Live Nation VIP vs. The Not-So-Good Seats


Yes, I have frustration with ticket service fees. As I’ve mentioned before, they aren’t “just” profit for the ticketing agency.  Slices of the pie go to the venue, the producer, and even the artist, and Ticketmaster (or whoever) takes the blame for the disproportionate scalping involved (example, last week’s $25 Drive-By Truckers tickets, with $10 Ticketmaster fee).

I’ve also had suspicions about particular seats in local venues that just happen to always be in the possession of certain ticket resellers – i.e., scalpers that work from a corporate office (or a home) rather than on the street outside the venue.  These would be the primo seats in the first few rows, whether close to the stage or in balcony.  It’s just “curious” how the same seat numbers seem to be sold by these benevolent ticket re-sellers regardless of the show.  

But, as I have come to believe, the networking of tickets between sellers, published reports, and a conversation with a scalper, their paid army of ticket buyers is on the phone at the same time I am, when the sales open.  The very many vs. the one...

And, there’s the pre-sale business, either through American Express, VISA, “fan clubs” of the bands, etc.  

It’s the latter of these that Live Nation VIP seems to be targeting.  Why should “fan clubs” – or whatever corporate entity plays along with the artist to vend that for them – take the profit for “seats guaranteed to be in the first 15 rows?”  Especially given that Live Nation has first control of the tickets?

Well, of course LN should take the profit.  So, their VIP program offers the same junk (guitar picks, “exclusive” T-shirts, tour programs, blah blah) while pocketing a couple multiples of the face value price.

So, let’s take for example, RUSH, who just announced a 2012 tour and will be headed my way in the fall.  Live Nation is offering a ticket + junk, for $275-$300, at the venues where tickets are already being sold.    Interestingly, AlpharRush 2012etta’s Nov. 1st stop is not yet for sale – even through a special pre-sale by Citi as best I can tell, but that isn’t stopping at least one scalper from publishing their prices in advance, by section.

[scroll down] on the link above.   Let’s see, the first 15 rows, would be the orchestra section, presumably rows A-0.  In that the rows are NOT guaranteed to be in the center, we’ll assume it’s in a block (rather safely, I think) to one side.   Prices vary from $209 to over $500, some with specific rows already designated.  

Rows A-0 are themselves interesting, especially given the venue’s recent trend towards removing the seats in that section for a larger general admission area (more bodies in the venue).  Hmm.  What does this mean?  Well, the scalper apparently has inside knowledge of the seating arrangement, and an arrangement of other sorts that tickets in defined areas will be available to them.  I don’t know that for a fact – they could be relying on past data and the likelihood of tickets being available through various other scalpers.

A visit to Rush’s website indicates, very strangely, that the Alpharetta venue, against type for all others, isn’t even a Live Nation event.  Very strange.   They actually specifically state that their VIP service is available at Lakewood Amphitheater, Chastain, and The Tabernacle.   But, where there are profits, there is a way. 

Now, IF I were enough of a fan to shell out cash for the close view...  the LN VIP offer is actually attractive.   I have no likelihood of entering the on-line lottery for a decent seat, and if I’m overpaying, their prices are actually better than the one scalper listed, and, of course, I get a stash of junk.   I’d especially like it if my “exclusive T-shirt” had special fan language to set me apart, like “I paid $300 for a ticket and got this cool shirt for free!”

Well, there you have the future for venues with assigned venues.  You’re not just competing against the scalpers, you’re competing against the ticket agency who controls the flow of goods.

“Say, what’s that about The Tabernacle?  That’s usually a General Admission venue!”

Right, like my insanely loud Drive-By Truckers show last weekend.  I arrived early enough to get front row seats on the first balcony... only, the first three rows of the center two sections were “Reserved” – with Live Nation staff as standing police.   So, given the remaining seats, I opted for aisle seats on the third row, adjacent to the reserved section (But otherwise the head count said I was there in time for front row further to the side). 


Well, who are they reserved for?  Friends of the band?   Callers on a radio show for free tickets?  Fan Club members?  It’s a bunch of seats... so I asked.  “They’re for our VIP customers, but many of these seats are still available.  Just call this phone number now and you can upgrade to these.”   Pfft.  “How much?”  Reply: “I don’t know. You’d have to call the number.” 


As it turned out, enough “VIPs” showed up to fill the front row and a couple other seats, and the people who sat behind the reserved sections were ushered to the lower rows shortly before the Truckers took the stage. 

So, what’s the moral of the story?    Call the instant when a ticket sale begins, or arrive early to get the best seat, and you’re screwed.   Some combination of the artist, venue, venue manager (I can’t help but wonder), producer, scalper, or official venue ticket seller rebranded as scalper takes more profit. 

Supply vs. demand...  I get it.  But I also get that I’m enjoying concert Blu-rays more and more, for $15.99 plus tax.  And lesser known artists in the lesser known places can sound really good.


  1. We saw Rush up here in CT a few years ago. It's odd to still see Geddy Lee jumping off of an amp with his guitar. We kept thinking he was going to break an ankle.

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  3. VIP seats are a total rip-off and I will never buy them again. I saw Rush last night seated in so-called row 14 on the side of the stage courtesy of Live Nation VIP. They handed out badges with the tickets and I saw only badges in rows 12-15. Actually the seats were worse than advertised because there are rows A-E before rows 0-15. So really, we were about 20th row. On top of that, my buddy who bought tickets the same time as I bought mine (right when they went on sale) got better seats than me at almost 1/3 the price. To make matters even worse, the promised shirt package wasn't delivered prior to the show so I couldn't even wear my new shirt. Finally, you don't get the tickets until 90 minutes before the show and they are not transferable so if you are sick...too bad. VIP is a gimmick that advertises falsely. It should say row 16-20 guaranteed but then of course no-one will pay the ridiculous $325.

  4. FYI!!!!!!
    i went to the BSB concert on West Palm Beach on 08/25/13.
    i would give you a five start since the show was good, everything was organized, i did not have any trouble getting my t-shirt, ticket or bag....but....if i had knew you could get into VIP by showing a little cleavage i wouldnt had bought a $250 ticket!!!
    there were two girls sitting next to me and they started flirting with two of your staff with a black shirt and another one with a red shirt, around 50-60 years old...the two girls were all over these two guys...touching them high fives...laughing!!! and guess what??? they let them jump the fence into the VIP section where they got to shake the Back Street boys hands and get a closer is very UNPROFESSIONAL!!!!! so i'm letting every one know...dont spend too much money on a ticket to any concert...just flirt with the guys!!!!! that would get you a better seat!!!!!

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