Another Vail Tale

$116 a day. That’s what it costs to ski at Vail this week.

And that’s positively insane!

The dirty little secret?

Almost no one pays it.

I bought an Epic Pass. Last March. For $649. Good for not only every day at Vail, but Beaver Creek and ski resorts as far-flung as Lake Tahoe, I had no idea back then that this would be the worst ski season in thirty five years, so far anyway.

But I took the deal.

We’ve got it backwards in the concert business. Tickets start out expensive and then keep getting cheaper. Don’t tell me this is the way it needs to be, Burning Man starts out cheaper as do so many electronic music festivals. You want to incentivize the hard core fans, you want to reward them, you want to get their money in your coffers and invest it.

Concerts evaporate. They’re not like hard goods. Clothing starts off expensive to entice the hard core and then keeps getting cheaper and cheaper as it sits on the shelf and goes out of date. Theoretically, you can sell an article of clothing forever. But not a concert ticket.

A concert ticket is like an airline ticket. Once the plane flies, the inventory is gone. Once the act plays, the ticket is worthless.

Now with acts that sell out, this is not an issue.

Then again, the issue with acts that sell out is the tickets are oftentimes priced too low. I need to go to Memphis at the end of February. Delta is the only airline that flies direct. I’ve tracked the price for months. It’s still stratospheric. Because the airline knows that people will pay in order to save time, to avoid the layover and the chance of a missed connection.

So if you want to see Adele or Gaga or any guaranteed sell out, the price for tickets should be stratospheric. Or, you can artificially keep prices down by utilizing paperless ticketing and other more sophisticated distribution schemes.

Let me tell you how this works.

The acts believe they control the ticket. But they don’t want to appear to be greedy. So they make deals with American Express, create golden circles/utilize I Love All Access and scalp their own tickets just to appear to be a member of the hoi polloi. What a joke! The public is aware of the value of a ticket. There should be honesty and transparency. Then again, there’s little of this in the music, why should we expect it in the business?

So either ticket prices should be artificially low, to reward the fan, or they should be priced at market value. And they’re not.

The goal, at the end of the day, is to sell out the entire venue.

But what we do in the concert business is wait until the last minute, have a fire sale and give away tickets. Teaching our audience to wait.

Ever try to book a flight the day before? You’d think they wouldn’t want to fly empty! I booked a flight from Eagle, Colorado to Los Angeles two weeks ago and paid almost $500 one way.

The number of people on the 757?

Fewer than twenty. Maybe not even fifteen.

But if they blew out the tickets to fill the plane, I’d never book a flight early, other than one I knew was going to sell out.

So I booked my skiing nine months ago. I made plans. The $116 a day Vail charges is just like that flight I took from Eagle to L.A. It’s for those who don’t plan, who have a change in their schedule, who must pay the piper.

But most people are cheap and they’re willing to make plans in advance.

But in the concert business we’re teaching people to wait until the very last minute, for the deal. In the name of short term profits, we’re killing the business.

We have to institute some discipline in the market.

But just like sports, promoters are willing to overpay talent and then get screwed in the end.

I’d like to believe this won’t go on forever. It shouldn’t. You might say the public hates the airlines, but they hate Ticketmaster even more.

We’ve got nowhere to go but up.

But everybody thinks it’s someone else’s problem.

The act figures it only plays once a year. The promoter can take the hit.

And Live Nation is a public company.

And the loser is music in general.

P.S. You can book your Vail lift tickets as few as seven days in advance online and get a discount from the $116 rate. Sure, you’ve got no idea what the conditions will be, but most people can’t turn down a deal, they refuse to pay through the nose. Vail realizes that once the lifts close, that day’s ski revenue is done. You see a ski day is like a concert, it evaporates. Meanwhile, conditions suck and Vail still charges top buck. Everybody in the ski world knows you pay through the nose during Christmas. So everybody buys a season pass or looks for other deals. The ski industry has taught them this. What has the concert industry taught the concertgoer? TO WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE FOR THE DEAL!

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