Event organisers pass the buck

    Inflation and the weak US dollar are spiking?ticket prices for concerts staged by international artists touring the GCC region.
    Timberlake hit paydirt in Abu Dhabi.
    Timberlake hit paydirt in Abu Dhabi.

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    The combination of rising inflation and a weakened US dollar is being blamed by some for the spike in ticket prices for concerts staged by international artists touring the GCC region.

    While the US dollar is traditionally recognised as the standard currency for calculating tour costs and other transactions in the live events industry, an increasing number of international artists are negotiating concert payments in other currencies including euros, given their relative worth compared to the dollar.

    Some of those non-US-based performers still willing to negotiate deals in dollars are not surprisingly now demanding more of them to cover their costs, with many promoters passing the burden on to punters in respect to ticket prices.

    Many of these same performers are following the trend of chasing higher ticket prices in a bid to recoup lost profits from declining album sales as a result of illegal downloading and copyright infringements.

    However, while the currency crisis is placing increased pressure on the local live entertainment production sector, its effect is being compounded by the opportunistic attitude displayed by some event organisers to these markets.

    Take for example ticket prices for two recent concerts staged in the UAE by artists whose current career trajectories couldn't be more different and you'll start wondering who's playing who.

    The cost of admission to US superstar Justin Timberlake's outdoor concert staged at Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace last month ranged from Dh295 to Dh895 (US$80.00 - $244.00). At first glance, this pricing structure would seem reasonable, given that it was a one-off gig in a relatively far-flung location to a smallish audience of around 13,000.

    But compare it to Timberlake's US and UK tours and things turn awry. Indeed, the average ticket price on JT's US tour was just $73.00, while a front row seat to see his show at London's landmark O2 Arena cost just $112.00. The same week Timberlake was storming Abu Dhabi, 1980s-era English singer-songwriter Nik Kershaw performed two club dates in Dubai, with ticket prices ranging from a frankly outrageous Dh300 to Dh500 ($81.00 - $136.00).

    Not to unduly bag Mr Kershaw, but it's hard to envisage the now Essex-based entertainer bringing in those sort of big bucks playing 'round Romford way.

    The fact is ticket prices for certain events are getting out of control and the burgeoning currency crisis is serving to highlight the liberties some promoters and event organisers are taking with local consumers, not to mention the opportunistic attitude displayed by many international performers to the region.

    While demand for live entertainment - particularly in countries such as the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain - remains strong as a result of the massive influx of expatriate workers relocating to the region, fickle tastes pervade these markets, and with many workers struggling under the weight of rising living costs, the current upward trend of ticket prices appears largely unsustainable. Opportunists should beware.

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