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Screenshot by Mike Beauvais

The Price We Pay For Live Music

By Zach Mosca

 

Fans of the band My Chemical Romance were given something special to hold on to when the band premiered a live video on Jan. 29 announcing North American reunion tour dates, which were its first non-festival shows in America since 2011.

Two days later, fans who rushed to the band’s website to purchase tickets were greeted with an unpleasant surprise.
Ticket prices were advertised to be between $59 and $200. However, when fans finally got their turn in the virtual line to buy them, they were devastated to see that $59 for the cheapest seats just might have been too good to be true, as those same seats were now being sold for double the value or more.

This is because My Chemical Romance distributed its tickets via Ticketmaster, a company that uses a tactic called dynamic pricing. This method of ticket sale determines the prices of tickets based on demand rather than face value.

Ticketmaster weighed in on the controversy by informing fans, “We do not own the tickets sold on our platform nor do we have any control over ticket pricing – either in the initial sale or the resale. In both cases, prices are set by the seller.”

Of course, scalpers may try to scam fans to make a quick buck, but what about the artists themselves?

According to Kylie Thomas, who wrote an article about this controversy for Point Park University’s newspaper, The Globe, it is a decision made by either the band or its management to use the dynamic pricing method.

“It depends on their management I believe, but the bands do get to choose that,” Thomas explained.

With that in mind, it might look like bands are just being greedy and exploiting their fans for money.
But it’s not that simple.

Another popular band, Rage Against the Machine, was also a victim of outrage based on ticket prices from Ticketmaster. According to guitarist Tom Morello in a tweet, the band is using this feature, not to help themselves, but to help others. When working with Ticketmaster, Morello set the cap on regular ticket prices at $125 to ensure people could afford to attend the show. However, he also had a trick up his sleeve to prevent scalpers from scamming patrons.

Morello took advantage of setting prices on Ticketmaster to create “charity tickets,” which are much more expensive than $125, but 100% of the extra proceeds gained from the tickets would go to charity. When Twitter user @CincyBeachBum blamed Ticketmaster for the prices and brought up the dynamic pricing method, Morello replied, “We disabled that for our tour,” meaning that the prices were determined by the band alone.

Screenshot by Zach Mosca

The intentions were good, but a lot of the fans were not happy with this. Fans were replying to Morello’s posts about the tour with screenshots of some charity tickets costing up to $950.

“I wish I had $500+ for a charity ticket to see a bucket list band but I don’t tbh, nor do a lot of your fans,” Twitter user @summerll0ve replied.

Another user called out Tom Morello’s plan to stop scalpers with the expensive charity tickets. “So much for stopping the scalpers lol @tmorello,” user @Davebwest tweeted.

Although some argue that Rage Against the Machine raised its prices for a good cause, albeit in a way that a good portion of its fans were unhappy about, it still begs the question of why other bands like My Chemical Romance choose the dynamic pricing option.

According to Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and contributor to Variety magazine, bigger bands sell their tickets for higher prices to benefit the band and the tour staff rather than scalpers.

“While a band charging $200 directly to fans may seem a little steep, it’s still a more artist-friendly model than if they were to sell a ticket for $100 only to have the fan sell it on a secondary site and reap all the profits,” Hampp explained.

Hampp also mentioned instances where big-name artists such as Chance the Rapper sold tickets for a stadium tour with prices between $50 and $100. Taylor Swift’s tactic of using Ticketmaster’s “verified fan” feature blocked the ability for tickets to be resold but still used dynamic pricing.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this issue, however. It depends on the size of the artist’s fanbase, the venues they play and the relative frequency with which they tour,” Hampp said.

Though it’s unfortunate that fans of My Chemical Romance and Rage Against the Machine must pay large amounts of money for concert tickets, there is often a reason the bands charge that amount for tickets. Some bands donate proceeds to charity or these prices are necessary to financially support the band and concert promoters.

Both Thomas and Hampp have advice for fans who want to cross some bands off their concert bucket lists. Hampp suggests that fans subscribe to their favorite artists’ newsletters so they know when tickets will go on sale and can possibly get access to a presale.

“That doesn’t always mean you’re going to find cheaper tickets but will give you a better shot at buying good seats before they’re marked up on StubHub and other resellers,” Hampp said.

Thomas suggests that if someone feels like a band’s ticket prices are too expensive, they should not buy them. She feels that this would make bands realize that fans do not like this method of selling tickets.

“The more that we don’t buy those big-price tickets, the more that bands feel they shouldn’t do it,” Thomas said.

Trying to get tickets to see your favorite band live can be a pain. But at the end of the day, fans should realize why prices might be that way and try to either get in line early or buy presale tickets so they can see their favorite band for a price that works for them.

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