A Vast Majority of Concert Sales Are Now Happening At the Door, At the Last Minute…

A housewife in Long Island will pay $300 for a Madonna ticket, months in advance.  But that’s not reality: according to a just-released study from ReverbNation, a vast majority of concert tickets are now happening at the last minute, and right at the venue.

In fact, ReverbNation found that 66 percent of venues sell a majority of their tickets at the door, moments before it starts or even during the gig itself.  Even worse, half of the venues reported selling more than 75 percent of their tickets at the window.  Here are some of the top-level results, gleaned from a survey of 470, US-based venues.

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Welcome to the 2010s, where fans are cash-strapped and recession-wary, options are overloading, and almost every entertainment offering is optional.  Which means decision-making is happening right now, or not at all.  “These statistics suggest that consumers have a lot of choice when it comes to things to do on a Saturday night,” explained ReverbNation executive Shelly Weitz.  “And that many of them may be making their decisions about whether to go to the basketball game, the movies, or the concert, on the day of the event.”

All of which makes it extremely difficult for bands and venues to make accurate projections or even properly route tours.  But let’s see if smarter clubs and bands can figure this out: on the ground, the new strategy seems to involve brute, clutter-cutting information blasts right before the show.  It’s a lot of work, but a broadly-adopted survival response.  According to the survey, 81 percent of venues now view ‘same day concert marketing’ as a critical marketing approach.

Written while listening to deadmau5, last seen live at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas (yeah, at the last minute).

12 Responses

  1. Steve

    ReverbNation is hardly representitive of the music industry. Ticket sales will be tiny for these guys.

    • Jed Carlson

      @Steve is correct in that this shouldn’t be extrapolated to the entire music industry. The survey respondants did not include stadiums or arenas (where pre-sales would be highest). The typical respondent had a capacity of 250 – 1,500. So if you are a promoter, artist, or venue that is working capacities larger than this, the infomation is probably not that relevant.
      Also @paul, a quick correction. Only 66% of respondants said that they were selling the majority of tickets at the door. But when all venues were asked what % of tickets they sell at the door, the median response was 75%.
      I know its confusing, but each of those numbers may be informative.
      Jed Carlson, ReverbNation

      • Paul Resnikoff

        Nice catch, thanks Jed.
        But looking at the median figure, this seems more lopsided than I originally thought. For starters, 66 percent said a majority of their sales are last minute (meaning, more than 50% of all tickets sold).
        But median is what you get when you stack it all up, and look at what’s in the middle (separating the upper half from the lower half). Which means that half of these respondents are selling at or more than 75% of their tickets right at the door, last minute. Am I reading that correctly?
        On the bigger venues, I really only have anecdotal information but I’m strongly getting the sense that this is not just a small venue problem. Michael Rapino (CEO of Live Nation) recently told Peter Kafka of the Wall Street Journal that all-out sales blitzes for the likes of Taylor Swift are not the norm, though they do get the most attention.
        And the rest of the big venue gigs? The comment below from Seth Keller seems to validate this, though curious what others are seeing.

        • Jed Carlson

          wrg to median, you are absolutley correct.

    • Visitor

      This is true for the big venues also just ask Live Nation or AEG. Taylor Swift and U2 are exceptions not the rule so you have AEG, Live Nation and even big festivals suffering from this also.

  2. Seth Keller

    I believe those stats could be accurate for shows that aren’t the hot ticket or buzz artist. Also, some markets and some genres do more walk up business than others, particularly on the club level and with small theaters.
    A friend and business partner is a promoter in Vegas who does club shows, corp events and festivals. Last night he had Shiny Toy Guns at the Beauty Bar. Pre-sale was 195. He walked up about 175 and had to turn 100 away because of capacity issues.
    He also does a yearly alt music fest there called Extreme Thing that draws around 15K-20K per year. Three quarters of the tickets are typically walk ups.

    Vegas is a unique market in many respects, though.

  3. Demand

    Smaller venues tend to host smaller acts.
    Smaller acts tend to have less demand.
    Less demand means less incentive to buy tickets early.
    Tickets sold at the window tend to have less “convenience” fees.
    Waiting until the last minute for a show that probably won’t sell out means you’re saving yourself money by purchasing tickets at the window without the exorbitant fees charged when purchasing tickets ahead of time, online.
    Historically, what percentage of ticket sales for smaller venues was advanced and not “walk-up” or “day-of”?

  4. worthless

    In other news, 100% of pizza restaurant sales are happening right in the pizza restaurants. Go figure.

  5. Bob Jones

    Want to get more people to buy in advance? Stop selling tickes to scalpers like StubHub, who use automated systems to buy them for face value and try to rip people off for 300% markup. That’s why I stopped going to concerts. Day 1 after it opens, all of the good seats are gone and in the secondary market for rip-off prices.
    No wonder nobody buys in advance…

  6. Yarnly

    Often times, heavy day-of promotion for a show is because ticket sales are weak, and so the venue often lowers the costs in order to fill the house. I’ve seen stadiums do fire-sales with tickets on Groupon or web-only promos just a couple days prior to the show in order to fill the house. Unfortunately, though it fills the room and saves the concert-goer a bit, it’s a practice that teaches customers to wait until the day of the event in hopes of getting a slashed ticket price, or in other cases, just-released close seats.
    Where I work sells strong prior to show date, and doesn’t have a strong walk-up numbers (by comparison to the provided figures). But then again, we’re a touch out of the Reverbnation venue sample size.

  7. FOH Soundguy / talent consulta

    I’m worked at and/or managed venues in the 250 class for the past 12 years. I concur, that in my market area, 75% or more of ticket sales happens day of, as it would if you’re going to a movie. Larger concerts, or more popular acts are a bit different. If I want to see Emmylou Harris or Ben Harper locally I’d better buy early, or be left hoping to buy a ticket at scalper prices.

    I did a local study a few years ago. I found out the average 30 year old person pays to see a live music act 3-5 times a year. Your experiences may be different. 😉

  8. concertgoer...

    Get rid of second party sellers like stub hub and cut what I feel are overblown fees through other robber barons i.e. ticketmaster, and you’ll have more people purchasing tickets in advance. But because venues can sell tickets to and through these outlets IN ADVANCE to cover costs they prefer it that way. It’s not about the concert experience – it’s about fleecing the fan. The venue just throw up thier hands and say “it’s not us”…