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As the cost of tickets to see Beyoncé and Taylor Swift strut their stuff onstage, some Americans are dropping the coupon codes and picking up their passports.
So-called concert tourism, in which people venture abroad to attend live shows, was gaining traction among Americans even before the pandemic, ticket sales data show. But with prime tickets to popular shows hitting four digits, some music fans are heading overseas to catch their favorite acts.
Beyoncé superfan Shelby Messing said she saved at least $1,000 by heading to Spain to see Beyonce perform during her stop in Barcelona on her sold-out Renaissance world tour. She estimates laying out between $2,500 and $3,000 for her two-week trip. That includes the cost of a round-trip flight from Atlanta to Barcelona, accommodations, one $227 general admission concert ticket and a bonus excursion to Mallorca.
By comparison, on Ticketmaster a single VIP Renaissance World Tour ticket in the U.S. goes for at least $3,757 and as much as $5,007.
Messing saved hundreds of dollars on the concert due, in part, to the comparatively low ticket fees in Spain, where the National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) has previously cracked down on disproportionately high ticket fees for live music events. She paid a flat fee of roughly $27 for her ticket to Beyonce’s Barcelona show; in the U.S., ticket fees for the same show would have cost her nearly 50% of the ticket’s face value, she told CBS MoneyWatch.
“I’m not surprised more and more people are coming to shows in Europe instead and [are choosing to] stimulate an economy that doesn’t take advantage of people,” Messing said.
Data from the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly group, shows fees now add an average of 32% to ticket orders, up from an average of 27% in 2018, the New York Times reported.
“A no-brainer to travel”
While concert tickets are often cheaper overseas, the cost of flying to Europe, Asia or other regions around the world is.
That’s why Triada Cross, another Beyoncé fan, used credit-card points to fly from Dallas to Germany to catch a show. She paid a total of $2,850 to see the songstress perform twice, once in Hamburg and once in Frankfurt. Including the cost a flight, a five-night hotel stay and a train ride between the two cities, she estimates she paid $3,525 for her entire trip — still less than the cost of a single VIP ticket package to the same show in America.
“I used to live in Germany… so I already understood that Europe has better consumer protection laws than the U.S.,” Cross told CBS MoneyWatch. “For me, it was a no-brainer to travel to Europe to see Beyoncé, especially after seeing the Taylor Swift Ticketmaster debacle play out.”
The Ticketmaster factor
Ticketmaster, the platform owned by entertainment company LiveNation, controls ticket sales for roughly three-quarters of major concert venues in the U.S., according to estimates cited by lawmakers at a January Senate hearing.
Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” model adjusts ticket prices according to popular demand, said Ron Knox, a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy organization focused on corporate power.
“Ticketmaster can use dynamic pricing to rack up profits and rip off fans…[providing] one of the worst ticket buying experiences imaginable,” Knox said. “For fans and artists alike, Ticketmaster is unavoidable, and the concert-going experience in the U.S. is far worse off because of it.”
Ticketmaster also tacks on high fees, further inflating costs for concertgoers in the U.S., critics of the platform say. And, because Ticketmaster has signed exclusive agreements with many of the country’s major concert venues, there’s often no way around those fees, said Krista Brown, a senior policy analyst at the American Economic Liberties Project.
“Exclusive contracts between venues and ticketing providers like Ticketmaster are the most significant factor in what drives up U.S. ticket prices compared to the European market,” Brown told CBS MoneyWatch. “In the U.S., those exclusive arrangements guarantee it will face no competition.”
Ticketmaster did not respond to a request for comment from CBS MoneyWatch.
Lawsuits and legislation
Ticketmaster’s fee system has aroused the ire of fans and artists alike. In March, The Cure frontman Robert Smith took aim at the service, tweeting he was, which exceeded the face value of tickets to his band’s shows.
Last year, Taylor Swift fans who were unable to get seats to her Eras Tour shows, alleging the companies committed fraud and violated antirust laws in selling tickets for the concerts.
In April, legislators introduced the “Junk Fees Prevention Act” to limit “mandatory fees that are excessive or deceptive.” But it will take more than that to make concerts more affordable stateside, Brown told CBS MoneyWatch.
“Current legislation is attempting to address some of these issues, but significant federal action is needed to address the broader market problems created by Live Nation [and] Ticketmaster’s monopoly power,” Brown said.