Continued from page 1

North American concert ticket prices rose from an average $26 in 1996 to a peak of $67 in 2008, an increase four times faster than inflation. That doesn’t include ticket fees for everything from “order processing” to “convenience,” which can tack on $10 or more.

In 2009, ticket prices came down by about a buck, as managers braced for the worst of the recession. Fans responded by buying 12 percent more tickets than in 2008. Promoters figured fans were coming back for more in 2010 and raised prices. It backfired.

That’s when the promoters had to offer deep discounts to fill seats. The average ticket cost a little less than $61 in the first half of 2010. Second-half numbers are expected to show a drop, too, because the discounts have continued.

“People felt they could go back to pushing the envelope again,” Pollstar editor-in-chief Gary Bongiovanni said. “The economy has proven that a lot of people probably reached too far.”

Although the average isn’t expected to fall drastically in 2011, there’ll be bargains at the back of the house.

Prices for front row seats may actually go up as part of Live Nation’s bid to grab revenue that might otherwise go to ticket resellers. But the company has said it wants to cut prices even further for the cheap seats to let in more fans.

When Live Nation cut prices in 2010, fans spent about the same amount as always _ nearly $18 in North American amphitheaters _ on beer, merchandise and other stuff, all of which helps the company’s bottom line because it owns major venues including the House of Blues in 13 cities.

Live Nation also is developing a long-overdue shopping basket for its websites to lure fans to spend their ticket savings on CDs, clothes and other items, and it recently rolled out an iPhone app that could be used in the future to sell merchandise.

None of those extra businesses works unless fans buy tickets, though.

“We know that if you lower the price, they’ll come,” Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino told investors in November.

But some of the most powerful managers in the business are motivated to secure as much money as they can for their artists, and Live Nation faces pressure to outbid rival concert promoters by paying artists more. Artists struggling to make up for income lost to plummeting CD sales also may push fans to pay more. Those factors can cause prices to inch up.

Rapino said the company may simply have to walk away from some deals and hold fewer shows, especially ones that have low or no profit margins.

Demi Lovato, whose Camp Rock 2 tour with the Jonas Brothers had to cancel a dozen North American shows in 2010, told the AP recently that she’ll do her best to keep prices reasonable for a solo tour planned for 2011 to promote her third album. (Her camp says the tour is still on track, despite her entering treatment for “emotional and physical issues.”)

“I have best friends that aren’t in the industry and are dealing with just buying groceries and things like that, so I want to do my part,” she said.

___

Story Continues →