JENNINGS: 'Dynamic pricing' impacting concert ticket prices

Blackberry Smoke performs at Artpark this past Thursday night. (Photo by Thom Jennings)

Thursday night’s Blackberry Smoke concert marked the return of live concerts to Artpark, and it was just one of many shows that were in the area over the July 4 weekend. Even though the number of live concerts has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, it is clear that many acts have decided not to wait any longer to get back onstage and play.

It remains to be seen how many years it will take the live music industry to recover, many venues struggled to stay afloat and while most major acts had enough money to get through the shutdown, road crew members lost significant income.

The few major classic rock tours that are out on the road this year are getting top-dollar for their tickets. Tickets for Billy Joel’s rescheduled date at Highmark Stadium on Aug. 14 start at $89 a piece for upper-level seats, commonly referred to as the “nosebleed” section. That’s a bargain compared to the cost of Genesis tickets for their Nov. 27 show at KeyBank Center. The lowest priced individual ticket for the upper section is going for $379.85.

Those prices could change because Ticketmaster is using a “market priced” model for more of their major concerts. On Ticketmaster’s website they compare the pricing to “how airline tickets and hotel rooms are sold and is commonly referred to as ‘Dynamic Pricing.'

On the surface, that model sounds like it could benefit fans who wait to purchase tickets in the hope that the demand goes down as the date of the show gets closer. With so few tours on the road, it seems to be pushing ticket prices even higher. Even the secondary ticket brokers are benefiting from the pricing model, a single ticket for Elton John’s upcoming show in Syracuse recently listed for $13,000.

If more tours head back out on the road next year, it will be interesting to see if Ticketmaster sticks with dynamic pricing. If it increases ticket revenue, then there is no reason for them to abandon the model. It is also another way Ticketmaster can compete with ticket resellers, an industry that has flourished since ticket sales shifted from the box office to the internet.

It is likely that more venues adopt a dynamic pricing model, because it does create a sense of urgency if fans fear ticket prices will skyrocket. One of the challenges the music industry faced was how to handle refunds for shows that were canceled or postponed. The delay in refunds frustrated many music fans, and that may make some fans more cautious when it comes to purchasing concert tickets months in advance.

For now, there are still many reasonably priced shows at venues all across Western New York, and while you may not be able to afford a $13,000 seat to see Elton John when he performs in Syracuse, you can always shell out a few bucks and catch a local band before they hit the big time.

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.

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