Your Take: Corporate Control of Concert Prices

Karlie Justus Marlowe | March 14th, 2009

The first day of spring kicks off next Friday, and with warmer weather comes exciting announcements of summer country concert tours. We’re pretty concert-happy around here as well, as we’re sponsoring the New American Voices Tour with Rodney Hayden and Drew Kennedy.

Before television and the Internet, the concert experience was the only way to get face time with music lovers’ favorite artists. Of course, the experience was often much more intimate (and cheaper) than today’s stadium extravaganzas, as seen in Pure Country: The Leon Kagarise Archives’ portraits of country music legends at parks and picnics in the ’60s and ’70s.

Concerts are still an important part of country fans’ lives, according to the Country Music Association’s recent study: Around 25 percent of people who identify themselves as country music fans attended a country concert in the last year. However, the study also found that many of those concert-goers were not happy with rising ticket prices, merchandise price tags and transaction fees. Hartford Courant and “Sound Check” blogger Eric R. Danton’s recent post on the subject echoed those woes and added one more: frustration with corporate control.

The economy is one reason why, but it’s not the only one. People I talked to cited disgust with rising ticket prices and, tellingly, corporate dominance of the live music scene.

“When I do go to shows, I’d rather spend my money at smaller venues that have to compete with corporations, or that are donating portions of my ticket price to charity, like the Music for a Change series” at the University of Hartford, said Liz Lesso, 32, a library assistant who lives in South Windsor.

Rich Bradley put it even more bluntly.

“To an extent, I’m thinking about focusing on shows that aren’t going to fall under the Live Nation see-and-fee banner, if possible,” said Bradley, 24, an Avon resident who works for a small marketing agency in West Hartford. “On one side, there’s the practical issue of income not being as reliable as past years, so I’m looking for shows that might be a little bit more of a bargain or more reasonable. But generally, I’m more broadly upset by the exploding ticket-fee stuff as it relates to Live Nation. That stuff would upset me regardless of the stability of the economy.”

Do you think the corporate stranglehold on big venue concerts is to blame for the recent slump in concert sales? Have you found yourself gravitating toward smaller concert venues?

Country artists like Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban have made efforts to keep ticket prices down with special discount sections like Kenny Chesney’s “working man’s section” and Keith Urban’s $20 Escape Together World Tour special.

Even with ticket specials like these, have you seen a dip in the number of concerts you’ve attended over the last year compared to previous years? What concerts are you sacrificing your hard-earned cash for?

  1. Jessica
    March 14, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I see myself going to smaller venues rather than arenas because of the lower priced ticket, better quality of sound, and the fact that most don’t have a time limit on how long a performer is to perform.

    Some shows I would love to go, but refuse to pay $40+ for a ticket. I refuse to pay $175 + fees, etc to see anyone, *Kenny Chesney*. The lowest ticket was about $75 for his Louisville show. The last time I saw him tickets were $50 and he didn’t sound good at all. And then concert shirts have climbed to $30+ when they maybe cost < $10 to make. I miss the days when a good show was maybe $20 (including fees) and you could get a shirt for about $15.

    Higher price ticket doesn’t equate to higher quality show. I paid less money on tickets, gas, & hotel to see Jamey Johnson in concert and it was my personal favorite concert ever. The total I spent was still less than what Kenny’s, Rascals, etc are selling for!

  2. JD
    March 14, 2009 at 9:16 am

    If you think ticket sales were bad last year, wait til this year’s results come out!

  3. Stormy
    March 14, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I go to smaller venues mostly because they are the ones that the artists I like play at.

  4. nm
    March 14, 2009 at 10:23 am

    I prefer smaller venues because I can be closer to the artist that way. I don’t see why anyone would pay any sort of money at all to see almost anyone in a large arena or stadium.

  5. Baron Lane
    March 14, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Like Stormy it’s an easy all for me, the artists that I like are play smaller venues. Wwhen I do decide to pony up for bigger show, Haggard and Kristofferon next month, it’s not so bad because it’s a rare treat and the quality is undeniable.

  6. Matt B.
    March 14, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Having seen Jamey Johnson in a smaller venue, I can’t imagine seeing him in a large one. His music just fits an intimate crowd where he can connect with the Audience more. That being said I don’t mind artists who go to big venues but you won’t see me paying over $40 for a ticket.

