Average Concert Ticket Prices: 1981-2005

From DigitalMusicNews:

This was a central exhibit in a ten-year, exhaustive class action lawsuit against former Live Nation parent Clear Channel. It focused on the markets of Denver and Los Angeles, and attempted to prove that monopoly control was unfairly driving ticket prices into the stratosphere. It was ultimately rejected and tossed by a federal judge for a number of reasons.

The breakdown was constructed by University of Wyoming professor of Economics Owen Phillips, who was (understandably) unable to delve into the details with Digital Music News. In the long-running battle that ultimately consolidated markets like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Boston and Denver into one suit, Phillips pointed to consumer damages of $21 million in Denver, and $71 million in Los Angeles.

Clearly, prices are elevating, but a California federal judge roundly dismissed the research based on a number of problems. For starters, rising prices doesn’t necessarily indicate monopoly control, especially if Clear Channel and Live Nation are routinely presenting more popular, in-demand artists.

Other counterarguments included a skew towards rock concerts, instead of the broader sector. And, a disregard for important developments like digital downloads (which theoretically boost awareness, and therefore, demand in concerts). All of which means this research didn’t meet the criteria for monopoly control.

But there are bigger issues to consider, including why this legal warzone happened in the first place. Because beyond the relatively narrow scope of concerts, there lies tremendous competition from anything regarded as ‘entertainment,’ including eating out, going on vacation, or simply watching the big-screen at home. Which raises the following question about concerts, and the constellation of fees, parking fees, and $13 beers:

If the consumer is willing to pay, is it really overpriced?