What fans are paying to see their favorite pop stars this summer

Seat Geek blog, 7/8/11

We're about a third done with the summer concert season. We got curious to see what fans have been paying to see their favorite artists. So we took the average purchase price for shows between the dates of June 21 (the first "official" day of summer) and July 8 to see which artists have the most die-hard fans. I was surprised to see KISS on the top 10 list two separate times for their Canadian shows in Kamloops and Dawson Creek. The average ticket prices were $431.50 and $318.50, respectively. The other artist to make it on the top 10 list two separate times was Celine Dion, with both her shows [at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas] having an average price of $284.87 and $275.23. I would pay an average of $658.32 to see nine-time Grammy award winner Sheryl Crow. The show sold out in record time at Beaver Creek (36 minutes), which in comparison to the Paul McCartney tickets that sold out in under 10 seconds, isn't too shabby. Another consideration for Sheryl's high ticket price was the intimacy of the show. Beaver Creek's Vilar Performing Arts Center is a 530-seat venue - quite a small shop in comparison to some of her other gigs.


Fans paying scalpers' sky-high prices for sold-out Burning Man arts festival

When the first Burning Man event took place in 1986, it was such a lawless free-for-all that when it came time to burn The Man, a woman ran toward the engulfed 20-foot-tall humanoid structure and held its hand while wind blew the flames away from her. Twenty-five years later, the annual event has become a mass sojourn into the Nevada Black Rock desert - one that some of its most loyal followers complain is becoming increasingly commercial. And now it has come to this: For the first time ever, Burning Man has literally sold out. Organizers were forced to cap the number of attendees to the weeklong event, an art-focused, community-centric festival that starts Aug. 29. The cap on ticket sales was necessary to limit attendance as required by the permit issued by the federal Bureau of Land Management. That permit allows for 50,000 people at any one time, organizers said, and more than 51,500 tickets were sold last year. The cap on tickets has hundreds of people, some who already asked for time off of work, booked flights and rented RVs, logging onto sites like Craigslist, eBay and StubHub in search of tickets. People on eBay have bid more than $1,500 for a single ticket - more than four times the highest retail priced ticket at $360. StubHub is selling tickets from $1,270 to $250,000. Some Burning Man devotees have tried to fight profiteering scalpers by submitting fake bids of up to $10,000 or more on eBay.


Private box at London's Royal Albert Hall is on sale for 550,000

The Daily Telegraph, 8/2/11

The five-seat box sits on the second tier on the eastern side of the auditorium and is the only remaining box in the hall to feature its original timber veneer and mirrored panels. It is being advertised by Harrods Estates as a ''perfect gift for a loved one'' and comes with an 865 year lease. The box will set back the wealthy buyer 550,000 - the same as three Ferrari 458s or a three-bedroom property in upmarket Wimbledon. And on top of the wallet-busting price-tag, each seat incurs an annual service charge of 600. However, the new owner will be in esteemed company, with other boxes owned by the rich and famous including the Royal family. The Royal Albert Hall was opened in 1871 with private seats sold for 100 to help find the building process. Queen Victoria purchased 20 seats at the time, with the Queen's Box, located on the Grand Tier, still in the possession of the monarchy. The five-seat box is one of around 1,300 seats - in boxes and the stalls - privately owned by individuals and companies. Shirley Humphrey, sales/marketing director for Harrods Estates, said: ''The boxes at the Royal Albert Hall are extremely rare and those with original features are even rarer so we anticipate a high level of interest."


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Commentary: Can anyone justify spending $100 million on a single painting?

Alastair Sooke, The Daily Telegraph, 7/9/11

'Say you were going to buy a $200,000 painting," Andy Warhol once said. "I think you should take that money, tie it up, and hang it on the wall. Then when someone visited you, the first thing they would see is the money on the wall." Paintings may exalt the soul, but they are also luxury objects... coveted and traded by the rich and powerful, for status and prestige. The 10 most expensive paintings ever sold at auction range from Rothko's White Center, which went for $72.8 million to Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, which fetched almost $106.5 million. Whoever bought it (rumoured to be a Georgian oligarch) has lent it to the Tate Modern for two years. There are reports that other paintings have sold privately for more. For instance, Ronald S Lauder is said to have paid $135 million for Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which hangs in his Neue Galerie in New York. Can anyone justify spending more than $100 million on a single painting?  I can barely imagine the mindset required to "win" at an auction. When I asked the Canadian billionaire David Thomson what his strategy had been while bidding with his father for Rubens's Massacre of the Innocents, he gave me a steely look and said: "To triumph." They did - at a cost of $76.5 million. Says Kate Ganz, a New York dealer: "People have so much money now that they'd rather have the trophy of the painting. But it's hard to explain. If you begin equating art and money, you get into trouble. All the things about art that are moving and special, that make you feel something, have nothing to do with money." In my heart, I know that Ganz is right. But my head doesn't agree. Whether we like it or not, it's impossible to remove money altogether from the purpose and value of art.

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