July 10, 2019–There is an artist I want to see.
She is coming to “a major theater” in “a nearby city,” so I went online to look at seating and pricing.
All seats were $29.50. Giddyup.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Like sprinkles at a 4-year-old’s birthday party, costs kept getting layered on top of that cupcake.
When you buy a ticket online, you expect a small fee for processing. I handled national sales for a ticketing company, so I know how this works.
But the numbers they were asking for were unbelievable.
First, a “service fee.” To be expected, usually a couple of dollars. Here? $13.60. That’s a 46% markup!
But OK, this is the big leagues, not a school play.
Next, an “Order Processing Fee” of an additional $8.80. Wait. What did they do with the nearly $14 service fee I just handed over? How is “process” different from “service?” I really want to know, so I can add those to my charges from now on.
So now my ticket cost has nearly doubled, and I don’t even have a ticket in my trembling hand yet. Oh, that can be arranged. For a small additional Delivery Fee of $18.50.
$70.40. That is the price–so far–of my $29 ticket. But wait. There’s more.
In downtown big city, you have the small matter of finding a place to park your car within walking distance and where you hope it will still be when you come back after the show. No problem! They provide a parking ramp, suitably next door for your theater-going convenience. And it only costs $25!
We’re up to $95.40 if you are keeping a running tab.
Of course, I have to drive the 160 mile round trip, which at 20 miles per gallon and current gas prices comes to another $20.
So, my $29 show will now cost me $115.40. And that’s without even a What-A-Burger and fries to sustain me. Or a date.
Now let’s look at the other end. What part of this cascade of dollars finds its way into the artist’s pocket?
I consulted with a booking agent and theater manager. There is a range of factors at play, but they assumed the average artist would be happy with 50% of the ticket price. Out of that, the artist pays 20% for their agent and management.
Doing the math, the star pockets $12 of that $30 ticket. Factor in all ancillary fees, and the act takes home 10% of the total amount I’ve spent to see said act. Yet, without her talent, fame, and energy, everyone would just be staring at each other inside a large, beautiful building.
As an aside, the other half of the ticket face value would go to the venue. But out of their share they are responsible for all advertising, labor cost, light and sound, equipment, theater upkeep, and often accommodations, ground transport, and meals for the artist.
That means that of the $95, more than two-thirds goes to an unseen entity in the form of magical fees.
I had no purpose when I started writing this rant, other than to rant. But thinking of all the entertainment options available to us in Fredericksburg and Kerrville, we should maybe appreciate more the caliber of entertainment we can see right here without all of the extra costs. I’ve covered the Hill Country music and entertainment scene for decades, and can confidently state that you can see every concert, play, or performance at that $29.50 price point or much less. And, yes, if you purchase online, there maybe an added convenience fee, but nothing that requires a reverse mortgage. Parking is free, travel is short, you’re sitting with friends, and you can be back home in time to catch the weather forecast.
As for that big city performance I was considering? I’ll probably pass. I figure for $115.40 I can buy every CD she ever recorded, plus a T-shirt and poster, and still have enough for the deluxe What-A-Meal.
And maybe even take a date.