I’ve been a Rolling Stones fan all my life. I’ve purchased every studio album (sometimes more than once), every live album, every rare single, every remix, numerous VHS tapes, DVDs, deluxe editions and box sets, and various books, magazines, T-shirts and merchandise related to the band.
In 1997, I paid $60 for a lower concourse seat to see the Stones at the TWA Dome in St. Louis. In 2005, tickets for a comparable seat at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa were more than twice as much — $161.75. But still I went.
When the Stones announced they would be touring the States in celebration of their 50th anniversary, I was excited — especially when I heard that my all-time favorite Stones guitarist, Mick Taylor, was going to be joining them on the road for the first time since 1973.
But then the ticket prices for Boston were announced: $165 for nose-bleed, $472 for decent seats, and $625 for front of the house. Oh, and for $2,000, you can buy VIP seats that include a buffet and a tour program, but no meet-and-greets with the band.
My excitement was replaced by sadness, then resignation, then anger. And this time, I decided, I wasn’t going to give more money to the Glimmer Twins. I’m not even sure I’m going to buy anything by the band anymore, if this is how little it thinks of its fans.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one, because none of the Stones’ shows on their U.S. tour are sold out. In fact, they’re not even half-sold in many cases.
How bad is it? So bad that the band may be forced to renegotiate its guaranteed fee for the tour. In what is being perceived in the industry as a desperate measure to fill seats but is being spun on Rollingstones.com as a gift to fans, the Stones are slashing some ticket prices to $85 for random seats. (Really random seats — buyers won’t know where they will be sitting until they pick up their tickets at the venue the day of the show.)
As I’m writing this, I’m trying to think of the perfect Stones song that captures this turn of events. “It’s All Over Now?” “Too Much Blood?” “Had It With You?” Or an obscure 1971 song whose title I can’t print here? (Hint: It’s the title of a rarely seen Robert Frank documentary on the band’s “Exile on Main St.” tour.)
I’ve been wondering how high ticket prices had to go before we saw this type of fan revolt. Ever since The Eagles charged $125 for their 1994-96 “Hell Freezes Over” tour, ticket prices for premium acts have steadily climbed upward to the point that they’re now more than a car payment and every utility bill in a month combined. Mega-mergers that have left the concert industry in the hands of just a few promoters certainly haven’t helped matters.
Hopefully, other artists will look at the Stones’ failed cash grab and think twice before trying to gouge the fans who made them famous in the first place. If not, we may be seeing more stars playing to half-empty venues as people decide to spend their hard-earned money on something more worthwhile, and with more permanency.
And if I were in the music industry, which has been in free-fall for two decades now, I would be very worried about that very real possibility. Because, to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen (who has kept his ticket prices relatively low), “Those fans are goin’, boys, and they ain’t comin’ back.”
Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or: