Pricey Pixies Tickets, or Can Critics Complain About Concert Costs?

Cover of "Doolittle"

Cover of Doolittle

It’s been well over a week since Jim DeRogatis reviewed the first night of The Pixies’ three-night Doolittle retrospective at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. DeRogatis caused quite a stir among Pixies fans with statements like:

…it’s hard to consider them anything but a cynical corporation cashing in on blatant nostalgia–a hipper version of Creedence Clearwater Revisited or Journey and whoever is singing with that group these days.

Pixies defending aside, DeRogatis has a right to his opinion. After all, that’s his job. As any critic who has ever encountered the briefest whiff of resistance from diehard fans over the years can tell you, not everyone’s going to agree with what you write. And of course, this came in droves for the eight paragraphs DeRogatis wrote about The Pixies set. There were comments from fans who couldn’t believe DeRogatis would compare their beloved Pixies to Journey of all bands – Journey?!?! There were comments from fans who said DeRogatis was elitist and assuming the worst before setting foot in the Aragon.

And then there was one comment by “em,” which began with this:

Why do you care how much tickets cost? I bet you used your media credential to get in. When’s the last time you paid for a ticket?

Talk about trying to find any loophole to hurt the credibility of a writer.

Still, beyond the blatant attempt at a low-blow by “em,” I find this kind of accusation rather ridiculous. Journalists are hired because of their perceived ability to speak for and communicate to a specific audience: this means being able to highlight the potential concerns of their community when covering their specific beat.

So, in a year when the unemployment rate hit the double digits, when there’s been non-stop talk about the state of the economy and when Illinois happens to have the largest sales tax in the U.S., of course something like the price of a concert ticket must be taken into consideration and even communicated to the audience. When people have to pay for shelter, heat, electricity, food, insurance, transportation and so many other things, where and how to spend one’s leisure money comes under close scrutiny. So, when faced with an underwhelming performance that costs nearly $50 (never mind Ticketmaster fees), there’s no doubt a reason for DeRogatis to toss ticket costs into his bucket lists of complaints.

DeRogatis, like just about every other person today, has to worry about money. Although he more than likely had a press pass to cover his entry to The Pixies’ concert, it doesn’t mean that he was blind to the fact that tickets cost money, and come with a high price tag at that. Remember all the talk about “the death of journalism” and “the decline of the newspaper industry” and all that jazz? Because that’s a burden DeRogatis no doubt has to deal with on a daily basis, what with the Sun-Times Media Group having filed for bankruptcy this past March.

DeRogatis experiences all the ups and downs of the economy like every other person in our society, and is able to notice when he’s getting a raw deal at a concert. And those are the qualities people look for in a good journalist.


4 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Jen Doll #

    I saw this show in Boston last night and for me, it was worth the ticket price. BUT: we walked up to the box office to avoid the Internet service charge fees, which would have been something like another $50 for the 3 tickets I bought. Why oh why? Happy to pay for a band I like but those fees are what’s truly rage-worthy.

  2. Leor Galil #

    Yeah, I’ve got a bit of an axe to grind with service charges… it’d have to be a band I really want to see for me to hop online and take the big hit for a service charge. I paid over 30 percent in service charges for a Sunny Day Real Estate ticket back in September, but that was still worth it to me… and cheaper than the Pixies ticket to boot.

    I’ve seen the Pixies before, and was contemplating coughing up money for the Doolittle show. But when I saw the price tag, I knew I wouldn’t be able to justify the pretty hefty cost up-front, not to mention the service charges I’d have to go through considering I don’t really have the time/ability to go straight to the box office to grab a ticket before it sells out.

    Oh how I could use those free/$5 Fugazi shows right about now…

  3. Piet Levy #

    Great defense of DeRogatis, and yes I would imagine DeRogatis, like any good critic, would keep ticket price in mind when reviewing a show, as they should. I tried to do the same with a recent review of a new gourmet theater in Bolingbrook – I used a get-in-free coupon, so I didn’t pay a thing to get in, but in my review I still assessed whether the typical entry price was too steep. Of course that’s a guess – I didn’t actually pay the ticket – but I would think that my opinion wouldn’t have been swayed too terribly if I had actually forked over my own money for the cash. But how can I know entirely for sure?

    What “em” is addressing, if not directly, is certainly becoming more pivotal now as more bloggers enter the fray and write up reviews for shows and products they see for free. Thinking about this from a casual reader’s point of view, how am I to know that privilege and perks didn’t sway the writer? I guess it’s a matter of reputation and how persuasive the writing is I suppose, but it likely takes a lot of reading and perception to distinguish an insightful critic like Manohla Dargis from a quote whore like Ben Lyons.

  4. Leor Galil #

    Hey, as long as you’re not swimming in Olympic-pool-sized piles of gold, I’m sure you were able to properly asses what most people would consider cheap and steep!

    And I certainly get what “em” was addressing… which is also why I was also a bit taken back by it. I mean, press passes are part and parcel for arts journalists, but that’s hardly “payola”… and if it was, you’d think DeRogatis would be swayed the other way! I’d just hope that people would be able to pick out the insight in the Sun-Times piece before letting their loyalty to The Pixies (or band “xyz”) get the best of them… but, I know what it’s like to be a rabid fan and be pissed off at a review… I just think pointing out a reviewer’s press pass is kind of a straw-man argument, and a weak one at that. But, so it goes…

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