One of the most painful elements of purchasing tickets to major concert events has been alleviated, at least for a month. Live Nation has announced that it is dropping ticket service fees for events for the month of June, a move that affects the price of tickets to 120 bands, 70 venues and more than eight million tickets (including for sporting or convention events).
That is, at least for the tickets that actually get sold. Reports from the concert giant's first quarter indicate that 40% of all tickets go unsold, and 80% of concerts don't sell out; ultimately, that rattles out to a $21.8 million decline for the company, which has been battling the attitude of many that its recent merger with ticketing behemoth Ticketmaster is a violation of antitrust.
And that's not the only element that's wrinkled the noses of concert goers. Bruce Springsteen fans and The Boss himself had one big axe to grind over Ticketmaster's botched ticketing elements of the E Street tour last year. On top of that, for years, Ticketmaster hasn't done much to shunt its popular nickname, Ticketbastard, but charging up and tacking on up to a third of a ticket price to a buyer's purchase.
Hence this recent "rethinking": the elimination of these fees will not only encourage music lovers to ultimately pull the trigger on the purchase with a more (seemingly) favorable bottom line, but it's great PR as well.
It's a continuation of last summer's experiment, No Fee Wednesday, on which HitFix Melinda spoke here. Summer being the company's most critical time in the concert business, it must've had some favorable yield last year.
And no better time to experiment. June is the kick-off, or near-kickoff, of hundreds of artists' tours, arranged around a multitude of festival appearances and promises of good weather for outdoor amphitheater and theater shows. While these cuts don't touch smaller club shows, it will touch on the borders of smallish, House of Blues-ish joints.
That being said, good PR doesn't mean Live Nation and Tickemaster are suddenly in the non-profit business. In a way, the move backs up consumers' assumptions that service fees were never more than an arbitrary number that never truly corresponded with the actual operational fees of service (this just in: a $2.50 charge to print tickets on your own home computer is really stupid). Dropping service fees doesn't translate into a drop in parking fees, which have traditionally classified as "satanic" or "just plain mean." It doesn't factor in how many times your body weight you'll be drinking in qualitatively cheap beers, nor the price of merch. The secondary sales market for tickets to sold-out shows may turn ugly.
Depending on the artist of course, but they along with the venues have some say in so much of all that. But Live Nation is the invisible hand that shapes all pricing for the artists that sign on, from Arcade Fire to Lady Gaga. There may be more $20 lawn tickets available than ever before (which, prior to this month, may ultimately translate into a $34 ticket), but its yet to be seen if the fee cut will still come out of the fans' pocket ultimately, should this trend continue past June.
Obviously I'm skeptical. Live Nation's constant mantra of bringing the artist closer to the fans than ever before sings like a cash register to these ears, after the rise of $250+ tickets and packages have become the norm and the price of a night out at the local shed show have generally exceeded the rate of inflation generally. I'm cautious of a company as big as Live Nation, not because I think big businesses are bad, but because how arts and entertainment is formed by the sometimes irrational standards of a big business' bottom line.
What do you think? Because Live Nation eliminated its services fees, does that encourage you to go to more concerts this summer?