$600 seats? Rolling Stones fans say get off your cloud

Their LA concert has so many unsold seats, the promoter is lowering prices after $85 tickets were the only ones to sell out.

By Jason Notte May 3, 2013 2:52PM
Musicians Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones perform at Echoplex on April 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif. (© Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images)Congratulations to The Rolling Stones. Not only have they managed to sustain a career in rock for half a century, but they may have finally found a price their cash-flush baby boomer fans are unwilling to pay to see them.


Apparently, $600 is the line between acceptably worshiping rock gods and overpaying to see gyrating 70-year-olds sing about their exploits with honky tonk women. That, according to Bloomberg, is the price of the tickets fans in Los Angeles are turning away from in droves at the Stones prepare to kick off their "50 and Counting" tour at the city's Staples Center this weekend.


The arena's owner and promoter, Anschutz Entertainment Group, has already started lowering prices for a show where a large portion of tickets cost between $450 and $600. With $85 tickets the only ones selling out, AEG has released more tickets at that price to help pack the place.


The Stones, meanwhile, are in no mood for charity. The Guardian notes they've sold out two shows in London's Hyde Park, with tickets starting at $145 and steadily climbing to $585. Their last tour, the "A Bigger Bang Tour" that started in 2005 and extended all the way into 2007 after Keith Richards injured himself falling out of a tree in Fiji, brought in nearly $545 million.


As guitarist Ronnie Wood told The Telegraph, don't hassle the Stones just because they have bills to pay:


"We've already spent a million on rehearsing in Paris. And the stage is going to be another few million. And the lights. We feel no bad thing about ticket prices. We've got to make something."


Very relatable. Thanks, Ronnie.


As much as all of this seems to point to America's economic downturn, its unemployment rate and overall sentiment -- and don't get us wrong, it does -- there might be just a little part of it that's pushback from a concert-going demographic tired of being bled.


When a blog called The Richest has to point out that Barry Manilow fetches an average of $429.25 a ticket these days -- which is still modest compared to the $457.63 raked in by Elton John, $784 fetched by Rod Stewart and the whopping $1,074 Sting charged per ticket for his 60th birthday show -- something's a bit out of balance.


ABC's 20/20 notes that ticket prices have risen by a third since media conglomerate and perennial music punching bag Clear Channel started buying up U.S. radio stations, concert venues and promotional outlets. Clear Channel points its finger back at the artists, saying their greed is behind the price hikes.


Fans, to no avail, have pointed their fingers back at ticket seller and concert promoter Live Nation (LYV). However, as 20/20 found out, some within the music industry blame the fans themselves for spurring the downloads and file-sharing that throttled music industry sales and choked off a lucrative revenue stream.


And they may have had a point a few years back. However, the Nielsen (NLSN) Soundscan numbers for 2012 indicate that overall music sales in the U.S. have actually increased 3.1% over the last year. Granted, vinyl record sales surged last year by 17.7%, but nobody's buying CDs or cassettes, which led to a 12.8% nosedive in physical album sales last year. However, digital album sales were up 14.1%, while sales of digital tracks rose 5.1%.


As they did with albums and singles, American music fans are simply setting the market for concert tickets by foregoing $600 Stones tickets for cheaper seats. This Los Angeles concert may be an anomaly, but if fans suddenly realize they can do to ticket prices what they did to $20 CDs by simply refusing to pay for them, maybe the days of through-the-nose nostalgia tours are nearly over.


Then again, with Gen X already paying $300 a seat to see Prince and Madonna, promoters may just have to wait for their increasingly frugal forbears for burn out and fade away.


More on moneyNOW

25Comments
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In 1969, I went to my first concert. The Stones headlined on a bill that included B.B. King and others. I paid $6.50 to sit in the nosebleed seats of Madison Square Garden. That's not a typo. Six dollars and 50 cents. The ticket prices were $6.50, 7.50, and $8.50. This was back in the day when they were still relevant. Anyone that would pay $600 dollars for a concert ticket, especially to see a band that should have hung it up 20 years ago needs to be committed.
May 3, 2013 4:27PM
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The major problem here is the amount these bands spend on their non-music entertainment.  If these bands would skip all the pyrotechnics and fluff, it wouldn't cost them very much to do a tour. 

 

Spending a "few million" on a stage is ridiculous.  Why don't they put up a simple stage and just entertain the crowd with good music?

May 3, 2013 7:08PM
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A million dollars to rehearse in Paris...sounds like one of those extended

working vacation tax write off tax angles.  They have been playing together

for around 50 years........what's to rehearse?  They can do these concerts

in their sleep.  They've already proved they can do them when they're drunk,

stoned, or high.  Million dollars to rehearse...I don't know.

May 3, 2013 3:33PM
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I am hoping the ticket prices they are talking about are on or near the floor.  I haven't been to a concert for 5 or 6 years but even in the day when I went quite often I never paid more than $250 a seat and that was for the Eagles on the last day of 1999.  Another reason it will be hard to get that kind of $$$ for a ticket is because there are so many things to do in S. California.  The Kings, Ducks and Clippers are in the Playoffs.  You've got Angels and Dodger baseball,  Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm and Magic Mountain, Museums, Theaters, the mountains, desert and the beach, ect.  So the choice is I could do 1 thing for $600 or I could do 3 or 4 things for that same $600.

