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Should Concert Ticket Prices be Regulated?

Surcharges and handling fees on concert tickets continue to hamper sales. In that sense, should they be regulated? Let's find out...
OpinionFront Staff
By Pamela Mortimer

It's nearing the end of summer. If you're like many people, you'll want to wrap up the season with a concert featuring a favorite band or performer. There is no shortage of acts to see, but the cost of tickets may be the deciding factor on what show you'll attend, or if you attend at all.

Many remember the big stink in the 1990s about ticket prices, and how some acts refused to use the services of vendors like Ticketmaster. It was never completely clear to me who won, although, there are many more vendors out there now that are willing and able to sell a seat to the season's hottest shows. While the open market makes it slightly more affordable, it may take the consumer a little longer to find the best priced ticket out there.

I don't mean to pick on ticket vendors, since the venues themselves are often responsible for tacking on enormous surcharges. Let me give you an example. I went to a large venue to see Elvis Costello and The Police perform. It was an absolute must-see for me, even though I knew the prices of the tickets could be astronomical. We settled for lawn seats at the outdoor venue, thinking that it would be good enough on this particular occasion. I purchased a pair of tickets at $40 each, which was quite reasonable in my estimation, considering that the 'good seats' went from $200 to $2,000.

I did shop around and was fine with the price of a ticket. When I went to check out, I noticed a long list of surcharges that totaled about $20 per ticket. I was expecting surcharges, but was shocked at how much they'd gone up since my last concert a year before. The kicker was that I didn't even know what some of the charges were for, or why on earth I was responsible for paying for such things as grounds fees. Naturally, there was a hefty 'handling' fee for the ticket itself. It must have been a difficult task for the vendor to watch me download the tickets.

There was a pleasant surprised when we arrived at the venue. There was no longer a charge for parking. After thinking about it, we realized that the charge must have been buried somewhere in the ticket surcharge. Therefore, the venue receives a fee for every concert-goer, rather that for every vehicle. Clever.

In addition to the ticket surcharges, the prices inside most venues are astronomical. I refuse to pay $8 for a beer, and was extremely reluctant to shell out $3.50 for a bottle of water, when I had one twice-as-large in the car. Naturally, there is almost no venue that will allow you to take any type of food or beverage inside. I get that, but do the prices really have to be that high?

Other than boycotting the venues, there must be some way to combat these ridiculous fees. I'm certainly not one to promote government regulation, but I haven't been able to think of another way in which venues and vendors can be reasonably controlled. If anyone has an idea, I'd be glad to hear it.