Rafi Mohammed

Bruce Springsteen...We Need to Talk About Your Pricing

Posted on October 9th, 2007 (2 Comments)

Enjoying a balmy Indian summer day last week, I drove to Hartford to check out opening night of Bruce Springsteen’s latest concert tour. Supporting the release of his new CD “Magic,” the Boss’ performance was everything you’ve come to expect…spectacular. He’s 58 years old and shows no sign of slowing down. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t help thinking about Mr. Springsteen’s pricing strategy while waiting for chestnuts like Born to Run.

Baby boomer bands like U2 and Springsteen are returning to the pre-80’s practice of general admission (GA) seating. While seats on the side of the arena remain reserved, admittance to the floor (an area many consider to be the best due its proximity to and direct vantage of the performer) is standing room general admission. By standing room general admission, I mean there are no seats and the earlier you arrive to the show, the closer you are the stage.

So why are these bands returning to this general admission policy? My theory is that nothing drags down a concert more than having the best seats occupied by fat cats who impatiently sit, arms folded, waiting for the band’s greatest hits. In contrast, GA seating fills the front rows with diehards who arrive hours in advance. Performers tend to get an enthusiastic audience fueling them with ecstatic energy.

What’s interesting is that GA tickets are amongst the least desirable for these performers’ core boomer audience. A 48 year old friend of mine put it best, “Rafi, I work hard all day and have to be in the office by 8:30 AM. The last thing I want to do is have to stand for hours at a concert.” He’s got a good point. I’m not enthused that to get the best position for Mr. Springsteen’s shows, GA ticket holders like myself have to arrive by 5 PM for a 7:30 PM show. The scalping market also reveals this lack of desirability. GA seats are amongst the lowest priced on StubHub for Springsteen concerts.

So how should bands price general admission tickets? U2 offered them at a discount while Springsteen is charging high prices. I think U2 was smart to make GA the lowest priced of its tickets – even lower than last row nose bleed seats. A key to any band’s longevity is attracting a new younger crowd. These “kids” buy catalog CDs, request songs on local radio stations, and add excitement to live shows. This relatively cash strapped younger demographic is willing to wait hours to both get tickets and be close to the stage. They dance throughout the show and relish being so close. This pricing strategy incubates the future of a band.

On this concert tour, Bruce Springsteen is offering two ticket prices: $65 and $95. I think Bruce erred by pricing GA tickets at the higher $95 level. As a result, thrifty kids will be in nosebleed seats enduring boomer fans’ screams of “sit down” the moment they stand up to dance. And I’ll be standing on the floor wishing I had a seat. Not the exactly the best result for a live show.

Boss, you are the greatest performer on stage today. But when it comes time to price tickets for your next tour, give me a call!

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Readers' Comments on This Blog Entry

From Steve on October 9th, 2007
I agree completley, but watch out. I'm one of those fat cats. When managers talk to artists trying to reconcile higher and higher ticket prices, the line used is "Whatever you don't charge, the scalpers will". By charging less for side seats, the boss is just leaving a lot more gravy for the scalpers on those seats that we "fat cats" want.
From Sammy on October 9th, 2007
Why not sell a chef's table GA ticket that guarantees a spot in special section close to the stage until 10 minutes after the start of the opening act? That'd allow the fat cats to pay up for the the privelege of not having to arrive early. Then, 10 minutes into the opening act the barricade around the special section can be removed allowing the early arrivers to crowd in and juice up the energy level. I've often wondered why movie theatres don't do this. Reserve some nice seats for people willing to pay extra to avoid lining up early. That premium could easily vary based on showtime and release.