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Summer concerts? Forget about it

With CD sales in an irreversible death spiral, performers are hoping to make up the difference in revenue from tours.

As I trooped into a Rush concert last week, I ran across a sign that read “$10 TICKETS! NO SERVICE CHARGE!!! TONIGHT ONLY!!!” Sting tickets were being offered at $40 while $20 would get me in to either the Slayer/Megadeth or Disturbed/Stone Sour double bills. “It’s come to that, huh?” remarked a guy next to me.


Yes, it has. With CD sales in an irreversible death spiral, performers are hoping to make up the difference in revenue from tours. But with so many acts playing so many shows at a time when the economy is sluggish, there’s a glut of gigs.


It’s been especially tough in the U.S. (Canada has weathered things a little better.) The landscape is littered with cancelled shows (Eagles, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Jonas Brothers, American Idol’s “Idols Live”) and tours that have been postponed (U2 because of Bono’s bad back, Limp Bizkit because nobody cared). Meanwhile, others — Lilith Fair has been in the news a lot — are limping along, discounting tickets and/offering enticements (Two-for-one! Free pizza!) to boost attendance.


And it’s not just the economy. Fans are tired of high ticket prices, service charges (What the hell is a “convenience fee?”), overpriced VIP offerings and the nickel-and-diming that comes with the concert experience, like parking and concessions.


Fans are also frustrated by not being able to get good seats to see their favourite bands. No matter how fast they’re on the phone or online when tickets sales start, they know that the best seats will somehow magically end up with resellers and scalpers. They’re also confused by some of the new ticket pricing models being rolled out in some markets. Instead of the standard fixed price structure for a given show, ticket prices are being sold like airline tickets using yield management techniques. The price of any seat can fluctuate depending on demand and how close to the gig you’re making the purchase. Your ticket may have been $100 but the dude next to you paid just $35.


Meanwhile, artists are visiting the same market two or more times on a given tour. How many times would you pay to see the same show?


It’s not all bad. Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Rush have been doing alright. But the summer of 2010 is going to be one most industry people would rather forget.