You’ve probably heard by now that Bonnie Raitt is coming to town. The concert isn’t until next year — Sunday, March 18 to be exact — but tickets are already going like hot cakes, even though they are not available to the general public.
And people are already complaining about the ticket prices.
“Unaffordable for the common person, no doubt,” as my friend Michael Welsh put it when I mentioned the show on Facebook.
I pointed out, “She’s an uncommon talent,” and Michael agreed. “Truly. Great voice, and fantastic slide guitar player. And a wonderful anti-nuke and environmental activist. I’ve seen her several times, including sharing dinner with her and Holly Near. Both are heroes of mine. Still, can’t justify the price of most CenterArts shows.”
Another friend, Harriet Watson, noted, “Don’t think the acts are making out really well, nor are the venues, and prices are high for the fans. Not sure how all of it works.”
Harriet volunteers as an usher at some shows, since many shows are outside her budget, and she’s feels in some cases, the experience of hearing someone you really like is worth it.
I won’t pretend that I know how it all works either, but as someone who’s watched the concert business over the years, I’d have to say the local prices are not really out of line if you take in account the size of our venues. Our top halls, the Van Duzer and the Arkley Center for the Performing Arts, both seat under 800. Compare that with much larger venues in big cities and you’ll see that Centerarts is usually not out of line.
With the music biz gone over to streaming, where artists today rarely get a fair shake, everyone relies on money from touring, so it’s hard to blame anyone for wanting their fair share.
This morning (Thursday) I call the CenterArts box office to see about perhaps buying tickets for my wife as an Xmas gift. The surprise factor is gone and there are twists in my plans so I’ll tell it’ll cost us $89 each, and I can’t buy one yet since I’ve never been a season ticket holder. Also, I was told it’s likely that only balcony seats will be available by the time those are available to the general public tomorrow.
It seemed surprising that season ticket holder would snap up that many seats in a day so I asked what’s the deal. It turns out half of the main floor is set aside for what was described as “fan club members” who signed up on Bonnie’s website. A quick check online painted a different picture. You don’t have to join a club, you just pay premium prices for premium seats and avoid scalpers. As they explain it…
“We want to first give a huge THANK YOU to the fans for being supportive of our efforts to deter scalping of tickets to Bonnie’s concerts. Our goal is to stop scalpers in their tracks by hand-selecting a certain number of THE BEST seats for each concert and making them available for box office pick-up only on the night of the show. This will prevent scalpers from buying these prime seats in advance and reselling them to fans at inflated prices. And while we know this means you may have to plan a little extra time at the box office the night of the show, we’ve made arrangements for extra designated staff (as needed) to accommodate this relatively small number of tickets, and you can feel good about paying face value for some of the best seats in the house. We’ve worked to keep prices reasonable and are grateful for your patience and support as we explore this solution. If you want to pay more for great seats, then we have an option for that too — and the amount above face value will be donated to CHARITY!”
Those all-caps letters mean more for those super premium tix, yes, $203.50 each. “At nearly every concert, Bonnie works with The Guacamole Fund to offer terrific, hand-selected seats to benefit local non-profit organizations working on issues of safe and sustainable energy, environmental protection, peace with justice and beyond.”
So, if I want a pair of tickets with a side of organic guacamole it’ll run me $407, plus whatever for tacos somewhere. That may be a little too rich for my blood.
Did I mention there’s an opening act? Jon Cleary is a Brit now living in New Orleans who has playing with Bonnie’s band. He sounds pretty good with more than a hint of Professor Longhair in the mix.
Well, what do you think? Are you going to snap up those tickets before they’re gone? Good luck. Say hi to Bonnie for me.