The first time the Rolling Stones played the West Coast, in 1965, tickets went for $3.50. A few years later, the Stones played the Oakland Coliseum, and then as now, ticket prices were on a sliding scale: $4.50 to $7.50.
Today in Las Vegas, the good news is that you can still get seats for the May 11 show at the MGM Grand. The bad news is that the sliding scale for the remaining tickets is $500-$800 apiece. That’s got even hardcore Stones’ fans a touch underwhelmed.
Some tickets went for much less, but they sold out quickly — within seconds or minutes of general sales online, on April 19. Some folks were able to score the limited number of $85 tickets held out for fans in Las Vegas and others couldn’t get tickets at all.
The first day that tickets were opened up for general sale, CityLife logged on to the Rolling Stones website to get some. The Stones site kicked us over to Ticketmaster. Just seconds after the sale opened, there were none available at any price.
But miracles happen. Days later, tickets were available for $780, plus a significant service charge that pushed the total price well over $800. By last week, not only were the $800 tickets available, but $500 tickets had also appeared.
It’s like a very expensive miracle. And there’s still hope for a more affordable miraculous intercession, if the pattern established at some California venues for this Stones tour follows a similar track. After failing to sell out some venues, those operators opened up some seats as $85 tickets.
It’s safe to say that all 16,800 seats in the MGM Grand Garden Arena will be filled. How much we’ll pay for the privilege is the question that’s vexing longtime Stones’ fan Patrick McDonnell. He blames the MGM, the Stones and scalpers and brokers for driving up the cost of admission.
He’s particularly upset that ticket brokers, or legal scalpers, are offering tickets for sale at two or three times the original value of the seat.
“There are scams all the way down the road in this Stones tour,” said McDonnell, a UNLV law student who has seen the band play before, but wanted to take his son to see what is likely the last tour for the aging rock legends. (I tried to avoid song-title puns in this story, but allow me just the one: Time is not on their side.)
“I waited and waited and waited for them to put them on sale to the public,” he said. “I’m wondering if people in the last minute are able to score a shot at the $85-a-seat tickets? Unless you’re an investment banker, these ticket prices aren’t worth considering. I’ll keep an eye out until the day of the show.”
Some people were able to get the $85 seats, which are distributed randomly to lucky fans, or $150 seats in nose-bleed country, but CityLife can’t find a rhyme or reason why at least one person was able to get through to Ticketmaster on the first day of general sale and other fans were not.
Representatives from MGM did not respond to repeated efforts to gain some clarity on the issue.
Ticketmaster, which is selling the tickets for the Las Vegas show, said the decisions on price, the number of tickets, and other factors are up to the venue.
Jacqueline Peterson, Ticketmaster vice-president and a former executive at Caesars, said that her company tries to discourage scalping. However, the company can’t control what happens to seats held back by the venue operator.
Casinos frequently keep blocks of tickets for their customers, some of which historically have ended up in the hands of brokers (call them “scalpers” if you’re unhappy with the prices), but it’s unclear if or how many seats MGM held back in Las Vegas.
Peterson said that Nevada, unlike some other states, does not place any limitation on the right of ticket-holders, however those tickets are acquired, to resell the seats.
“Ticketmaster — we are a service,” Peterson said. “Our clients are venues, and artists, and sports teams. We sell the tickets they give us. The number, the price, the date, the type: We make no decisions on that. We sell the tickets that are given to us to sell.
“Ticketmaster works really hard to make this happen. We want fans to have the first opportunity to buy tickets. We work to make it as easy and convenient and safe as possible.”
And she warns that fans who negotiate deals from third-party brokers can be disappointed both by the price of the ticket — especially when there are still good tickets available from Ticketmaster — and by orders that can go unfilled. Sometimes brokers promise what they can’t always deliver, she said.
“How other people run their secondary markets is kind of beyond our control,” Peterson said.
For a band like the Rolling Stones, a brand name with a huge and often affluent fan base, people will pay a lot for tickets. Brokers are advertising some close floor seats for more than $7,000.
“Tickets are unlike any other thing that can be sold,” Peterson said. “It’s a specific artist, a specific night and in a specific city, so there’s a limited quantity of availability.”
But it’s the Stones, and, “If the Stones played every night in the biggest venue, there still wouldn’t be enough tickets.”
Fans should not assume that just because they couldn’t get a ticket on the day they became available online, that they are out of luck. They can keep checking through Ticketmaster in the hope that more seats, at more affordable prices, open up, she said.
“When tickets are sold out during the on-sale, there may be times when more tickets become available and they’re put on Ticketmaster.”
And for those who think the good old days were a lot better, just remember that the Altamont speedway concert of December 1969 — which featured the Rolling Stones and where flower power died at the end of a switchblade — was free of charge. Unless you were one of the four people who never made it home from the show. That still seems a pretty steep price.