Summer Ticket Prices Down

Simpson, Clapton, Van Halen cut prices to fight slow sales

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What's bad for concert promoters may be good for consumers. In a last-ditch attempt to fill seats in a lackluster summer-concert season, venues around the U.S. slashed ticket prices to as little as ten dollars -- for superstar acts including Korn, Linkin Park and Snoop Dogg, the Dead, the Cure, Ozzfest and John Mayer. The price cuts were in response to a dismal summer, promoters say, with Lollapalooza, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Marc Anthony canceling tours, Norah Jones downsizing from amphitheaters to smaller venues and even major artists such as Eric Clapton and Jessica Simpson struggling to move tickets.

For one day in mid-July, concert promoter Clear Channel Entertainment dropped prices at Northern California venues to twenty dollars, including parking and fees. The company also put lawn seats at Nashville and San Antonio events on sale for ten dollars. And a ten-dollar food-and-beverage voucher was included for each twenty-five-dollar Van Halen lawn seat in select cities. Promoter House of Blues put twenty-dollar lawn seats on sale for eighty shows in seventeen venues.

"It is a stimulus," says Alex Hodges, executive vice president of House of Blues Concerts. "If a show has been on sale for five months, you do a discount to give it a renewed sense of urgency."

Until now, ticket prices have risen steadily for years; this year's Top Fifty tours, according to concert-industry bible Pollstar, cost an average of $58.71, or thirteen percent higher than 2003's $51.81. And while revenues for those tours were up eleven percent in June 2004 compared to midyear 2003, ticket sales dipped two percent.

Several promoters, including Dave Marsden of Clear Channel in Boston, have acknowledged that ticket prices are too high. But there are exceptions -- the Warped Tour, one of the summer's few bright spots, charges less than thirty-five dollars. And the Dave Matthews Band keeps prices in the forty-to-sixty-dollar range. "Our ticket prices have always been fair," says Coran Capshaw, the band's manager. "We're not getting involved in any discount programs. I don't think it's time to hit the panic button."

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