May 6, 2013 10:18AM
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Hate to break it to ya boys, but technology past by these older rockers a few years back. You can download an older concert (younger and better days), play it on a 60 inch HD set, in the comfort of your own home, smoke or drinks included, bedroom just feet away, All for free. Who would pay anything to see these ticking time bombs is way beyond my comprehension. Give it up Stones. Relax, and enjoy life, if you find the need to perform, find a little club and treat people to some free memories.
May 4, 2013 2:19PM
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Could you imagine what the Beatles could charge/command if they were all still around. Best story I have about yesteryear was in 1974 for $5 Santana opened for Clapton and for the last half hour of the show Santana and two of his band members came out and played with Clapton and his band. Something else hearing those two together!
May 6, 2013 12:47PM
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I would NEVER pay that much for show tickets.  Not even $85 for the 'cheap seats'.  I don't want a big light show, giant sets and multiple costume changes,  I just want to see my favorite bands play.
May 6, 2013 5:38PM
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Those prices are insane......and the marketplace is saying so.  When I was in college in the '60's, we got to see great shows with people like the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, (accompanied, of course, by the Famous Flames), Bobby "Blue" Bland, Otis Redding, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs......and don't forget the favorite party band of the South, Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts!  Hmm, those were fun times.  Pyrotechnics?  Yes, light up a Marlboro.  Costume changes?  Maybe a fresh shirt, if the singer got too sweaty.

 

Today I have to routinely read about two-hours-late Justin Bieber (gag), Britney Spears, and all the other over-rated, over-priced entertainers.  I realize I'm in an old goat generation and my grandchildren might just politely tolerate my music choices.  But I still occasionally go to a show in smaller venues and get to see people like Al Stewart and sideman Dave Nachmanoff sing some great songs and show their pickin' and grinnin' talent.  It's an enjoyable evening with other greybeards....and it's still fun, for a reasonable price.  A big event for us was getting to see two shows, Simon and Garfunkel, as well as Elton John, in the final months of 2003.......both at reasonable prices.  These grandiose current attempts?  Forget about it.

May 6, 2013 7:16AM
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600. just to see a old rock band. aint gonna happen here.i love the old music i grew up with but i havent bought a album cassette or cd in yrs and yrs. mainly because the music today sucks.. the last concert i went to was aerosmith back in the 90s and it wasnt for 600. a seat either.that would buy me alot of motorcycle parts or hotrod parts!!
May 3, 2013 5:30PM
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They can't entertain with good music because they are no longer any good.
May 4, 2013 10:44AM
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There're so many ways to have hot rock in your ears. You could pay a few hundred and enjoy the Stones with thousands of fans.

 

Or you could be one of a few dozen folks who heard that Bo Diddley would be warming up the afternoon before a 1971 arena show, with a little impromptu get-together in the back room of a college-district tavern.

 

Ninety minutes of non-stop hot rock with kick-**** band; beer flowed, smoke swirled; no charge.

 

It's all good.

 

 

May 4, 2013 7:36AM
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Back in the 60's and 70's, the purpose of top-name rock concerts was to promote the bands so they'd sell more records - which was where the bands made their big money, not from the concerts.  That's why Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show's "Cover of the Rolling Stone" bragged, "We sing about beauty and we sing about truth for $10,000 a show," a number that's what the warm-up band gets now, inflation adjusted.  And that's why I had $20 tickets ($133 in today's dollars) for great seats to take a pretty cheerleader from my high school to see the Rolling Stones in Baltimore around 1968.  That's a 1/4 of the "we've got to make something" today costs.  On the other hand, hearing how much people like Britney Spears pays in child support and alimony, there must still be a good payout in record royalties, at least for the top acts.

May 6, 2013 12:07PM
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I paid $2.75 to see them back in 1965 or so. They played a (packed!!) college gym in a small town in Georgia.
May 6, 2013 9:49AM
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Ry Cooder said it best, "All the money in the world is spent on feeling good."
May 6, 2013 7:48PM
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Maybe if the Stones hadn't given that real cheap concert preview; $40 bucks or so; at that small venue (700 seats) for all the rich and famous Hollywood types) they could have sold a few more $600 seats.
May 5, 2013 6:03PM
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Singing or bragging about exploits, with honkey tonkers...

That's only one-step above street whores, if I remember correctly?

May 24, 2013 9:32AM
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$600 to see the Stones? LOL!

 

They have two guitar players who never learned how to tune their guitars properly, or play them well. Then there's the gyrating old fart who never learned to sing well. The whole band has always sounded out of tune. The only decent guitarist they ever had was Mick Taylor, and he got the hell out after a few years.

 

The Stones are possible one of the most overrated bands ever. I wouldn't pay $6 to see them. Not worth the drive to the concert.

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In August 1969 I bought tickets to a 3 day conert/festival for $8 per day--$24 total to attend the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival.

...I still have the tickets

Jun 1, 2013 6:30PM
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Out with the old, in with the new, I say. I would never, ever, pay their price to see old crotchety has beens perform in concert. I saw Bob Dylan in concert last year and it was dismal to say the least. What a waste of my hard earned money. Never, ever, again, I say! Id rather see new talent who give their all to win my devotion from now on. 
May 6, 2013 11:40AM
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Who TH wrote this article?  X-er's paying $300 to see Prince and Madonna?  I don't think so.  I'm an "X-er" and no way would I pay to see them play, especially at that price.  Maybe I'm on the younger cusp of gen X (1977) but Madonna and Prince were at their absolute peak when I was till too young to understand what "Like a Virgin" really meant.  Not to mention, most of the people my age that I know are too busy trying to keep their head above water with child care, mortgages (if they are lucky, or unlucky depending on how you see it) and yes, student loan debt.  No one I know would EVER pay that kind of cash to see ANY artist.  I think it's just the Boomers that STILL don't entirely have their heads in reality and think that it's perfectly OK to spend that kind of money on something so frivolous and selfish.
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