Ryan Ritchie, an LA witer, has written “An Open Letter to Paul McCartney Regarding Ticket Prices” in which he raises an important topic of societal ethics. His lament in part,
I had this great idea. I would surprise my parents with tickets to your Friday show at SoFi Stadium. Naturally, I would also be in attendance. The tickets would have been ideal because Mother’s Day just happened and my mom’s birthday is May 21.
…I don’t think my parents — individually or as a couple — have been to a concert. Ever. … wanted to change that by surprising them with tickets to your show. It would have been great…[but] sadly for us, when you look into that sea of 70,000 people Friday night at SoFi, we won’t be three of them because your prices are too expensive for my surprise gift. According to Ticketmaster.com, tickets for section 526 — which appears to be the absolute worst seats at the venue — are $190 each. Or, if we want to sit in section 539, tickets are a steal at $174. Let’s, Paul, for the sake of argument, say I want my parents to, you know, actually see you, so I buy three seats in section C129. Those seats are $450. Each. And, as Ticketmaster reminds me, “+ fees.”
I can’t surprise my parents with tickets to see Sir Paul freakin’ McCartney only for them to sit halfway to LAX. That’s like giving a child a toy without batteries. A $600 toy, mind you….Conservatively, if I bought the cheapest tickets, I would be looking at $700 to take my parents to your show and sit far enough away that we will not be able to see you. To be frank, Paul, that sucks. I don’t want to spend that kind of money to stare at the big screens that I am sure will be on stage. Certainly, you’ve heard of YouTube. My parents and I can get the same experience tomorrow morning for much less money.
Paul, serious question: What the fuck?.
“What the fuck” indeed.
It isn’t just Paul McCartney tickets either. Tickets to all professional entertainment events are so high that the average American can barely afford them. When my professional theater company was still breathing, we had as part of our mission to charge as little as possible, and to keep prices in a range that allowed a family of less than elite means to attend a live theatrical performance without having to sell the car. This was unusual in the Washington, D.C. theater community, and is rare everywhere else in professional theater. The situation is similar in professional sports.
It is not merely greedy of the producers of such entertainment to maximize prices, it is stupid. Baseball is a prime example. The sport is fighting to maintain the interest of young fans, and the best way to do that would be to make it easy to actually attend games. There is little similarity between the experience of attending a major league baseball game and watching one on TV: the in-person experience is far richer, and far more fun and memorable. When I was a lad, I could pay 75 cents and sit in Fenway Park seats along the third base line that now cost about 80 bucks. One summer, in high school, I went to four games in a week. The teams should all want to have affordable seats that allow kids to do that, but they don’t. Neither does Broadway. Live professional-level entertainment is rapidly becoming elite like the ballet and opera, only affordable by the wealthy.
If you want social stratification and a loss of community further feeding societal division and conflict, this is an excellent way to get it. Sitting in a theater, stadium or arena surrounded by fellow human beings is a unique and irreplaceable human experience that has bound societies together for centuries. If there is a substitute, I don’t know what it is; it certainly isn’t social media.
Every little trip down this road erodes societal bonds a little bit more. It isn’t Paul McCartney’s fault: I bet Ryan Ritchie is correct that Sir Paul doesn’t even know what his concert tickets cost. McCartney is a billionaire and about to turn 80; he doesn’t perform for the money. He could, however, try to reverse the trend. It’s a lot better use of his time and money than hanging out with PETA.
We all need to sit in the dark together, feel each other laugh, and gasp, and applaud the same things. That’s how we learn that all the other stuff we fight about is secondary to being human beings.
As with so many other aspects of life, we seem to be sliding in the wrong direction, with no brakes in sight.
Ritchie concludes, “You wrote the soundtrack to my life, to my parents’ lives, to so many people’s lives, but even you, Paul, can’t convince me that any concert is worth $190 a ticket to sit as far away as physically possible.” But that’s missing the point. Whether it’s “worth it” or not, society suffers by not making is possible for as many people as possible to be part of a memorable, emotional, transporting experience with their neighbors around them.
The problem is easy to fix, if the right people cared.