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Denver concertgoers and promoters decry rising costs of attending and organizing events

Concert-goers and promoters decry high costs of attending, organizing shows
Concert-goers and promoters decry high costs of attending, organizing shows 03:31

Word of the potential of a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against the country's largest concert promoter Live Nation and its parent company Ticketmaster has people talking about the fees that irritate them and the price of tickets that have become more prohibitive.

If you've been to a concert or even a major sporting event in Denver, the odds are good that you've dealt with Live Nation or Ticketmaster.

"There are so many people that have to sacrifice either a weekend away or a concert. And that's crazy to either think of a trip costs as much as it does to go to a concert," said Kevin McConnell, who was visiting Red Rocks on Tuesday. "The fees are just crazy. Everything nowadays is just nuts," said Mark Sutherburg of Lone Tree. He used to go to a handful of shows per year. Now it's down to one.

In Colorado, there is a decline in attendance for some performances, while others are doing well. There has for sure been a shift. In 2021 at the Levitt Pavilion in Ruby Hill Park, there was a rise as the pandemic ebbed.

"Things have definitely plateaued if not kind of gone down a little bit," said Andrew Thomas, who is deputy director for the Levitt Pavilion. The pandemic was hard. "What we lost in the pandemic was community. People weren't around people. That's sad."

But re-establishing culture is hard as well. Costs are rising and that proves challenging for the nonprofit efforts at the pavilion; that means 40 to 50 free shows a year.

"Things are expensive," Thomas said. "Music's expensive. Gas is expensive. Alcohol is expensive. All of these things that you attribute to tour musicians or to concerts have kind of made it so some of those costs are passed onto to the consumer. So it's tricky right now."

For some fans, it has meant fewer performances.

"I decided not to go to see Beyoncé because it was like a million dollars to get there," said Sonia Thomas, a music fan visiting Red Rocks who's not related to Andrew. Her daughter paid $950 for that show, she said.

"I love NBA basketball. It's really expensive to see the Nuggets now," said Andrew Thomas.

But years in the music business have taught him things about costs.

"It costs money to rent a sound system. It costs money to put up a fence. It costs money to rent the portalets and all those things continue to increase," he said.

The fees are off-putting.

"As a consumer, they're very frustrating," he continued. "So when I have to go buy a concert ticket, I get frustrated with fees too. As someone who's in the industry, I know those fees all go towards something, so venues take fees. Promoters take fees. Bands take most of the ticket price that you're paying."

But with inflation, people are making hard choices. The fear for arts organizations is that people may set aside the culture that binds us. Mark Sutherburg tells his family that might be the deciding factor.

"And I always tell them, 'you've got to prioritize.' And I've always told them 'the bills come first and whatever is extra is whatever is extra,'" he said.

It brings up worries about access to culture.

"It's the reason why people come to cities. You know, it's the culture," said Andrew Thomas. "And the culture is made up of things like music and museums and all these things. So it's a reason why people end up in all these places. So I don't want to live in a city that doesn't have culture." 

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