The Week Ahead: Tom Petty’s bucking the big-bucks trend
By Randy Lewis
The Los Angeles Times — August 1, 2005
The Eagles come home to roost next month for concerts at Staples Center and the Arrowhead Pond, and Ticketmaster’s prices are $25 to $175. For U2 at Staples Center in November, tickets are going for $51 to $171. When Paul McCartney returns to the Southland the same month, the asking price ranges from $49.50 to $250.
And when the Stones arrive in November, seats for performances at the Hollywood Bowl and Anaheim Stadium are running from $60 to $454.50.
So how come Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Tom Petty, whose core audience is the same disposable-income-laden baby boomers these other veteran acts depend on, is getting only $30 to $70 a ticket when his current tour enters California this week?
“I would feel embarrassed charging 200 bucks,” the 54-year-old rocker told Rolling Stone magazine recently. “Even as far back as 1980, I was in fear of the tickets getting priced out of the ordinary person’s pocketbook.”
The strategy appears to be paying off, says Ray Waddell, the Billboard magazine senior writer who covers the concert industry.
“His shows are averaging about 17,000 people a night, and he’ll end up playing to about 730,000 people by the time the tour ends,” Waddell says. “He’s not working a new album, he just wanted to get out and play.
“He’s a rock ‘n’ roll player and the Heartbreakers is a rock ‘n’ roll band — their whole thing is to play in front of a lot of people,” he says, noting that Petty historically has priced his concert tours lower than what the market might bear.
“He’s going about this in the right way, like he wants to do this again someday.”
He says it’s also significant that rather than booking this tour nationally through one of the giant promoters who operates venues around the country, Petty’s camp has booked shows in each city separately — including the Aug. 14 show at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater — mostly using longtime promoters it has done business with throughout Petty’s three-decade career.
“He very conceivably could have gotten bigger offers” from the national promoters, says Waddell, who interviewed Petty for a story slated to appear in this week’s Billboard. “He could have played fewer dates, only played in major markets or stayed indoors and jacked up the price, but that’s not the way he’s wanting to do it. There are a lot of things about this tour to admire.”