DEBORA SHAULIS | On the Scene What's the ticket? Lower prices



The bad news: Concert ticket prices have increased nearly 100 percent in the past decade.
The good news: This may be the summer that brings that upward trend to a halt.
The average ticket was $25 in 1994 and $50.35 last year, according to published reports. The $100 tickets that made people gasp at The Eagles' audacity back then pale in comparison with the $300 tickets that Madonna is selling -- and selling! -- on her current tour.
Any concertgoer can offer anecdotal information about ticket inflation. The first time I saw Jimmy Buffett, which was at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls about 15 years ago, I paid about $18 for lawn seating. This year, with tax and service charges, it cost $43 to pull up some grass.
For $78.50, I got a good seat at Prince's concert in Mellon Arena earlier this year, but it still wasn't a floor seat next to the stage. That would have cost about twice as much.
Some say prices have climbed because of the ability of scalpers to sell tickets for much more than face value. If people were willing to pay more, the artists wanted to pocket the money themselves.
This summer, however, there are plenty of signs that concertgoers are reaching their limits.
Associated Press recently reported that ticket sales were down 2 percent for the first half of 2004, while prices were up 13 percent over last year.
Entire tours have been canceled before a single note was heard -- among them Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Mark Anthony and the Lollapalooza festival. Officially, illnesses and album production schedules were cited as reasons for canceling. Unofficially, insiders have said that sagging ticket sales were a culprit.
A clear sign of change was reported this week by Boston Globe. Concert promoter Don Law, who is co-CEO of Clear Channel Entertainment, will be that company's new chairman of global music with orders to negotiate lower ticket prices with artists. Clear Channel should care, because when the public shuns concerts because of pricey tickets, Clear Channel loses profits from parking fees and concessions at the many concert sites it manages.
If Clear Channel and performers don't come to terms, they'll suffer further as people wait for two-for-one deals to come along closer to performance dates. The longer it takes for people to commit to attending concerts, the more nervous promoters become.
Phil Collins tour
In other news, Phil Collins will continue his "First Final Farewell" tour, but not in Pittsburgh. The concert that was scheduled for Sept. 26 at Mellon Arena has been canceled. For refunds ticket buyers should return to point of purchase or call Ticketmaster customer service at (412) 323-1919.
His new album won't be out until November, but country singer Blake Shelton already is offering tunes from it on CMT cable TV and likely in his concert at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at Lawrence County Fair, Route 108, New Castle, Pa. These tickets won't leave a hole in your wallet; prices are $10 to $15. Call (724) 654-7745 for details.
Panheads will unite in Struthers on Aug. 20. Skillet, a four-person band with a spiritual side that still rocks as hard as metal and goth acts, will perform at The Cellar, 162 S. Bridge St., Struthers. Skillet toured earlier this year with 12 Stones and Pillar, then hooked up for a while with another band from its Memphis, Tenn. home base, Saliva. Call The Cellar at (330) 750-0199 about tickets, or see the Web site www.thecellarrocks.com. By the way, Panheads are Skillet fans.
Also at The Cellar
Also due at The Cellar: blues act Tommy Castro Band for a return engagement Sept. 2. Consult The Cellar for ticket information.
Summer may be winding down, but the concert season isn't over at B & amp;B Backstage in Boardman. Recently added to or remaining on the schedule are these shows: Kool & amp; the Gang, led by former Youngstown residents Robert "Kool" Bell and his brother, Khalis Bayyan, on Aug. 21; Mountain featuring Leslie West and Corky Laing, with special guest Vanilla Fudge and Blue Ash, Aug. 28; revered regional rockers Michael Stanley and Donnie Iris, Sept. 4; guitarists Peter Frampton and Mark Farner (of Grand Funk Railroad), Sept. 11; and country singer Clay Walker, Sept. 17. Call (330) 758-1557 for info.
Ticketmaster outlets are selling tickets to three concerts at Odeon Concert Club, 1295 Old River Road, Cleveland: "Soulful Summer Concert" featuring funk group Zapp, Aug. 19; "Back 2 School Punk Fest" featuring Off By One, Rounding 3rd, SkaKer Moms and several other bands, 6 p.m. Aug. 20; "Back 2 School Metal Fest" with Winter Solstice as headliner, 6 p.m. Aug. 28.
XDebora Shaulis is entertainment editor. Write her at shaulis@vindy.com.

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