Following last week’s Op-Ed on the ‘Music Week Awards’ which led to a number of comments regarding the undesirability of conspicuous dining with formal attire to applaud cultural achievement, with some questioning the validity of trade recognition or the appropriate way to acknowledge outstanding professional careers, and/or corporate milestones, this week it’s back to a Sunday morning review of ticketing and other entertainment-related matters.
Being a longstanding ‘grubby retailer’ of culture, I’m always interested in news items relating to ticket sales and the development of incremental revenues.
Recently there has been a few reports highlighting the post-pandemic return of the bundling of event tickets + travel.
Specifically, that for some attendees of Tier #1 events – whether concerts, festivals, or sports – some ticket purchasers are restricting their frequency of event attendance and opting to spend more, of their disposable income, on fewer higher priced experiences.
What noted economist Will Page has previously identified as the phenomenon of ‘go big or stay home’ (Financial Times, 12th August 2022). He further stated that the growth of stadium-based musical spectacle is because ‘In a market with more choice, we demand more hits.’
Other observers have identified the concept of the festival ‘staycation’ where consumers are transferring the expense of an annual holiday to attending a music festival.
There is also the increased number of Las Vegas residencies (expanding from legacy acts to contemporary artists), or touring concerts with a dizzying number of ‘official’ ticketing bundles and packages aimed at capturing the previously independent travellers (both US domestic or international) and upselling accommodation + VIP experiences, thus positively impacting ‘show grosses’.
With perhaps the most sophisticated operation being OnLocation (https://onlocationexp.com/nfl) the ‘Official Hospitality Provider of the NFL’, which provides ‘official game tickets, deluxe hotel accommodations, private tours, pregame hospitality, end-to-end planning and more’.
Robin Raven (Forbes, March 19th) suggested that ‘thousands’ of fans for the opening of Taylor Swift’s ‘The Eras’ tour at the State Farm Stadium, Glendale had travelled to Arizona for the opening weekend. This figure was seemingly based upon interviews with fans from North Carolina & Boston in the V.I.P. section and their claims to have meet others ‘who travelled from Massachusetts like us, Vermont, Washington, Georgia, New York, and even Canada!’
So not exactly an analysis of credit card address verification.
Nevertheless, Jennah Haque & Augusta Saraiva (Bloomberg, March 31st) similarly stated that Taylor Swift fans had travelled hundreds of miles to see her in concert, again without offering anything more than observational evidence that the city of Malta, Montana is at least 400 miles from the nearest Eras concert date.
The article also described how one fan had ‘rejiggered her kitchen to become a Ticketmaster control room’ where she, and her friends had eight laptops, verified fan codes, and (preferred pre-sale) credit cards that offered early (ticket) access.
A (less generous?) perspective is that there is very little difference between scalpers and fans in the layers of technologies and accounts necessary to succeed in a ticket purchase.
As also noted by Dave Wakeman in his Talking Tickets newsletter, Steve Knopper (Billboard 30th March) profiled Sixthman (a subsidiary of Norwegian Cruise Line), an Atlanta-based promoter of festivals, occasionally ashore, but more typically afloat, whom currently have eighteen events scheduled during 2023 ranging from Joe Bonamassa,Coheed & Cambria, the ‘Headbangers Boat’ (featuring Lamb of God, Mastodon, Hatebreed and GWAR) and others including Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise.
Sixthman have identified artists with ‘loyal, affluent fan bases – big enough to fill a 2,500- to 4,000-passenger cruise, but generally not an arena’.
Dan Runcie, in his excellent blog (Trapital – 27th March) also noted the growing importance of private concerts for corporations and their executives, to target and entertain clients, suppliers and other VIP’s.
He baldly states ‘It’s less about the revenue generated from the event. It’s more about the products that the event helps sell’.
Runcie also notes that some of these private shows are underwritten by individuals, corporations or states of dubious human rights, politics, or customs.
He generously offers that artists may feel the fiscal pressure to take the easy, albeit sometimes controversial, money. Whereas I still hear the refrain ‘Show me the money!’
Live Is Booming, But …
And lastly, Ben Sisario (New York Times – 7th April) notes that whilst 2023 will undoubtedly be a record-breaking year with the ending of the pandemic restrictions and tours by Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Drake, Madonna, Morgan Wallen, Metallica etc.
But that for the ‘average music fan, the once simple act of buying a ticket is now often a frustrating mess of high prices and surcharges, anxiety-inducing presale registrations, pervasive scalping and crushing competition for the most in-demand shows.’
So, work still to be done on the consumer experience then.
TJ Chambers – Celebrating the best in the music business … and ticketing
Will Page – Roar of the live music crowd drowns out stadium income from sport https://www.ft.com/content/919f6d82-38f5-4900-b20a-ded441ab680b
Robin Raven – Concert Tourism Is Thriving: Fans Travel To Celebrate Taylor Swift’s Kickoff To The Eras Tour
Jennah Haque & Augusta Saraiva – Taylor Swift Fans Travel Hundreds of Miles to See Her in Concert
Dave Wakeman – Innovation in Tickets: More than Technology!
Dan Runcie – What Private Gigs Tell Us About the Music Industry
Ben Sisario – Live Music Is Roaring Back. But Fans Are Reeling From Sticker Shock.