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Bon Jovi: Back on the road

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Bon Jovi

The rock veterans ready a massive North American tour with innovative ticketing

By Mark Brown
Special to MSN Music

Bon Jovi is undertaking a massive North American tour starting in February, which is enough to give fans a thrill.

But the tour is also an ongoing experiment in the evolution of the concert-going experience. Be it long residencies in Newark or London, Bon Jovi has long partnered with AEG Live to redefine the way fans see a band. Under the theme "There's something for everybody," the new tour will see ticket prices as low at $19.50, offset by VIP packages that overall keep the prices for regular tickets within reach of the ordinary fan. Usually arena-rock tickets have two price ranges, sometimes three. Bon Jovi's "Because We Can" tour will let fans choose from seven different price ranges in a 360-degree in-the-round presentation.

"It's like Obama saying we have to tax the rich so we can help the middle class. In many ways it's similar," said Randy Phillips, president and CEO of AEG Live. "By having the VIP packages we're able to keep the rest of the house ... quite low."

And it's not merely a token number of tickets in each arena.

"With tickets on sale at $19.50 it's not two rows in the upper back of the building. Depending on the size of the building there are anywhere from 1,100 to 1,900 of the lower price tickets. With the 360-production even if you're sitting high in the arena it's still a good seat," Phillips said.

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In the 2009 documentary "When We Were Beautiful" Jon Bon Jovi opened up about his approach to his career and the relationship with fans.

"He is very unique among artists. He's very, very business-savvy. As is Mick Jagger. He's not the only one. But he's probably the most hands-on. He pretty much manages the band himself. He has great people& on top of everything for him. But he is really the guy who makes the final decision," Phillips said.

AEG Live has shown a willingness to work more closely with artists -- even in adverse situations. After Michael Jackson died preparing for his 50-night London residency AEG worked with the family on "This Is It" and found itself thrust into the "docu-concert-drama thing," Phillips said. The company went on to do similar partnerships with Justin Bieber in "Never Say Never," as well as films with Katy Perry and Bon Jovi.

It certainly helps that the acts are hot.

"It's easier to do it with an artist who is a touring juggernaut like this," Phillips acknowledged. "When you have that baked in and you're not creating a demand for marketing every time you go on sale you can experiment to try to make the business better. & Obviously our relationship with Bon Jovi is great. We're going on our fourth tour together with the band and in many ways what U2 is to Live Nation, Bon Jovi is to us. The Bon Jovi numbers, people don't realize how big this band is as a touring attraction. They give such a great show and give the people exactly what they want. Production is massive. It's still the same band, the same unit."

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And by taking control of the pricing at all ends of the spectrum they hope to limit scalping.

"At the end of the day there are no security precautions. Even paperless ticketing, scalpers have figured out how to get around it. Human nature being what human nature is, trying to stop something like that & is like the guy on the shore holding up a hand when a tidal wave is coming," Phillips said. "All you can do is take control of the process, so there's not a third party milking the fan.& You can use the secondary market if you take control of it instead of letting the scalpers do it. Merchandise, parking, meet-and-greets, dinners. Extra value for people who can afford it."

It also provides a chance to do good.

"Jon did 10 shows at the opening of the Prudential Center in Newark. It was really a boon to that city in terms of employment. That stuff matters to Jon," Phillips said. "The last three weeks he's been working in the soup kitchens. He stopped his promo tour in Europe and flew back here after Sandy hit."

Tickets for some shows go on sale as early as Nov. 30; others will go on sale in early December. Stay tuned for details. The shows below are confirmed, with more dates to be announced in Michigan, Massachusetts and other markets. Other cities to be announced later include Detroit, Boston, Memphis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland OR, Raleigh, San Antonio, Seattle, State College, Penn. and Vancouver, B.C.

Feb 9: Uncasville, Conn.

Feb 10: Washington D.C.

Feb. 13-14: Montreal

Feb. 17-18: Toronto

Feb. 20: Ottawa

Feb. 21: Pittsburgh, Penn.

Feb. 27: Atlanta, Ga.

March 1: Tampa, Fla.

March 2: Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

March 5: Charlotte, N.C.

March 6: Nashville, Tenn.

March 9: Cleveland, Ohio

March 10: Columbus, Ohio

March 13: St. Louis, Mo.

March 14: Louisville, Ky.

March 16: Oklahoma City, Okla.

March 17: Lubbock, Texas

April 2: Calgary

April 3: Edmonton

April 5: Winnipeg

April 7: St. Paul, Minn.

April 10: Austin, Texas

April 11: Dallas, Texas

April 13: Kansas City, Mo.

April 14: Des Moines, Iowa

April 16: Denver

April 17: Salt Lake City

April 19: Los Angeles

April 20: Las Vegas

April 23: Glendale, Ariz.

April 25: San Jose, Calif.

July 12: Chicago

July 24: East Rutherford, N.J.

July 25: East Rutherford, N.J.

Mark Brown is a veteran music journalist who was pop critic for the Rocky Mountain News until its demise. He is also a contributor to MSN Music's Reverb and Scene & Heard blogs.

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