New Year's Eve tickets go unsold
December 3, 1999
From Mark Scheerer
NEW YORK (CNN) -- "Deciding where you're going to be New Year's Eve is a problem we all have, all of us," Sting said in a recent interview. "If I'm going to be in the city, there's only one place: New York. I love this city so I was offered a gig with Tom Jones, Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bocelli -- not so bad."
But in the city that annually drops the ball on the New Year, Sting's big plans were fumbled. With tickets priced in the $1,000 to $2,500 range, "Celebration 2000," as the Sting-Aretha-Bocelli show was billed, couldn't fill New York's 30,000-seat Javits Center.
Although Performance Magazine's Bob Grossweiner says organizers are trying to move the show to a new venue, other shows have been canceled outright. "A lot of concerts aren't selling," he says. "Some of them have been canceled, some of them have been moved to smaller places."
For example, Jewel's show was canceled after only 1,000 tickets of a potential 8,000 were sold. "The promoter at that point realized it's easier to cut his losses than to have the show and lose a lot of money," Grossweiner says.
One possibility is that most people have seen through the "millennium" hype around this year's calendar switch to understand that the third millennium doesn't start until 2001. Eighty-four percent of those voting on the site Millennium321.com have registered their agreement that 2001 -- not 2000 -- opens the new millennium.
'Staying away in droves'
The lack of audience seems to be hitting the much-advertised New Year's concerts particularly hard -- and recalls the Sam Goldwynism about potential audience members "staying away in droves."
"(Joel) has some tickets available at $225, and a few tickets available at $375," says Dennis Arfa, a promoter with QBQ Entertainment. Joel's priciest seat went for $999, but Arfa justifies that stiff price tag this way: "There's the extra cost for staffing the ushers, the security people, the stagehands. All of these are astronomical costs that are passed on as a show expense. We're charging more than what Billy normally, obviously, charges on a concert."
Joel's not alone. A thousand bucks can still get you into the Eagles-Linda Ronstadt-Jackson Browne spectacle in Los Angeles. And Jimmy Buffett's got room to spare at the Universal Amphitheater for anyone with $500 to $1,500 to spend.
"In general, I think there was a misread on what the public is willing to spend on this particular night, in general," Arfa says.
He's likely right. In a CNN/TIME poll, some three-quarters of those asked said they expect to be at home -- not at a chi-chi dinner, dance or concert -- when the clock strikes 12 at the end of 1999.
And 75 percent of respondents said they plan to spend the same amount of money or less this New Year's Eve than in the past, predicting they'll spend an average of $176 on the last night of the year.
On the plus side
Not all is gloom and doom for concert promoters and performers as the year draws to a close. No one is doing better than Barbra Streisand, who hasn't played live in four or five years.
Her Las Vegas show for New Year's Eve sold out in five hours when the tickets went on sale in May -- even though the tickets cost $2,500 each. Tickets are still available for the January 1 show she later added.
A Metallica-Kid Rock-Ted Nugent triple bill at Michigan's gigantic Pontiac Silverdome is a near-sellout. With tickets averaging about $70 each, it may be selling better because more people can afford it.
This trio of bands is probably also playing the right tune.
"It's a heavy metal show," says Grossweiner. "Kids that are that age, probably would rather be in an arena like at Woodstock than be at home with the relatives and friends at a party. So the younger, the heavy-metal type of act would probably do better."
At least one performer is taking advantage of that 75 percent staying at home. The artist once known as Prince has a date on pay per view. The cost: $19.99.
Church reviews party options for New Year's Eve
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