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The business of New Year's Eve concerts
By Mitchell Peters, Billboard

On Dec. 31, thousands of concertgoers across the country will usher in 2013 to live music from their favorite artists, whether it's the rare double-billing of Coldplay and Jay-Z at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn or an intimate performance with the Black Keys at the Joint in Las Vegas.

For many, New Year's Eve is a special night where people are willing to splurge financially to ensure a memorable evening. As a rule of thumb, consumers can expect to spend more on New Year's Eve plans than most other nights of the year. This trend hasn't been overlooked by the live entertainment business. Recognizing the highly competitive landscape for booking standout shows on Dec. 31, managers and agents typically demand higher performance fees. As a result, ticket prices are driven up to offset the talent costs.

"It's kind of a given that artists are going to want at least double," says Paul McGuigan, senior talent buyer for House of Blues in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. "And there are people out there who want to give it to them, because there's so much more competition on New Year's Eve."

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Bobby Reynolds, VP of AEG Live Las Vegas, agrees. "In the truest sense of supply and demand, the agents and managers know that the venue doesn't want to be dark on New Year's Eve. So if you have a super-hot commodity, like the Black Keys, then you're going to charge more for it," says Reynolds, who booked the blues-rock group's New Year's Eve concert at the Joint. "The bidding goes up for the artists and therefore we have to offset that somewhere, and that comes with raising the ticket prices."

A ticket to rapper A$AP Rocky's Dec. 31 concert at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif., costs $73.50. That's about $20 more than it would normally cost any other night of the year, McGuigan says. "I pay artists a flat guarantee on New Year's Eve, rather than a deal that goes into percentage points after a certain amount of tickets sold," he says. "So I'll charge a slightly higher ticket price than usual knowing that."

Part of the money from the higher ticket price, he says, will be invested into extra production to help ring in the new year, including champagne, a confetti cannon, falling balloons, noisemakers and party hats.

McGuigan also points out that he's seen an approximately 30 percent sales spike in VIP ticket packages for the A$AP Rocky show. "You might see more people spending money on the VIP packages, because they want to have a big night out," he says, noting that the venue typically doesn't offer VIP packages.

In New York, higher talent fees prompted the Brooklyn Bowl to charge $45 for its New Year's Eve concert with Holy Ghost! A typical show at the 600-capacity venue costs between $10 and $15, talent buyer Adam Geringer-Dunn says. But as an incentive to concertgoers, the Brooklyn Bowl tapped the Juan MacLean for a DJ set beginning at 1 a.m. Those who paid $45 will have free access to the after-hours set, and walk-ups will be charged $10 for admittance.

From a venue and promoter standpoint, New Year's Eve concerts typically yield about the same amount of money as other shows during the year. But some are hoping to see higher sales of food and beverages during the evening.

"You do see a little bit more in the way of table and bottle sales on New Year's Eve, because it's a party night," McGuigan says.

At the Barclays Center, "our plan is to not raise any of our prices on food and beverage for New Year's Eve," the venue's VP of programming Sean Saadeh says. "We do expect people will be in the mood to have food and drink that evening, so we might expect a higher per cap."

The Staples Center in Los Angeles, which will host its first New Year's Eve performance with a sold-out show by comedian Kevin Hart, plans to keep a close eye on the alcohol consumption level of the audience before deciding how late to serve alcoholic beverages at concession stands.

"We're going to play it very close to the vest and make sure our alcoholic beverage patrol monitors that will be throughout the arena are keeping an eye on the pulse of what's going on inside," Staples Center senior VP/GM Lee Zeidman says. "We do that normally for any event, but it's New Year's Eve, and the first time we're doing a show like this that's actually going into New Year's Eve, so we're going to double our efforts as it relates to making sure people are enjoying themselves responsibly."

Some venues don't require additional staffing for New Year's Eve concerts. But this year, since Dec. 31 falls on a Monday, the Brooklyn Bowl will treat its Holy Ghost! concert as a regular weekend event by bringing on extra staffers who normally wouldn't be needed during weekdays. "We bring in our Friday and Saturday staff levels," Geringer-Dunn says. "It's a full-on slammed weekend show."

Meanwhile, the Barclays Center, a union building, expects to incur additional labor costs because of its New Year's Eve concert.

"You're going through midnight because it's a New Year's Eve show, so you run into some additional costs as it relates to labor in general," Saadeh says. "We're a union building, so once you hit New Year's Day, now you're into a holiday, so there's a premium as it relates to that. You have to take those things into consideration."

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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