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What Game? Why the NFL Will Sell 50,000 Tickets To Super Bowl Concerts This Season: Guest Op-Ed

Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band, 2014
Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band performs live for fans at the 2014 Byron Bay Bluesfest on April 21, 2014 in Byron Bay, Australia.  

When Dave Matthews performs his "The Night Before” concert at Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis on Feb. 3, his performance will be the culmination of a three-year plan to recast not only the Super Bowl ticket market, but also the entertainment landscape surrounding the biggest event on earth. Co-produced by On Location Experiences and CBS Radio, the concert, along with shows at Club Nomadic at Mystic Lake and nightlife at Nomadic Live at the Armory, is part of a consolidation of a concert market that had previously been split between a small but entrenched group of local and independent promoters.

For 2018, On Location Experiences will sell 50,000 tickets between concerts, chef tastings and tailgates. If you count tickets to the actual game, that number likely reaches 100,000 tickets, at prices ranging $57 to $13,499. For a company that didn’t exist 18 months ago, that’s quite a feat.

Spun out of the NFL and backed by two private equity firms and the 32 NFL owners, On Location Experiences, which runs NFL On Location, was launched halfway through last football season to compete in the lucrative Super Bowl hospitality market. It also set out to fix the ticket market for the league’s crowning event. As I’ve written in Techcrunch and the Daily Beast, the Super Bowl ticket market has been broken for years, and arguably forever.

Before the Internet, it was harder for bad actors -- like scalpers -- to get into the game. That changed with the advent of exchanges like Stubhub and Vivid Seats, and before long, the combination of easy access and market opacity turned the Super Bowl into a big money maker for the secondary ticketing industry.

As the Super Bowl resale market grew, so did the asking price for tickets. And despite a resale agreement with Ticketmaster’s own secondary site Tickets Now, NFL executives watched as sites like StubHub and independent brokers profited from large markups on tickets.

In attempt to claw back revenue and reign in the resale market, the NFL launched On Location in 2017, hoping to fix the ticket market by selling directly to fans and coupling tickets with hospitality and music entertainment as part of an all-in ticket offering. Tickets for this year’s big game range from $6,299 to $13,499 and include pre-game, all-inclusive food and beverage packages and, for those who pay a premium, field-level seats and access to the field after the game.

For 2018, with the foundation of the overall Super Bowl ticket market on firmer ground, On Location Experiences appears to have turned their focus to competing in the pre-game entertainment market. Tailgate parties, exclusive nightclub events and intimate concerts were once organized by promoters and hospitality groups like Primesport.

But this year On Location is working with Live Nation and other promoters to create a number of specially-sanctioned entertainment events during the big game, with prices marked to compete against local and non-authorized event producers, part of the broader trend I’ve written about toward rightsholders exerting more control over their ticket market.

At prices as low as $57 for the DMB onsale, tickets for Dave Matthews Band have helped the NFL create affordable entertainment options for the majority of fans attending the game. Three days after the on-sale Ticketmaster has only a few scattered single tickets left and prices on the secondary market are as much as 50 percent above face price. Even $200 tickets for Florida Georgia Line at the the 9,000-person Club Nomadic at Mystic Lake are affordable compared to ‘club parties’ of old like Maxim, Playboy and ESPN. Without an invite to one of these parties, the average fan was left to pay between $1,000 and $5,000 on the secondary ticket market for a few hours of trying to spot celebrities across the room. This year, for Super Bowl Weekend, a fan could pay a total of $500 in tickets and see a headliner concert every night.

If fans want to see concerts and the Super Bowl, the best option may be the $7,599 package, which not only gets you a ticket to the big game, but also a hotel for three nights, a concert ticket for Friday or Saturday night, as well as hospitality and transportation. Compared to last year, when a day-of game ticket was north of $5,000, that feels like a product with an opportunity to disrupt. In a market that has often failed to meet the most basic measures of consumer confidence, that’s good news -- even for those not planning to attend the big game itself.

Jesse Lawrence is the founder of TicketIQ, a leading ticket search engine that works with over 50 teams and 400 brokers, venues, promoters and other rightsholders to help sell tickets directly to fans. Using that access, the company offers a low price guarantee on over 50 percent of events on TicketIQ.com.

Jesse started his career as a writer covering the New York City technology scene in the the late 1990s for some of the top webzines on Internet 1.0. He also covers the ticket market for Daily Beast, Techcrunch and CNBC. He lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.You can follow him on Twitter @stagggggg

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