Prices up, availability down: The concert ticket conundrum

Posted at 9:04 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 22:02:28-04

DENVER -- If you’ve bought concert tickets recently, or tried for that matter, you may have noticed that many big shows are getting more expensive and more difficult to obtain.

A recent government report added fuel to that fire with its findings on service fees from the nation’s biggest ticket broker.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that primary ticketing companies charged an average of 27 percent in service fees, and secondary ticketing companies charged 31 percent in service fees.

That led one congressional representative to pen a scathing op-ed in the LA Times condemning the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation who now control 80 percent of the ticketing market in the country. 

Fans for a Monday night concert at Red Rocks echoed many of those opinions. 

“It’s definitely gone up,” one fan said, referring to ticket prices. “Service fees are kind of crazy.”

“It’s kind of a nightmare now,” Antoin Campbell said. “It’s gotten worse over the last five years.”

Visit Denver, the city’s tourism bureau, couldn’t comment on ticket prices but would say there is a demand for concerts in the Mile High. 

“The demand for live music in Denver is really strong. You see it with a stacked calendar all the way from May to October,” Justin Bresler of Visit Denver said.

It could come down to supply and demand. More people are moving to the area, concert venues like Red Rocks already draw visitors from around the country, and more sites aren’t necessarily being built. 

A study by Wanderu, Inc. found Denver ranked #19 in the nation for concert ticket prices. A comparable $100 seat at a New York City concert sells for just under $90 here. That’s before the service fees that top more than 25 percent. 

But what about not even being able to get a ticket? Many promoters opt to have a pre-sale for their shows, for things like fan clubs with special codes.

“I was in a waiting room for 30 minutes, and as soon as the clock was ticking down I went in to find it, and they were gone,” fan Aquila Roberts said of her recent experience trying to buy tickets for Imagine Dragons at Red Rocks. 

Some venues set aside half or more of all tickets for pre-sale. For Red Rocks, that would leave only about 5,000 tickets for the general public.

“Most of our shows are going to sell out,” Brian Kitts, a spokesperson for Red Rocks, told Denver7 in a recent interview.

That leaves the secondary market, where price inflation can see a $40 ticket balloon to nearly ten times that. For the Imagine Dragons show that Aquila Roberts wanted to go to, the cheapest single seat on StubHub was $324. She decided to take a different route. 

“It was four tickets for fourteen hundred dollars,” Roberts told Denver7. 

She bit the bullet and bought VIP tickets instead. She had advice for fans dying to see one particular show. 

“Get on the mailing list so you can get the code and be the first to get a ticket,” she said.

Or, unless Congress does something, prepare your bank account accordingly.