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When Did Ticket Prices Get So Expensive?

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There was a time when you couldn’t wait for your all-time favorite band to release their long-awaited list of tour dates. The wait was over, and you’d scan the list of dates for anything that was within a decent drive. You knew this would come at a price but hey, it was worth it right? That was then, and this is now.

No, your eyes and mind are not deceiving you, concert ticket prices are on the rise, and for most working stiffs, it’s starting to get more than a little out of control. So why is rock music, and just about every music genre right now, so incredibly expensive when it comes to taking in a live show?

We’ll try and explain the basics as to why your wallet is getting hammered as the years go by and how the internet is partially to blame.

If we go back to the ’60s, buying and seeing a live show was a completely different animal. Let’s take the Beatles at Shea Stadium in New York in 1965. This show cost concert-goers $5.65 for the most expensive seat in the house. Now that same ticket price when adjusted for inflation would now be $45.84. I don’t think there is a Beatles fan in the world that wouldn’t jump in at that price.

When you base that against the average price for an Adele ticket, $395.79, you have to say to yourself “what the hell is going on?” Also, keep in mind that we are talking about average ticket prices and not the resale price that ticket scalpers will be looking to get.

Last year, 2018, Taylor Swift embarked on her “reputation Stadium Tour” and was charging an insane $896.50, (that’s face value folks), for VIP tickets for her “Snake Pit Package.” This package got you a hardback “reputation” book filled with poetry and personal photos, an interactive LED VIP Tour laminate, commemorative ticket, special edition patch, and a “reputation” themed collector’s box. That’s almost a thousand dollars before you have left the comfort of your own home. Now if you were quick enough to snag a nose bleed ticket to one of Taylors gigs you could have paid as little $69 for seats, but, let’s face it, those are hard to come by when you have scalpers waiting to hit the phones and internet as soon as they go on sale. In fact, those very same $69 seats were being resold for $228.60. Oh, and if you were to purchase those cheap seats, 9 times out of 10 you’ll be adding additional service fees and taxes that come in at around $17.00. That $69 seat now stands at $86 and for that, you get the worse seat in the house, plus, a non-existent view of the stage.

The reality is that even if you have set an alarm and are ready at the phone and computer the moment tickets go on sale, by the time you’ve logged in and worked your way to the front of the virtual queue, the concert is invariably sold out and the very ticket you were trying to purchase is going for twice the asking price. Why and how does this happen is the question?

Bots and Scalpers

The massive hike in ticket prices is a huge problem. Resale ticket vendors are able to acquire huge numbers of tickets quickly with the use of multiple IP addresses and special software called ticket bots. So advanced is the software, it can bypass the ticket-selling platforms’ security measures, such as CAPTCHA. For instance, there was a single vendor that was able to buy 1,012 tickets to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden a minute after they went on sale, this happened even though the venue had deployed a four tickets per customer limitation.

It’s not just concerts that have been targeted. A ticket broker (vendor) used an army of bots to buy up an astonishing 30,000 tickets to “Hamilton,” along with hundreds of thousands of other tickets for multiple shows sold on Ticketmaster. Prestige Entertainment was accused of employing bot technology to defeat Ticketmaster’s anti-scalping measures. The suit claimed that Prestige and its affiliates used 9,047 separate accounts to make 313,528 ticket orders over the course of 20 months. At times, Prestige was able to acquire 30-40% of the “Hamilton” tickets available through Ticketmaster.  Prestige paid $3.35 million to settle the charges, and agreed to “abstain from using bots.” That sounds like a decent amount in fines but the reality is that tickets are resold on the secondary market at an average markup of 49 percent. Of course, the markup can be even higher for major events: The average ticket price from StubHub for 2019’s Super Bowl was an eye-popping $5,500. The face value for a nosebleed seat for the event was $950. The ticket resale market is big business, according to numbers from Northcoast Research it’s a $5 billion dollar business.

So how do we put a stop to this huge rise in ticket prices?

There are a few artists that have taken affirmative action when it comes to scalpers. Adele partnered with Songkick, (this is a company that specializes in selling and managing tickets sold through an artist’s website) to sell 235,000 tickets to legitimate fans and were able to block approximately 53,000 sales to those buyers they determined “known or likely” scalpers (we assume they determined they were scalpers by the amount of tickets people were trying to buy). It has been estimated that Adele and Songkick’s stance against scalpers saved her fans an estimated $6.5 million in inflated resale ticket prices. Not too shabby.

For Bruce Springsteen’s run of 79 solo acoustic shows in a small theater in New York, he decided to use Verified Fan. This is a new service that gives fans the option to sign up before tickets go on sale; once vetted by the service, you receive a access code that places them in a smaller pool, shutting out scalpers in the process. The service worked brilliantly, on checking ticket sales the next day, only about three percent of the Springsteen tickets made it to secondary-market sites (vendors). This is compared to seven to twenty percent of the ticket that were sold and purchased on his 2016 tour.

Let’s face it, the scalpers are not about to lie down and take it, and as you read this they will be working hard at finding a way around the latest technology in place to stop them. But, it’s not just the scalpers to blame, you also have to look at the artists themselves.

There was a time when album sales would bulge any decent selling artists bank account, that is no longer the case. With the introduction of streaming services and platforms like YouTube, artists are finding it harder and harder to make money from recorded music. Live music subsidizes that, and with the demand for bigger and better shows comes an inflated ticket price. That’s not saying that certain bands don’t overcharge because they can. Take the Rolling Stones for instance, they charged  $624 for a standard ticket, and you know what, people snatched them up. It all comes down to supply and demand. We happen to think that even ifartists and ticket distributors do their best not to inflate the prices and add on enormous fees, there are still people that are still willing to pay crazy money for a live concert they really want to see. Arenas are still selling out, and in the end, there’s no easy answer to how to ticket prices got so out of control, but here’s a few tips on how to beat the bots to that ticket you’ve got to have.

Buying concert tickets at face value isn’t easy, and even harder for those big-name shows. You can lower the odds of being shut out and scoring a ticket at the lowest prices by trying the following:

Presale

Possibly the best option is the presale period. It’s perhaps the easiest time to grab those tickets you want before the box office is opened to the general public, and there are a few ways to take advantage of this particular perk. Another way to beat the crowd is by joining an artist’s fan club. Fan clubs will alert you to up-coming tours and get you early access to presale tickets. Your credit card may be a key to unlock the presale ticket market. Ticketmaster for instance, will often offer exclusive presale opportunities to Chase, Citibank and American Express cardholders.

If none of the above works for you, don’t give up. Just as tickets may be released as presales, some tickets are held until hours, days or weeks before the event. Don’t forget to check in with all the applicable websites once in a while to see if more tickets became available. Also, keep in mind that if a concert didn’t sell out, resellers may mark down any unsold tickets in the days (or even hours) leading up to the event.

We hope some of the above has helped in your quest for better ticket prices, and all we can say from all of us at Rock My World is good luck to you as you plan for your next concert experience.

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