The touring industry is facing a breaking point for the common person.

When Brandi Carlile tickets went on sale to the public in mid-December, I clicked on the Ticketmaster app to see the going rates. Because there were pre-sales, I knew ticket prices would be high, but I didn’t expect to see $750 for a seat at the State Theatre.

This is the reality of entertainment in Portland. It’s possible to ask for and receive $750 for a concert ticket.

There are, of course, ways to get cheaper seats – you can buy special credit cards, join fan sites and sign in several devices to virtual queues before tickets go on sale to the public, hoping to squeeze past thousands of other fans, including scalpers looking to greedily grab tickets and then sell them for twice, three times or four times the face value.

But lots of concerts sell out quickly, many within minutes. Tickets are pricey to begin with, then you must add on processing fees, taxes, parking passes and be prepared to pay the same amount for a single frothy beer as a 12-pack from Hannaford.

Ticketmaster’s parent company Live Nation Entertainment is facing a Justice Department investigation. Live Nation’s dominance in the touring industry allows it to jack up prices when it notices a high interest in certain shows. The company will advertise one price and then institute what it calls “official platinum” seats once fans are ready to buy, deeming it market-based pricing according to supply and demand.


Until regulations force companies like Ticketmaster to change, fans are left wondering if they should fork over exorbitant amounts of money to enjoy live shows.

Herein lies my own ethical dilemma: Most of the artists I enjoy listening to are people who built their careers by going against the grain – singer-songwriters with flowery lyrics, rock stars defying social norms and jam bands pushing improv to its limits. I love listening to live performances – the energy of the crowd, the spontaneity of the performers and the transcendence of choruses unite to create a unique atmosphere that simply cannot be matched by a streaming service or radio station.

But lately I can’t help but feel that concerts have become a luxury for the elite. Even self-proclaimed singers of the working-class go along with it all, booking venues where tickets are hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Pending solutions to the ticketing fiasco, maybe in the meantime one alternative is to scale back on purchasing tickets for the big tours and instead focus more on community music – open mic nights, gazebo concerts and county fair stages where humility is a bit more abundant.

I don’t really know the answer, but nostalgia sets in when I think back to the very first concert I ever attended. I was in middle school, and it was held at the House of Blues in South Carolina. The performer was a little-known artist from Virginia. He was a skinny, self-professed geek with his first major label debut album. My friends at school had never heard of him.

His name? Jason Mraz.

And the ticket price? $10.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.