Big Tours Slash Prices

Clear Channel marks down tickets to fill seats

In a concert industry plagued with sky-high ticket prices and a slumping economy, Clear Channel Entertainment has taken unprecedented measures to fill amphitheaters.

In addition to reducing certain tickets to ten dollars, including some for Ozzfest, the concert-promotion giant has asked big-name acts to drop their guarantees for this summer's tours. Peter Gabriel reportedly agreed to do it -- he's now getting $300,000 per show, compared with the $600,000 he asked for last year. The average ticket price for his show dropped from ninety-one to forty-three dollars.

"The majority of artists understand that this is for their benefit and their fans," says Dave Lucas, co-CEO of Clear Channel's music division. "In the end, if we have more people in our venue, we make more money, and so does the artist."

It's a major shift for a company that has a reputation for guaranteeing big money to superstar touring artists -- and trying to drive out competition in the process. But some aren't sure the shift is actually taking place. "They're showing one example of lucidity [Peter Gabriel], which is wonderful," says promoter Barry Fey, of House of Blues Concerts in Denver. "But I don't see any guarantees going down. I don't see a trend."

Why is it important to fill the venues, regardless of ticket revenue? Because fans will pay for highly profitable parking, popcorn and beer. Clear Channel promoters often give away large blocks of tickets to poor-selling shows -- though they don't officially acknowledge this practice.

"They do it a lot," says Doc McGhee, manager of Kiss. "A promoter can say, 'I'd rather make sure the kid gets in for nothing and buys merchandise.' And the band doesn't share it. It'll affect artists. It's not a good business model."