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POP EYE

New Facility Fees Help Hike Ticket Prices

July 13, 1986|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

It's no secret that concert ticket prices are going up again in Los Angeles. The new average ceiling is $17.50, the price tag for recent concerts--or upcoming shows--by Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen and Stevie Nicks. Even steeper will be the $19.50 top ticket price for the Eurythmics show at the Greek.

But here's the really bad news: You can't buy that $17.50 ticket for $17.50 at most halls--even at their box offices. To see a show at halls like the Universal Amphitheatre, the Pacific Amphitheatre, Irvine Meadows, the Greek Theatre or the Hollywood Palladium, concert-goers have to pay an extra $1 or $1.50 "facility fee" service charge, which is tacked on to the regular ticket price.

It's no wonder fans are complaining. The upcoming Julian Lennon shows at Irvine Meadows and Universal Amphitheatre cost $17.50, but if you get tickets at Ticketron, you have to pay a service charge. And even if you buy them at either location's box-office, you have to pay a facility fee (and that's not counting a few extra dollars for parking fees charged at many facilities).

What's going on here?

"Our people--the MCA management--came to us and said, 'Hey, we've spent $23 million building a new facility and we've got to find ways to help pay for it,' " explained Larry Vallon, the executive vice president of the Universal Amphitheatre, which began charging a $1 facility fee May 1. "Most of our competitors had already instituted fees or charges. We resisted as long as we could, but in order for us to retire our debt and remain competitive with the other halls, we felt we had to go along."

But why not just include the extra charge in the ticket price?

"If you add the money to the ticket price, then you have to split it with the artists," Vallon said. "Most of our deals with the big groups are on a percentage basis, where a real popular band will often get as much as 90% of the total revenue from the show. So in some cases we'd have to add $5 or $6, or even $10, to the ticket price just to get an extra $1 back. By using a (separate) facility fee, we don't have share the money with the artist. It all comes back to us."

Needless to say, artists' managers are not particularly enthusiastic about this new set-up. "There are definitely a few managers who have voiced great concern about the fees," said local promoter Brian Murphy, head of Avalon Attractions. "They've been making an issue about them. No one has pulled out of any of my dates yet because of it, but I've had some threats along those lines.

"But I don't see anyone backing down or rolling it back. It's become a fact of life in this market and unless the Nederlander Organization (operator of the Greek and the Pacific)--who are the big guys in this market--pull back, I don't see anyone else backing off."

Still, no one sees the fees increasing any further. "I think ticket prices will go up again before anyone raises the facility fees," Murphy said. "I think as long as the halls can charge a reasonable price for concert tickets--and I think this market can bear the kind of prices we're reaching now--that the facilities will leave the fees where they stand now."

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