Live Nation's "No Service Fees" June: Don't believe the hype

June 1, 2010

With its typical big-time corporate ballyhoo, the newly merged Live Nation/Ticketmaster concert monolith announced this morning "No Service Fees June," a month-long pledge to waive the egregious and absurdly misnamed "convenience fees" which can add as much as 50 percent to the stated price of its big-time concert tickets. (The corporation's major summer venues‚  in the Chicago area are the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisc., and the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island, which the city handed to the company in an extended sweetheart no-bidding deal with very little media coverage earlier this year.)

Said Live Nation/Ticketmaster CEO and president Michael Rapino: "A fan in every seat is our mission this summer. We know that's tough in this economy, so it's our job to find a way to make concerts more affordable."

Of course, there are some catches to Live Nation/Ticketmaster's alleged largesse.

For one, there's the fine print: "Parking, shipping and other non 'service fee' costs may apply." Anyone who's dealt with Ticketmaster knows that the monopolistic ticket broker charges customers to print out their tickets on their own home computers, and any unlucky souls who've traveled to the supremely hostile and uncomfortable Tinley Park shed are well aware of the unconscionable parking fees, which are charged per person rather than per car, to park in the endless expanses of unpaved dirt fields surrounding the middle-of-nowhere venue. So no bargains there.

For another, there is the fact that now that Ticketmaster and Live Nation are one company, the service fees can simply be buried in what the corporate behemoth says is the "face price" of the ticket. A quick look at the price of the best seats for some of this season's big shows is plenty of evidence that prices are once again going in one direction only: UP.

  • Styx, Foreigner and Kansas, Northerly Island, June 5: $76
  • The Eagles, Dixie Chicks and Kieth Urban, Soldier Field, June 19: $225
  • Jimmy Buffett, Alpine Valley, June 26: $133
  • Dave Matthews Band, Alpine Valley, July 3 and 4: $75
  • Rush, Northerly Island, July 5 and 7: $125
  • REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar, Northerly Island, July 18: $76
  • Iron Maiden and Dream Theater, Tinley Park,July 18: $59.50
  • Chicago and the Doobie Brothers, Northerly Island, July 16 and 17: $125

...and so on. It is likely only a matter of time before Live Nation/Ticketmaster eliminates service fees entirely and presents consumers with one all-inclusive price--and if you believe that price will be less than those the company is charging now, well, there is some fine beachfront property in Florida and Louisiana for sale, and BP swears there's no oil anywhere in sight.

On the other hand, we can almost feel sorry for the music world's biggest bully these days: The two most lucrative concerts of its summer season, the encore jaunt by U2 and the mega-bucks "Bionic Tour" by Christina Aguilera, both were canceled last week.

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