  7. Nick
    March 14, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I agree with the rest of you about the smaller venues. In my area (100 miles from any city larger than 30,000) most shows are county fairs and similar where most cost less than $20 per person. It is however nice to go to a stadium show once in a while as some of the special effects and what not arent possible. What I dont like is all the additional fees that come with the ticket purchase. A $65 ticket to see Kenny Chesney’s stadium show ended up costing close to $95 with all the add ons. $5 fee for this and $10 here for that add up really quickly. I understand that the event center and ticket agents have expenses and whatnot but some fees are a little excessive.

  8. Rick
    March 14, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    I assiduously avoid “big venue” concerts due to poor sound quality and visibility even apart from the high prices. Well that and the fact I have no interest in 95% of the artists that perform at big venues. The lone exception is the Stagecoach Festival in Indio due to its additional tents/stages dedicated to Americana, Bluegrass, and Cowboy Music artists where I can listen to great live music and ignore the Top 40 artists on the huge main stage. This year Stagecoach conflicts with the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, so I’ll miss out on the great Sunday artist schedule at Stagecoach. Oh well….

    Fortunately Los Angeles has two honest to goodness intimate “listening venues” (ie no alcohol) in The Coffee Gallery Backstage (in Altadena) and McCabe’s Guitar Shop (in Santa Monica) with ticket prices averaging $ 20 or less. Most of my evening concert attendance is split between these two venues and I’m really glad they exist here in LaLa land.

  9. Paul W Dennis
    March 15, 2009 at 7:14 am

    I watch most of my music at three venues: The Orange Blossom Opry in Weirsdale Florida (which at 75 miles is a little far for me to travel regularly), the Florida Sunshine Opry in Eustis Florida aand at Cassia Florida. Cassia is a twice monthly jam session but the two Oprys bring in quality entertainment at $25 per ticket or less (usually $15-$20 per ticket). Among the acts that have played (or will play) this year are Doug Stone, Daryle Singletary, Narvel Felts, Ray Price, Roy Clark, Bill Anderson, Asleep At The Wheel, Bobby Bare, Jason D Williams and Roni Stoneman

  10. Pierce
    March 15, 2009 at 9:54 am

    One of the things I like about Nashville is that there is usually a good number of free or “benefit” concerts. I usually don’t mind ponying up $20 if it goes to some kind of charity.

    When I lived in Raleigh, I always bought the Mega Ticket at the corporate venue (about $120 for 6 shows during the summer and lawn seating). Then again, in high school, going to those big shows wasn’t really about the music…it was more of just a social gathering and something that all my friends did.

  11. Vicki
    March 15, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I saw Carrie and Keith at Rupp Arena (Lexington, KY) last April. That was before my stocks and future fell through the basement. Now? I can drive to Nashville, see her at the Grand Ole Opry plus other great talent at the first show, and drive back that night.

  12. J.R. Journey
    March 15, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Nearly 60 bucks each for last night’s Opry tickets. Was it worth it? Definitely.

    I don’t mind shelling out some cash if I know I’m going to see a great show. And I much prefer a great package show to just one headliner with some never-heard-of openers. I loved it when Reba and Brooks & Dunn toured together in 1998 (my very first concert). They had David Kersh (meh) and Terri Clark opening the show too. So it was definitely a great package.

    So if the show’s worth it, then I don’t mind paying for it. But I am very selective about who I spend my money on because I’ve been let down many times.

  13. Steve Harvey
    March 15, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I wish I could go and see every concert at a club or a theatre, but if the act I want to see is playing the arena, I’ll go the arena. And I don’t care about the prices – I wish they were lower, but if I really want to see someone, I’ll pay whatever the price is – I paid $400 to see Eric Clapton, $30 to see Corb Lund – both excellent shows, the former being ridiculously overpriced, but I don’t regret spending the money.

  14. Lanibug
    March 16, 2009 at 9:32 am

    I enjoy the fact that living in Columbus, Ohio we get plenty of shows, both being the big names, which I am not at this time willing to pay big bucks for and in January, I got to see Jamey Johnson for $25 and we have a lot of small venues that get acts for that price range and will get to see Jamey again at the Ohio State Fair with LBT for $30…

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