Flexible pricing coming to Ticketmaster?

Do you like the process of buying airline tickets? Soon, you might be buying concert tickets the same way.

Matt Rosoff
Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.
Matt Rosoff
2 min read
How much does that ticket cost? In a few years, it might depend on when you buy it. Ticketmaster

Prices for airline tickets are one of life's great mysteries. A travel agent tried to explain it to me once, and without getting too detailed, it's a combination of segmentation, demand-based pricing, and ensuring that seats are filled. Segmentation's the reason why last-minute tickets cost so much--most vacationers plan far in advance, and business travelers are much more likely to accept high prices. Demand-based pricing is why it's way more expensive to take the same trip over Thanksgiving than over the second weekend in November, and why prices can fluctuate from moment to moment--as one "class" of seats is filled, the airline figures out that shows high demand for that route on that date. The need to have seats filled is why you can sometimes score amazingly cheap seats on long flights overseas if you commit to a non-refundable ticket early enough.

So leave it to every music fan's favorite corporate entity, Ticketmaster, to bring the clarity of airline-style pricing to the world of concert ticketing! According to an SxSW blog post by L.A. Times reporter Todd Marten, Ticketmaster CEO Sean Moriarty said the company is considering demand-based pricing for concerts and expects to have it in place within five years.

If you think about it, concert tickets and airline tickets are very similar--both are strictly limited in quantity and time-dependent. I can imagine Ticketmaster segmenting audiences--the business person who wants to take a client to a hot show will pay more for a last-minute ticket than the casual music listener who buys tickets a few days after they go on sale, but less than a hardcore fan who buys tickets the instant they go on sale. Fans will eventually figure out how to game the system, but in the meantime, this kind of pricing should help Ticketmaster and the entities it represents (promoters, artists, and everybody else in the concert chain) maximize revenue from ticket sales. Overall, I would expect prices to go up, not down. But as I've said before, you can't blame Ticketmaster for the dark side of supply and demand.