Ticket sales in a down economy

Mish Shedlock’s readers often supply him with solid and detailed anecdotal evidence about what is going on out in the real world. Here’s an email he received from one:

I don’t care what the media says, the economy is getting worse and I can see it in ticket sales and even questions about tickets.

Last February, most of my ticket sales were requesting "Best available" and big concerts sold out within days or weeks, typically a month or more before the concert. Concerts sold out from the front (highest ticket price) to the back.
By mid summer, I began to notice that the buying was changing. Concerts sold from the front and from the back but the middle seats were selling last. I have only voices to gauge age but it seems to me that the 40-55 crowd had begun to disappear.

By early fall, the cheap seats were selling out first. This pattern started first in Chicago, spread throughout the midwest, then over to the Carolinas, south to Florida and across to Arizona.

Since December, the most often question that I get is "If I buy at the venue, do I have to pay the service charge?"

Ticket agents charge a ticket fee of 10-15% on each ticket and a year ago I never had a single complaint or a question about the ticket fee.

If you are buying 6 tickets with a $12 fee each, I can see it making better sense to spend an hour and go to the venue, but if you are buying 2 tickets and having to drive for a hour, park and stand in line, is it really worth it?
Throughout all this, the college crowd consistently bought without complaint. That has changed since Christmas. Now, the college kids are trying to beat the $6-8 ticket fees.

Concert sales in the Northeast and California almost always sold out, but now California is beginning to soften, especially with the younger crowd. The deterioration has been slow, but constant for a year and I don’t see any signs of improvement.

Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly did a show at Westbury in January. So did Bill Maher. Westbury is on Long Island and the theatre is small, perhaps 3000 seats. It is theatre in the round and sometimes they run it as half round.
The Beck/O’reilly show started out 1/2 round and sold out in minutes. People called for hours wanting tickets. Then Westbury decided to go full round the next day and the rest sold out within an hour. People called for weeks wanting tickets.

On the other hand, the Bill Maher show only sold about 70% of the 1/2 round at Westbury. The show sold so poorly that they closed the back seats and moved people forward to make it look better.

I sell Westbury all the time. Most of the people that call me are older, retired, and almost all have American Express cards and AOL e-mail addresses.

I would have thought that the results would have been that Bill Maher would have sold out and the Beck/O’Reilly concert not sold out. I was just amazed.


4 thoughts on “Ticket sales in a down economy

  1. I know someone who runs a minor league ballpark. They just had their best year ever in regards to re-signing sponsors. Don’t think they struggled with ticket sales last season either. This is one of the larger markets for minor league ball.

    Home prices are up in the neighborhood I sold my house in last April, probably about 10% from what I can tell. There are some very high end homes nearby which are down however, but smaller homes are doing well around here in the right neighborhoods.

    Plenty of available commercial space around me but they are still building.

    Business is booming for me (IT outsourcing) at the moment, plenty of deals in the sales pipeline, assuming it is the pressure for others to reduce costs that is driving it all.

    Church giving seems stable here at a church with a 800K+ budget.

    My neighbor works in job placement on commission, she should be playing with her grand kids but has to work to make ends meet. She says she spends most of the time telling folks to pull their pants up and take our their assorted piercings.

    What does it all mean? Not sure as usual. The fed. tax revenue #’s are downright scary (see ZeroHedge) but for the most part things are not too bad around here…yet.

  2. On a much smaller scale, I can also testify to the slower economy compared to the same time last year.

    One of our family ventures is breeding dogs & selling puppies. We usually try to time two or three litters arrival so that they will be ready to go to their new homes at aound income tax time, when people have some disposable income from refunds. Both last year and this year were timed perfectly. Last year, because of the poor state of the economy, I was worried that there wouldn’t be much demand because people weren’t spending money (or so I thought,) but it turned out to be one of our easiest years. Demand was very high and the puppies were gone within a week. Because of last year’s experience, I was less worried about this year than I should have been. Demand is much lower. The puppies are steadily selling but at a much slower pace, and our advertizing expenses have so far been tripled compared to last year.

  3. Ethan,

    To me it’s state sales tax figures that are the scariest. This post from Mish takes a look at year-to-year numbers, and finds many states where sales tax receipts (and consequently retail sales) have dropped ten to fifteen percent from 2009 to 2010.

    This is one reason I think that state governments will be the first sector of the economy to collapse.

  4. And Ethan,

    As an IT professional, we are having layoffs every month or so where I am employed, last week some friends on my floor were let go. I expect to soon be working for Accenture…

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