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Clear Channel to Cut Lawn Ticket Prices

The concert promoter will reduce the cost of a seat on the grass at about 200 outdoor shows to $20 per person.

June 01, 2005|Charles Duhigg | Times Staff Writer

The cheap seats will be getting even cheaper at some outdoor concerts.

Clear Channel Entertainment, one of the nation's top concert promoters, announced Tuesday that it would lower ticket prices for lawn seats at about 200 outdoor shows. Included are two Southern California venues, the Hyundai Pavilion in Glen Helen Regional Park in Devore and the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine.

The company hopes to use the promotion to combat an industrywide concert slump, and to boost flagging profit at the company's live music division.

"Last year was a wake-up call for every concert promoter," said Michael Rapino, chief executive of Clear Channel Music Group.

Clear Channel aims to sell admission to the grassy areas of its concerts for $20 per person by reducing some ticket prices. It also will shave surcharges and parking fees, which previously added as much as $15 to the cost of a show. Some savings were achieved by persuading Ticketmaster, the nation's major ticket seller, to cap its fee for lawn seats at $5.

Last year, North American concert ticket sales declined 2%. Revenue for Clear Channel Entertainment, part of the giant San Antonio-based radio chain Clear Channel Communications Inc., was off 17% in the first quarter of 2005. Clear Channel recently announced that it planned to spin off its live-entertainment business.

"The customer was sending us a message: They want more value for their dollar," Rapino said.

Many blame declining concert attendance on soaring ticket prices, which last year hit a record average of $52.39 for the 100 top-grossing tours. The amount is more than double the cost in 1996, according to the concert-industry trade publication Pollstar.

Other observers say the real problem is that large, outdoor concerts have lost their luster with fans.

"When amphitheaters were built 25 years ago, they were fabulous places to sit under the stars," said Randy Phillips, president and chief executive of AEG/Live, a Clear Channel competitor which favors enclosed arenas. "Now amphitheaters are second-class venues. Audiences would rather go to a 6,000 seat theater than a 65,000 seat amphitheater."

Last year, singer Norah Jones had trouble selling tickets to her large outdoor concerts, moving them into indoor venues that hold about 4,000 people.

But others say Clear Channel's move merely reflects a savvy strategy to exploit a soft market.

"Very few amphitheaters have historically sold out their lawn seats," said Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar's editor in chief. "For $20 you can get kids to come to a concert they might otherwise avoid. It's a smart move."

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