Live Nation CEO Speaks on The Cure Ticketmaster Controversy: ‘You Don’t Have to Underprice Yourself’

Live Nation CEO Speaks on The Cure Ticketmaster Controversy: ‘You Don’t Have to Underprice Yourself’

Live Nation CEO Speaks Michael Rapino reflected on the recent controversy surrounding sales for The Cure North American tour, noting that artists “don’t have” to “underprice” themselves the way that Robert Smith chose to do.

Live Nation CEO Speaks
Live Nation CEO Speaks


Previously, The Cure refused Ticketmaster’s offer for “platinum” and “dynamically priced” tickets for their first touring visit to North America in seven years, and, through their partnership with the ticket-selling platform, canceled “transferable” tickets to prevent scalping.

And while The Cure promised to keep tickets at an “affordable” range, some fans complained that transfer fees in some cases surpassed the price of the tickets themselves, leading to Smith saying he was “sickened” by the pricing practice and persuading Ticketmaster to introduce a $5-10 refund for all ticket holders. Similarly, the 7.000 or so tickets that ended up in scalpers’ hands despite all the precautions were canceled by The Cure.

During a recent interview on “The Bob Lefsetz Podcast”, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapion addressed the matter, saying (via Consequence):

“We were proud of Ticketmaster’s side. We did a ton of work with Robert, making sure [tickets] were non-transferable, that it would be a face value [ticket] exchange and verified, doing all we could to put all the roadblocks to deliver his ticket prices to the fans.

“There was a screenshot of a venue, which wasn’t even a Live Nation venue… that showed a ticket service fee of $20 on $20. It doesn’t matter whether we justify the service fee is a good idea or not, we have an industry where we have to build some credibly back.

“I couldn’t defend in any version that we were going to add a $20 service fee to a $20 ticket. We made a decision that we would spend some money, give back the $10, and get it to a reasonable place for those fans.”

As for partially refunding the service fees, Rapino said:

“It was a fast decision, we thought it was worth the million dollars or so to send the right message.”

Asked whether he felt it was “reasonable to expect to see The Cure for $20 in an arena,” as per Robert Smith’s wishes, Rapino answered:

“No. I think the pricing of concerts in general — there’s this fine line between, yes, we want it accessible, and it’s a fine art and there’s a price to it.”

Commenting on the high-priced platinum tickets for massive stars like Harry Styles, Adele, Beyoncé, and Bruce Springsteen, the Live Nation CEO claimed that many people were willing to eat the price because they view “concerts as a really special moment in their Kotak life”, adding:

“It’s a magic moment, maybe twice a year — way cheaper than Disneyland, or the Super Bowl, or the NFL or the NBA playoffs, or an expensive night out. So it’s really cheap overall considering.

“This is a great, great product that people will buy, as they’re gonna buy the Gucci bag. They’re gonna buy moments in life where they will step up, and spoil themselves — the big screen TV and or whatever it may be.”

He added:

“This is a business where we can charge a bit more. I’m not saying excessively, but it’s a great two-hour performance of a lifetime, that happens once every three, four years in that market.

“You don’t have to underprice yourself — low to middle income [people] will make their way to that arena for that special night.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Consequence notes, Rapino claimed that on average, 80% of service fees go to the venue and not Ticketmaster, and that inflation, combined with the increased cost of gas, staff, and transportation led to a 19% price increase compared to the pre-Covid times.

According to the Live Nation CEO, the whole business is “widely understood”, but acknowledged there were things that could use improving. He added:

“I do think as an industry, we probably do have to absorb a bit better and think a little smarter at what is the add-on fee. Because I think, I think, although it’s justified, I don’t think it’s justified probably at every ticket price point.

“At Live Nation, we’ll look at the lower end ticket prices in the theater and clubs and say, can we also scale them back and make sure [there’s] a defendable fee on a service, on a ticket price. It’s been too easy to add a dollar to the service fee.”

CEO Michael Rapino Speaks on The Cure Ticketmaster Controversy

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