets could be the greatest number of seats that cheap in the NBA.

“We want to keep that in our future plans,” Benner said, adding he understands the value of package deals. “I go to movies and concerts, and I’m always thinking, ‘Where can I get a deal?'”

But is there a deal to be had when it comes to concerts?

In his Tribune article, Caro tore into the service fees and convenience charges associated with seeing live music. In his analysis piece, he suggested that readers should pay a little more for reading his article, even though they’d already paid for the newspaper.

“I learned this trick from the live entertainment industry, which has conditioned people to pay large chunks of money for the privilege of spending larger chunks of money for the actual product,” he wrote.

Caro ripped Ticketmaster especially, and questioned why new buildings not desperate for renovation need to tack on a “building facility charge.” TM was pinpointed for adding service charges even though ticket distribution is pretty much automated nowadays.

One example was an Ashlee Simpson show at the Rosemont Theatre where, if you were “eager to flex those boo muscles,” you’d pay $39.50 for the ticket, $8.45 for a convenience charge and $4.25 for the order processing fee – a 32.2 percent markup on face value.

Charges to a $10 club show jacked up the price 95 percent, Caro said.

Why does the concert industry do it? Apparently, because it can.