A Response to the Class Struggle
To begin this response, I would like to state that I have never purchased a VIP ticket to a concert or a festival. As well, I have no intention of purchasing a VIP ticket to either such event in the future.
That being said
For those of you who have read my previous articles on business related subjects, you will already be aware that I am a pretty staunch free market guy, a remarkable position to take considering I am an equally staunch democrat who sees the benefits to equality in a variety of respects. But another position I will always defend is my belief that people should have choice. A woman should have the right to choose, consumers should have ample choices of products to purchase and businesses should have the right to charge as much as they can get. And that last group includes bands, managers and promoters.
In David Steinbergs column Scenes From the Class Struggle in the Parking Lot, he does a fantastic job outlining some of the economic issues facing concert goers in todays environment. However, I am forced to disagree with some of his conclusions and statements, disagreements that hardly diminish the strength of his article.
For starters, David is not the first to assert that scalpers originated, or helped originate, the problem of elevated ticket prices. He states one of the many problems caused by scalpers is that they made it obvious to managers that there was a market for much more expensive tickets. (Authors note: This statement is slightly incorrect. There is not a market for much more expensive tickets. There is not enough supply of premium tickets to meet the level of demand, the result of which drives up ticket prices. I know we all know that, just clarifying.) But I find that to be a false argument, the implication being that ticket prices would not have increased (at least would not have outpaced some benchmark metric, presumably inflation) if not for the impact of said scalpers. In a non-scalper world, band members surely would have become informed of basic supply/demand fundamentals, an awareness that would have, on its own merit, warranted an increase in ticket prices. While bands such as DMB, Phish and The Grateful Dead were and are always conscious of keeping ticket prices at a reduced level in comparison to their peers, other bands have no such qualms and the demand for vintage (i.e. nostalgia) acts such as Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and Eric Clapton would have, as I mentioned, would warrant higher ticket prices on their own. As well, many bands recognize the fleeting nature of their existence. For every U2, there are a hundred Gin Blossoms, The Wallflowers, Soul Asylums and Dokkens. Bands that want to, and are encouraged to, capitalize on their brief time in the public sphere
The extension of that argument is todays evolving auction process for premium seats on sites such as Ticketmaster.com. This, on its own, is a natural evolution of the ticket purchasing transaction in the internet age, the inevitable result of the emergence of Ebay and other similar sites that provided a forum for individuals who are not scalpers to sell their tickets. I firmly believe the marketplace would have gravitated towards this model with or without professional scalpers. In fact, bands are undertaking this model in an effort to directly combat scalpers. I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with a band saying Person X is spending 50% more than face value to buy our ticket. Why should Person Y get that money and not us? I have yet to hear a legitimate criticism of that thought. That is capitalism at its most basic level and such an action by a band should never be discouraged.
To clarify, David does not actually take a strong position on the issue of VIP tickets, but rather focuses on the detrimental impact of VIP sections.
David takes the stand that VIP sections are divisive by their very nature and lead to a diminishment of the concert going experience for some individuals. I would be foolish to generalize the concert going experience considering the thousands upon thousands of people who attend such events, but speaking for myself and my core group of concert going associates, I know that not a one of us has had our concert experience ruined or even remotely impacted as a result of VIP sections. Again, I will not generalize, but I fail to see how one would be impacted.
Continuing, David touches on a very, very important point, but glances over it a bit too quickly. He notes Is it pure mean-spiritedness that inspires people to want separation? Of course not. There is some genuine sketchiness in the general camping lot of a big festival. I, like David, have never had anything stolen. However, on more than one occasion, I have returned to my campsite, or woken up from sleep, to find individuals with no association to my group of friends using our possessions for their own use, use which often times falls into the extremely illegal category (as opposed to the moderately illegal, like jaywalking). Speaking as one who can afford the VIP section, these situations provide me with more than enough ammunition to warrant the move to VIP, the assumption being that such incidents would be minimalized in the more expensive camping space.
Admittedly, David makes many good points, and I dont disagree with the assertion that simply charging extra to avoid problems does nothing to solve those problems, nor does it provide any incentive to do so. In fact, it does the exact opposite. But there are only so many VIP tickets, sections and parking spots, and the existence of those problems will, eventually, lead to a solution of those problems. Consumers will demand it.
Thats the free market and that should always be defended.