There’s really no easy way to size up music venues. With so many, in so many sizes, some might argue that there’s a bigger question that begs to be addressed: Is a smaller, intimate venue better than a massive stadium? Or maybe an arena splits the difference?
For years I preferred the first and leaned toward smaller venues and club shows, including venues like the Warfield, and Mezzanine in San Francisco, or the Fox and Yoshi’s in Oakland. Then last year, two shows swayed my opinion and now I can’t decide between XS, XXL, or somewhere in-between.
U2 at the Meadowlands last year tipped the massive scale, as it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. While I’ve seen my share of stadium shows, it was unreal being among the nearly 100k screaming fans packed in the building. Small venues bring you close to the action but will never replicate the atmosphere in a stadium.
In the medium-sized territory, MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas is one venue that everyone needs to check out at least once. In the past, I had only been to boxing matches there, which in itself is quite the scene. But Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne tour stop in Vegas certainly didn’t disappoint (and it was much better than their stop at HP Pavilion in San Jose) and now it’s up high on my list. It provided a good mix: big enough for a large amount of energy to feed off of for both the artists and fans, not too big that the music gets lost, and almost no bad seat in the house.
As you can tell, I’m undecided. At the end of the day, so much also hinges on things like the act themselves and their preferences for venue sizes, their popularity and following, how far along they are on the tour, and the city itself.
Bringing things back to StubHub, we tend to see economics at play when it comes to venues and prices. Here are some things for music fans to consider:
- There’s more tickets available in large markets, so it’s no surprise that our top-selling venues include Madison Square Garden in New York City, TD Garden in Boston, Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Verizon Center in Washington DC, and American Airlines Center in Dallas.
- Typically, the larger the venue, the cheaper ticket prices are. Why? There’s more tickets out there and sellers know they need to price competitively if they want to sell their tickets. Ticket prices for concerts in football and baseball stadiums tend to fall on the lower end.
- Conversely, smaller venues tend to skew on the higher side. Consider the smaller pool of tickets, and in theory, it’s like you’re buying front row seats if you were at a bigger venue. It’s a best-in-the-house experience, placed in a small setting.
- Concerts in popular cities like Las Vegas, New York, and Miami often fetch higher prices because part of the experience is to “be seen.” Fans that could care less about that aspect should consider a road trip to see some of their favorite artists. They can take in a new city, check out other venues, and potentially find more attractive prices.
- Artists performing in their hometown – think The Boss in New Jersey – also tends to be more expensive. Again, consider a road trip if that’s not your forte.
- Deals can always be had and often at the last minute. Because tickets have no value on StubHub once shows start, sellers will often lower prices as you approach events. One important note: Playing the waiting game works best for larger venues.
- For smaller venues, I’d recommend buying earlier than later because there aren’t as many tickets and it’s riskier to play the waiting game. We’ve seen some of the best value for events at these venues: Magic Stick in Detroit, Cats Cradle in Carrboro (NC), Warehouse Live in Houston, Mercury Lounge in NYC, The Fillmore in Charlotte.
Now that I’ve exhausted the economics lesson, I’ll sign off and leave you all to decide which direction you would prefer. In a future post, I’ll dive deeper into some summer concert road trip ideas. Whether you’re looking for a thriftier trip or a rock star experience, we’ll make it easy to find tickets. And with some help from the experts at hotels.com, you won’t have to pull your hair out planning all the travel details.
Joellen Ferrer is Head of US Communications for StubHub, the world’s largest ticket marketplace. She is a fan for all things live music and has been tracking trends on StubHub for over six years, along with traveling around the country to check out all of the hottest live music and sports events. Keep up to speed on ticketing info and find other tips to get to some of the biggest (and smallest) shows this summer by following her at: www.stubhub.com/stubhubjo and @stubhubjo.