If you’ve been to a major arena or stadium concert in recent years, you know ticket prices can be eye-popping even before they land on the secondary market.
Average ticket prices have nearly quadrupled from $26 in 1996 to $92 in 2019, according to research by Pollstar, a national trade journal of the concert industry.
But it’s not just the tickets that will empty your wallet ― increasingly, the ticket fees tacked on to each ticket purchase are a major drain on the pocketbook.
Just look at this summer’s Bruce Springsteen shows at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Field seats are $299.50, but after you add the unspecified $54 “per ticket fee” and a $6 facility fee, the total for one seat hits $359.50.
And if you’re wondering, Springsteen tickets averaged $15 each in 1984, making the fees for this summer’s shows equal to the cost of four tickets for that historic “Born in the U.S.A.” tour.
While primary ticket outlets and promoters usually have more of a say in the service and booking fees than the venues, the fee structure can be different venue to venue.
While the fees for these big-time, major city shows can be startling, what about Delaware’s music venues?
Delaware Online/The News Journal researched the fees for the best seats at Delaware’s 10 largest concert venues ahead of the summer concert season and found that some are reaching nearly $20 per ticket.
Here’s what we found:
Bob Carpenter Center, Newark. There are only two concerts on the docket for the University of Delaware arena, and if you want to see them, you’ll be paying the heftiest service fees in the state. The 25th anniversary tour stop by R&B group Dru HiIl on March 24 has a $19 fee added onto its $185 floor tickets. And 18-piece banda ensemble La Trakalosa de Monterrey led by Edwin Luna is there the next night with $134 floor tickets that end up being $151 after $17 in fees. Both are sold through UD’s own ticketing system.
Freeman Arts Pavilion, near Selbyville. While not all Freeman shows have heavy ticket fees, some nearly match those at UD. Take the Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue show on June 9 for example. The best seats cost $119, but after $18.11 in fees, the total comes to $137.11. Fees for other concerts are half that or less, including Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles with a $6.54 fee added to the $43 ticket or comedian Brian Regan, whose $64 tickets have fees of $9.74.
Gild Hall, Arden. The historic venue uses London-based ticketing software company DICE for its shows. When you click to buy tickets, you see a startling message if you’re used to seeing a larger final price loaded with fees at check out: “The price you’ll pay. No surprises later.” Patrons pay the printed price with no fees added on when it’s time to pay. Yes, there is a booking fee added in there, but you don’t even see it. And with ticket costs ranging from only $20.40 (composer/guitarist Yasmin Williams) to $33.99 (both jazz bassist Christian McBride’s New Jawn and comedian Jackie Kashian), you certainly don’t feel the pain.
Milton Theatre, Milton. This small theater books mostly tribute acts, comedians and theater shows with affordable tickets usually $30 and lower. And the ticket fees reflect that. Want to see Aunt Mary Pat DiSabatino’s final tour June 4? The ticket is $24 with a $3.50 fee through Etix. How about standout local guitarist Jake Banaszak leading Lower Case Blues on April 2? Tickets are $15, also with a $3.50 fee.
The Grand, Wilmington. No matter the ticket price, you’ll pay the same fee at this downtown 1,208-seat theater. Whether it’s Ben Folds ($89) or Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives ($68), the fee is steady through The Grand’s own ticketing system: $8. And, yes, it was still $8 for the Trombone Shorty concert there earlier this month, making the fee more than $10 cheaper than the show slated for the Freeman Arts Pavilion this summer.
The Playhouse on Rodney Square, Wilmington. Operated by The Grand, the nearby Playhouse has the same ticket structure. It’s $8 per ticket in fees for any show from David Foster and Katherine McPhee ($74) to the Bored Teachers comedy concert ($57).
Delaware State Fair, Harrington. Just like The Grand and The Playhouse, the state fair has a flat service fee for all shows. Whether it’s rapper Nelly on July 21 ($44) or comedian Gabriel Iglesias the night before ($70), there’s an $8 fee through Etix.
The Queen, Wilmington. Even though the venue is operated by building owners Buccini/Pollin Group after Live Nation ran it for three years, the venue has kept on the Live Nation-owned ticketing giant Ticketmaster for all shows. Even with Ticketmaster in control, fees for national shows are about average for the state. Want to see Hiss Golden Messenger next month? The $24 tickets will have a $7 service fee and $1 facility charge. Where the use of Ticketmaster is felt most is when a local band performs at The Queen. When playing bars and smaller venues in town, local acts usually charge a flat $5 or $10 for admission. Sometimes there is no cover at all, like at Nomad Bar. And there’s certainly never a service fee of any kind at any of them. But that’s not the case at The Queen, which has begun a push to attract more local shows recently. Tickets to their “Vinyl Countdown” concert April 14 headlined by local standout rocker Grace Vonderkuhn are $13, but you still have to pay a $3.60 service fee and $2 facility charge through Ticketmaster for a final cost of $18.60. You could have seen her two blocks away at Spaceboy Clothing about two weeks ago for a flat $10 cover at the door.
Bally’s Dover Casino Resort, Dover. While some things cost quite a bit more in casinos, ticket fees at the old Dover Downs are not quite one of them. Country singer Clint Black will be there April 21, and the $100 premium seats have a $9.75 service fee through Ticketweb. If you snag a $60 general admission ticket, the fee drops to $7.30.
Bottle & Cork, Dewey Beach. Fees fluctuate depending on the show when buying through the Cork’s in-house ticketing system. If you’re seeing country singer Justin Moore for $67, there’s an $8.50 booking fee. But if you’re going to Badfish: Tribute to Sublime ($20), the booking fee is only $3.75.
Have a story idea? Contact Ryan Cormier of Delaware Online/The News Journal at email@example.com or (302) 324-2863. Follow him on Facebook (@ryancormier) and Twitter (@ryancormier).