Instead of selling every seat in the house for $30, INXS recently staged an auction on Ticketmaster. The highest priced ticket sold for $500, the lowest for $3. Nine Inch Nails used a similar model, and watched online scalping drop substantially. Venues and ticket sellers are finally clued in to the idea that pricing for many concerts should be on a bell curve instead of a fixed line. Many superfans are willing to pay top dollar to sit down front, while other folks would be more willing to check out a show if it were, say, $10 instead of $40.
What does this mean for independent musicians?
As I talk about in More Gigs Now and in my seminars on the zone booking strategy, it's more important for your long term success to book a sold out show in a smaller venue than leave seats empty in larger venues -- even if that means you make a little less money.
Sold out shows are electric, and they create scarcity in your market. Selling out a show tells your audience that they've got to act quickly -- and creates a built-in market for your next show in the same zone or the same market.
Flexible pricing takes that to the next level. By offering tickets to fans at every conceivable price level without resorting to giving tickets away or leaving seats empty, everybody wins. You get a sold out show, and every member of your audience feels like they got great value for what they were willing to pay. Most importantly, as Tim McGraw's manager points out in the WSJ article, artists -- not scalpers -- get to keep the additional revenue that fans are willing to pay.
Of course, we should all wish for the problem of having scalpers in the first place, right? So, keep focusing on booking small shows and selling them out completely before you book bigger venues. When you're at the point of doubling the usual cover at a venue, that's a good sign that you're ready to move up.