In the Arena

6 Dec


Thanks for all the comments on last week’s blog.  It’s good to know that there are folks out there interested in what’s happening at the Arena.  Let me get a few shameless self-promotional items out of the way before I get to this week’s subject matter:

1.  Aaron Neville and his Quintet (which also includes his brother Charles Neville) will be performing a Christmas show next Tuesday, Dec.11.  This show is a fundraiser for the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association.  Tickets are on sale now at the Arena Box Office, Ticket Alley in Tupelo, Bryan’s Records & Pets in Columbus, via phone at (662) 841-6528 or online at

2.  WWE will be returning to the Arena on Monday, January 14.  Tickets go on sale this Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m.  If you’re already a member of the BCS Arena Connection mailing list (, you should have gotten an email detailing a special advance ticket purchasing opportunity… 

3.  Reba/Kelly Clarkson will go on sale the following Saturday, Dec. 15, at 10 a.m.

4.  Public Skating will return on 12/15, 12/22, & 12/23.  Check out the Arena website ( for more info.

Now we join our regularly scheduled blog already in progress…

This is one of the most controversial issues we face.  Let me identify the players in the ticket price discussion:

THE PROMOTER:  He’s the guy that guarantees the artist a certain amount per show.  Artist guarantees for recent acts that have played here have ranged from $25,000 – $250,000. 

THE ARTIST:  Also known as “talent.”  They set the guarantee and sometimes also set a maximum ticket price.

THE VENUE:  That would be us.  We are looked to as someone to provide guidance on expenses (labor, rent, advertising, etc.) plus knowledge on what the market will bear.

THE FAN:  That’s you guys.  Untimately you’re the one who decides what a certain act is worth.

When looking at possible shows, the first question is always, “What’s the guarantee?”.  Let’s say that for Act “Z” the guarantee is $200,000.  From there the other costs (taxes, insurance, advertising, event staffing, stagehands, catering, etc.) that will result from the event are added.  On a large show, these can run from $50,000 – 100,000.   The promoter also wants to make a profit for his services, so he adds $10,000 – 20,000 to the expense column.  After all, if the show doesn’t sell well, he’s liable for the difference between show costs and ticket sales.  These costs combine for the total cost of the event.

Now that the total expenses are estimated, it’s time to “do the math.”  Based upon past history in the market, ticket sales in similar markets across the country, or sometimes just a wild guess, the promoter estimates how many people will buy tickets.  For our example, let’s say that number is 5,000 tickets.  Divide $320,000 (guarantee plus expenses) by 5,000 (estimated ticket sales) and you get an average ticket price of $64.00.  The question then becomes:  will 5,000 people really buy tickets priced at $64 to see Artist “Z”?  If the promoter and the building think the answer is yes, and the artist doesn’t object to the price, then that becomes the ticket price. 

Occasionally an act will say “our guarantee is $100,000 and the maximum ticket price will be $35.” At that point the promoter has to decide whether the market will sell enough tickets at that price to cover the act’s costs plus the show costs.   

Some shows prefer to have two or three different ticket prices; others don’t mind one price for the entire venue.  Some shows prefer one price for tickets purchased in advance and another price for tickets bought the day of the show.   There really isn’t a one size fits model for ticket pricing. 

Unfortunately, the only way to tell if a show is priced right is to put it on sale.  If tickets are overpriced, the show will struggle to sell.  This could eventually lead to ticket discounts (which are rare) or cancellation of the show (which is also rare).  If tickets are underpriced (such as with the recent Hannah Montana tour), scalpers will have a field day reselling tickets for astronomical amounts.

My thought is that one day technology will catch up with ticket pricing and some sort of variable pricing model will be enacted.  Ticket prices will adjust in real time based upon demand.  The key will be finding the right balance between generating the most money for the artist while at the same time not alienating the fan who loves the act but can’t afford to spend the equivalent of a month’s mortgage on a concert. 

That’s ticket pricing in a nutshell.  I wish I could tell you that prices will go down in the future, but like everything else I think the higher prices are here to stay.

I hope this helps clear up how tickets are priced.  Feel free to ask questions and I will answer in the blog as best I can.  Don’t forget Aaron Neville next week!  Hope to see you there.


5 Responses to “In the Arena”

  1. steven December 7, 2007 at 8:14 am #

    I see in the past where you have said its hard to get some artist to play in a 9,000 arena…this may be a crazy question, but is the arena built to have expansion in the future? Like to bring it up to 12,000 seats by adding on another deck?

  2. Geddy Lee December 7, 2007 at 8:19 am #

    I live in Tupelo and I’m a big fan of the rock group Rush. The word’s out that Rush will resume its Snakes and Arrows tour in 2008, playing venues and cities it either hasn’t played in years or never played in at all. I belong to a couple of Rush fan message boards, and there’s talk a Mississippi or Memphis date being on that tour schedule when it’s released, which we think will be in mid-January.

    What have you heard about a possible Rush tour in ’08 and is there a chance Tupelo could be on that schedule?

    Also, how do you approach the management of an act like Rush that’s never been in Tupelo before and convince the act to perform here?

    It would be a treat of area music fans to see Rush; it puts on a fantastic live show, plus it has one of rock’s greatest drummers in Neil Peart. Nobody can do a drum solo like he can. Plus, Rush is known for its loyal fanbase with people who are willing to drive/fly the extra miles from all over North America to see the band.

  3. Jane December 7, 2007 at 10:36 am #

    Todd thanks for the explanation. A variable pricing model would be very cool. Thanks for your efforts to bring quality entertainment to Tupelo.

  4. Patrick Swartz December 7, 2007 at 2:08 pm #

    I see that the arena and people of Tupelo have finally connected on terms of ice skating. I am so pleased to see three ice skating dates in one month as opposed to three years. I think the turnout from the November dates speaks for itself. We thank you!

  5. Todd Hunt December 8, 2007 at 10:40 am #

    Steven – that’s the second question I’ve had on expansion this week. I’ll take that as a good sign! Anyway, construction costs have skyrocketed since the Arena was built fourteen years ago for $12 million. To expand by 3,000 seats would possibly cost us two or three times that amount now. From a pragmatic standpoint I don’t know where the money would come from. Anyone want to contribute?

    Jane – thanks for the kind words. I know the technology is close for variable pricing, it’s just a matter of getting the artists, their managers and agents, the promoters, the venues, and the general public to go for it.

    Patrick – we are happy to offer the ice time when it makes sense. The problem we have is in scheduling other events around the ice and also the exorbitant amount it costs to maintain the ice.

    Geddy – you forgot to mention Alex Lifeson, one of the great guitarists of all time! Rush is indeed planning a tour for next spring but no word on whether we’ll get a date. While they are playing markets they haven’t visited in many years, it’s hard to convince an act like this that Tupelo and its population of 30,000 can support the show. We’re working hard to rebuild the reputation of Tupelo in touring circles as a great market to play. In doing that, we have to make sure that the shows that come to our building are successful. So while I would love to see them play the market, I have to make sure that we can sell enough tickets at a premium price to make the show successful.

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