Television Listings

North Americans snap up concert tickets at deep discounts

By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Unemployment is up and consumer confidence is down, but one silver lining of the recession is that last-minute tickets to hear big acts like Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen are as little as $1.

According to eBay Inc's StubHub, the leading Internet ticket re-seller, last-minute concert ticket sales at sharply lower prices are on the rise for acts like Paul McCartney, Springsteen, Jonas Brothers, Coldplay, and U2.

"People often assume a secondary ticket site only offers inflated prices, but it's very challenging right now," said Sean Pate, a spokesman for San Francisco-based StubHub.

He said cheap prices were not showing up just for "nosebleed" seats or lawn seats, but rather in all seat locations for top performers.

"This trend of lower resale ticket pricing is very variable. It's almost like a stock market and a barometer for pricing city by city," he said.

He said fans have already purchased tickets as low as $1 for Springsteen and Coldplay, $9 for Kenny Chesney and $10 for the Jonas Brothers this season, with tickets listing for as low as $16 for upcoming McCartney shows this weekend in Maryland.

According to Pollstar, a concert industry trade magazine, the concert industry in North America is off to another record year, with the top 100 tours grossing a combined $1.6 billion for the first half of 2009, up $113.5 million or 10.8 percent over the same period in the first six months of 2008.

Indeed, the nation's leading concert promoter, Live Nation Inc, said recently that U.S. concert ticket sales this summer were surprisingly strong despite a weaker economy.

And Pollstar said the average ticket price hit $64.61 for the top 100 acts, up 4 percent or $2.54 per ticket.

But Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni said prices will likely be moderated in the second half due to heavy discounts on general admission amphitheater lawn seats.

Live Nation has said sales were holding very strong, helped by discounts like fee waivers it introduced as a recession-year break for customers.

Many of the big tours are reportedly sold out through vendors like Live Nation, but anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of those tickets may find their way onto the secondary market on sites like StubHub or craigslist.org, being sold by a combination of ticket brokers and ordinary fans.

In some of these cases, given the economy, the tickets are not re-selling for their face value and are therefore selling for substantial bargain prices on the secondary market, Pate said.

While average concert ticket prices on StubHub have fallen 12 percent since 2008, Pate said overall volume was up more than 50 percent and thousands of tickets for shows like the McCartney concerts have also commanded significant premiums.

Typically, sellers pay 15 percent of any completed transaction through StubHub, which also collects another 10 percent fee on transactions.

Pate said for the entirety of his tour, McCartney seats have averaged $242, with the range for the Maryland show swinging from as low as $16 to as high as $1,053 a seat.

Similarly, veteran performers like the Eagles, Elton John with Billy Joel and Eric Clapton have all fetched an average ticket price of more than $200 to date this year, he said.

(Reporting by Sue Zeidler, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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