More links: A new way to paper the house, and a chat with the new cultural chief

May 10, 2011

Linksomania continued, starting with yesterday’s announcement that Ticketmaster/Live Nation has struck a deal with Chicago-based bargain peddlers Groupon to launch a discount ticket site for concerts and live entertainment events.

Starting next month, GrouponLive will offer deals on empty concert seats, which can constitute as much as 40 percent of the house for summer concerts—especially the mediocre mainstream offerings by Ticketmaster/Live Nation at venues such as the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island and the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park.

Groupon groupies swear by the online service and its ability to offer unexpected bargains for things they really don’t need or places they wouldn’t otherwise go. But will this really be a bargain in the music world?

A little-known secret in the concert industry is that a day or two before a show that’s selling poorly, big corporate promoters often “paper the house,” dumping loads of free tickets for giveaways by radio stations and other outlets, with the logic that it’s better for a performer to play for any body rather than an empty seat. Of course it’s better for the promoter, too, when the people who get in for free still have to pay absurd parking charges, buy overpriced hotdogs and beer, and shell out cash for other high-markup items.

This means that a GrouponLive “bargain” may be no bargain at all, since a bargain-priced ticket still is more expensive than a free one.

Meanwhile, over at the Tribune, jazz critic Howard Reich has a chat with and some more background information about soon-to-be Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new cultural czarina, Michelle Boone, who prefers the title “arts crusader.”

The 49-year-old Boone grants that helming the newly merged Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events will be no easy task, especially in these budget-challenged times. “I’m not fooling myself into thinking this will be easy and lots of fun,” she says. “It’s going to be tough. There’s going to be a lot of work to do. Number one is kind of rebuilding the department. The reality is that there are these two massive departments that have been kind of thrown together.”

And Boone's immediate or long-term plans for the big free summer music festivals, the future of which Mayor Daley threw into question last year in the privatize 'em/don't privatize 'em flip-flop? The new culture boss does not say, but it has got to be one of the biggest items on her agenda.