Why are concert tickets going on sale so early? And where does all that cash go?
When Ed Sheeran tickets went on sale in October, thousands of fans plunked down their money to see him at Arrowhead Stadium. But they will be waiting — nearly a year — to see the concert.
It’s a trend that has taken hold. Fans are waiting longer between the dates they buy their tickets and the dates of the concerts, and it all comes down to money.
Concert promoters found that the earlier shows go on sale, the more tickets they sell. And the money from those early sales can go into accounts that draw interest.
Take the Sheeran concert. The Ticketmaster seating map showed that roughly 30,000 seats had been sold several weeks after the show went on sale. The average ticket is roughly $75, not counting the $21 in fees, which means more than $2.2 million is sitting in an account for nearly a year.
Bob Roux, president of U.S. concerts for Live Nation, which merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, says a three-year study showed that the company sells more tickets when sales start earlier.
“It became quite evident that tours that had their dates on sale for an average of 150 days outperformed those who were on sale for a shorter period of time,” Roux told The Star via email. “Since 2014, we have worked hard to encourage tours with all or a majority of their dates in the summer months to get confirmed and to go on sale in January and February, and it seems to be working as we are selling more and more tickets every year.”
But the practice isn’t exclusive to summer shows and festivals. And many of the sale periods far exceed that 150-day average.
The object now seems to be: No matter what time of year, announce the show and get tickets on sale as early as possible.
“The longer the show is on sale generally equates to better overall sales,” said Mike DuCharme of AEG, which manages the Truman, the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland and the Sprint Center.
Where does the money go?
Music and entertainment promoters AEG and Live Nation handle the biggest concerts that come to Kansas City. And they run the biggest ticketing companies: AEG owns AXS (pronounced “access”), and Live Nation owns Ticketmaster.
Shani Tate, vice president of marketing, communications and ticket sales at the Sprint Center, said that per city and state regulations, the money collected by AXS online or at the venue’s box office is remitted to the venue and sits in an interest-bearing account until the show.
“For tickets purchased through the venue, monies are held in an event-specific escrow account because when a show cancels unexpectedly, refunds must begin processing within 24 to 48 hours,” said Tate.
She emphasized that she can only speak about the Sprint Center because each venue has different city and state regulations. And the money for VIP sales and secondary-market tickets are handled separately.
Arrowhead Stadium, the site of the Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Kenny Chesney concerts this year, told The Star to check with Ticketmaster regarding questions about ticket sale money.
Kauffman Stadium, which is hosting the Sept. 21 Billy Joel concert, advised The Star to ask show promoter Live Nation about ticket sale money.
Live Nation would not comment about where ticket sale money goes. But others in the industry say it’s likely that money is working for someone.
“I would guess that when you have an Elton John or Ed Sheeran-type event that are on sale 12 to 14 months out, (the money is) at least in an interest-bearing account,” said Brett Mosiman of Pipeline Productions, a music promotion company in Lawrence.
Crunching the numbers
The Elton John show at the Sprint Center, which will be Feb. 13, 2019, sold out within hours of going on sale on Feb. 2.
Official numbers are not available for the show. But the arena’s capacity is typically between 15,000 and 18,000. In October 2007, John drew about 17,000 to the Sprint Center.
So roughly 15,000 is a reasonable lowball estimate of the tickets sold (not counting VIP packages and second-market brokers). According to the Sprint Center website, the average price is about $125, which means about $1.9 million will gather interest for more than a year.
For Taylor Swift’s Sept. 8 concert at Arrowhead Stadium, a low average-price estimate for tickets, which went on sale in December, is $250. As of Feb. 22, about 75 percent of the stadium appears to be sold, or roughly 42,000 tickets. That’s about $10.5 million in sales.
Thanks to the collapse of the recorded music economy, more bands and artists are touring more often. In Kansas City, nearly two dozen big concerts have been announced since early January. In addition to the Joel and John shows: Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and, most recently, Metallica. Metallica announced on Feb. 26 that they will come to the Sprint Center in March 2019.
Pollstar, the live-music trade magazine, reported in early January that in 2017 the top 100 tours worldwide generated nearly $5.7 billion in revenues, a jump of nearly 16 percent from the year before. And the average price of a ticket rose 5 percent, to nearly $85. So fans are not only turning their money over sooner, they’re turning over more of it than ever.
When you should buy
So when does it make sense to buy tickets to a show 10 months or a year in advance? When it’s Elton John announcing his farewell tour. Those vanished within hours. But for other shows, particularly stadium shows but even some arena shows, it often pays to wait.
For example, in November, Brad Paisley announced he was coming to the Sprint Center on Feb. 16. Tickets went on sale Dec. 1.
On Feb. 12, the Sprint Center offered “Sweetheart Deals” on a few shows, including Paisley’s. One of the deals that popped up in a search at the Sprint Center website: two seats in Section 5, Row 17 for $101 combined (fees included). If you’d bought those tickets back in December, you would have spent $151.
“Unless a show is at a super-tight venue, you’re often better off holding off,” said Sean Burns, editor of TicketNews. “For the fan, that is a roll of the dice: They may wind up paying a premium if the show actually does sell out. … But a lot of times, they’d wind up getting a better deal by waiting until much closer to the date — or, at worst, probably pay the same price and not float Taylor Swift and her management hundreds of bucks well in advance of the actual performance.”