How much will you pay to say you've seen the Rolling Stones?
In 30 years, when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are either dead and buried, or are liquid-preserved human heads running a cybernetic body, how badly will you want to tell your (grand-) kids that yes, you saw the real Rolling Stones live?
Will it be worth $170 for nosebleed seats at the top of HP Pavilion in San Jose -- facing the back quarter of the stage? Would you pay $450 to sit one level down, still in a side-facing section? What about $623 to get a floor seat two dozen rows back from the stage? Or $1,500, to be very close, in the Tongue Pit?
Because that's what it will cost when tickets -- to what may be the Rolling Stones' last two Bay Area shows ever, on May 5 and May 8 -- go onsale to the general public at 10 a.m. today. Even a seat in the upper deck at HP, clear on the other end of the arena from the stage, will run you $272. (Prices for the Oracle show on May 5 are similar, or a few dollars more.)
This brings a number of questions immediately to mind. Most immediately: Is it worth it? Reports say that the Stones are playing quite well these days, 50 years into their career and with the principal members pushing 70. But still, there is no way for anyone to answer that but you. Amounts like $623, or $450, or $272, seem beyond exorbitant us, though we love the Stones and have dreamed of seeing them for years. They may amount to pocket money for you.
But here's an easier question, and one we can't get off our minds: How are the Rolling Stones not complete assholes for charging so much?
Just try to explain it. Take a shot at justifying how these 69-year-olds, who sold millions of albums and concert tickets in the era when being a huge rock star still actually paid, should price concerts so that only rich people -- or not-rich people willing to suffer or go into debt for months -- can afford to come.
"Because they can get it," you'll say. And yes, they probably can. Even with the band making $4-$5 million per night, according to press reports, the Oracle and HP shows will probably sell out.
But is that really how the greatest living rock 'n' roll band wants to be remembered? For grabbing every last dollar from fans' wallets simply because they can? Does their music mean nothing more to Jagger and Richards than an excuse to engage in scorched-Earth capitalism?
Other artists with similar legacies charge quite a bit -- but not this much. Our press tickets to Paul McCartney's 2010 show at AT&T Park seated us about a dozen rows back from the stage, albeit significantly off to the side. Their face price? $180. Roughly the same location at the Stones would cost more than $600. Prince is playing four shows at the intimate DNA Lounge later this month, for which he charged $250 per ticket. That's a lot -- but you'll still be in a small club with Prince, not on the other side of an arena, squinting through binoculars or watching him mostly on a jumbotron.
We'd expect the Stones to charge $600, or even $1,500, for a ticket to a small club, where exclusivity is expected. And for a front-row seat at an arena, maybe that's reasonable. But when seats that provide you with the merest view of the band, from far up high, go for nearly $300, that's not anything close to profit-minded pricing. It's cold-hearted money-grubbing, and the members of the band should be ashamed of it.
You'd be proud to tell people you saw the Rolling Stones -- naturally. But will you also be proud to tell people you got fleeced by them?