Friday, July 22, 2011

Paying to Play: How I Met Alec Baldwin and Chevy Chase on the Same Night

View from the 18th row before the show
This is something going on in sports for as long as I can remember – the idea that you pay a premium for better seats.  This is true at any stadium or sporting event and recently has become the norm at concert events.  But it wasn’t always that way.
Back in the day, concerts were sold at a first come, first serve basis.  If you were among the first to get through to Ticketmaster on the phone or were first on line at a retail outlet, you got the best seats.  You could get seats on the floor and even in the first row this way.  Because of this phenomenon, scalpers made a living getting on line at a Ticketmaster outlet and purchasing tens of sets of tickets at once.  Then, they would list them in the classified section of a newspaper at a 100-200% markup.
I am not sure if the artists or Ticketmaster caught on to this, but they started to section off the best seats and sell them at a premium.  Now in order to get front row seats, you must pay a premium, which can range from 100% - 1500% more than the other seats. 
While this really stinks for most of us mortals that can’t afford a $2,000 per seat price tag for front row seats, it does encourage celebrities to attend shows as members of the audience.  And, if you are lucky enough to get anywhere near the $2K seats, you can rub elbows with them.
Alec Baldwin and I before the concert
At the Paul McCartney concert at Yankee Stadium, tickets ranged from as low as $50 to as high as $2000.  With a generous grant from a close friend of mine, I was able to secure seats for $650, which put me on the floor in the 18th row, center stage.  While the “package” didn’t provide much more than a fantastic location (the front row seat package gave you admission to the sound check and a VIP reception before the show), what it did do was put me in the same section as the people that paid top prices for tickets.  These people included NYC Mayor Bloomberg, actors Alec Baldwin and Chevy Chase and Paul McCartney’s son.

Meeting Chevy Chase before the concert
My guess is that folks like this feel more comfortable seeing the concert from the seats (as opposed to from backstage) because they are with a very select group of fans.  I got to speak to both Alec and Chevy and got photos with them.  Both were receptive to meeting a fan and taking photos.  My wife spoke briefly to McCartney’s son, who was also very polite.  While I never got to speak to Mayor Bloomberg, I observed him conversing with a lot of the fans that were at the show.  He had a huge security team with him, all in suits with ear pieces that roamed the entire section for most of the show. 
My wife and I meeting Alec Baldwin
The moral of the story is this: even if you can’t afford the really expensive seats, if you can secure seats near the prime sections, you will increase your chances of meeting a celebrity.  Plus, you will have a fantastic view of the show.

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