Monday, February 12, 2007

Free the Tickets

I was at the Concert Industry Consortium (CIC) last week in Los Angeles. It's a yearly gathering of all the Promoters (talent buyers) and Booking Agents (talent sellers) in the live music business. Beyond being a wonderful schmooze-fest, it's a great opportunity to gauge the state of the touring industry and get a lot of personal face time with our clients and friends.

This year's theme seemed to be centered around a few big issues, mainly: Ticket Prices and Secondary Ticket Markets

With the recent announcement of ticket auction site StubHub being sold to eBay and racking in more money than most of the promoters combined last year, there were lots of grumblings over the merits of their operation. While I don't necessarily agree with their practices of 'legal scalping', we do live in a free market economy and clearly most of the folks in charge of ticket sales let this opportunity slip through their fingers. While their eyes were focused on guarantees and service fees, StubHub responded to what fans wanted (mostly in sports, mind you) and created a simple to use system which allowed people to find tickets they wanted to sold out shows. In all honesty, the comments I heard felt a little bit like major labels complaining about Napster. Shouldn't people be excited that folks still want to go out and see music?

Another news item of the week was that OzzFest was going to be completely FREE this year. The rationale was that instead of charging $60-$80 per ticket and only seeing 6,000 people show up, they could give away tickets and get 20k people to come. That means selling more parking fees, popcorn, beer, merchandise and exposure to sponsorship.

The rationale is an interesting one, and probably correct, but the more I thought about it the more I couldn't help worry think about the value we've now placed on a concert ticket. I don't think price is that huge of a hindrance, and by giving tickets away for free, I'm concerned that people might stay home the day of the show since they have nothing to lose (monetarily) by not going. Instead of giving tickets away, how about just lowering the ticket cost a bit to something more reasonable, yet tangible, say: $20 for the day.

The real elephant in the room which I didn't hear anybody talk about are ticket service fees (tax). Two $20 tickets to the Fillmore cost $60 in advance when all is said and done. As a result, people wait to buy tickets, figuring the show won't sell out and they can get them at the door the night of. Then when the night of the show arrives they can easily opt-out of going since they don't have a ticket, it might be raining or they might be tired (or any number of other reasons NOT to go). The promoters get worried because the advanced sales are light so they put more pressure on the band and everybody ends up anxious the night of the show. A big walk-up is a big win, but when there isn't a sell out everybody is looking around asking why.

As an industry, I believe we need to wake up to the real issues we face and be conscious of the opportunities that exist before us. Live Music is an experience. It's one people will pay for buy not unreasonably. It's a simple equation: give the people what they want.

Oh yeah, and the bands have to be good too...

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home