Too much traffic for Live Nation….

August 4, 2008

Every so often, we take a break from our usual trawl through SEC filings to talk about a real life experience with a publicly traded company. On Friday night, a normally robust time for filings, I kicked off early to head up to Saratoga Springs and catch Elvis Costello and the Police in a concert put on by Live Nation (LYV) at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. A big Elvis fan, I had bought the tickets months ago, though not early enough to get actual seats. Instead, I paid $46 (plus a $9.60 service fee) for the privilege of sitting on the lawn and being able to spend $5 on bottled water whose bottles I couldn’t even recycle at the park.

According to Sting, there were 20,000 other aging suburban hipsters who ponied up for the tickets, some of which cost as much as $231. Unfortunately, while the lawn was probably capable of handling a few thousand more, there’s really only one road into SPAC (and one road out). Because of this, it took close to two hours to travel the 2.5 miles from I-87 to the park’s entrance and we wound up missing all of Elvis’ whopping 45 minute set. We left early out of fear of sitting in another two hours of traffic once the Police were done with their 90 minute set. Even reading SEC filings is more fun than sitting in four hours of traffic to hear 2 hours worth of live music.

Who’s to blame for the incredibly poor planning? It’s understandable that SPAC and/or Live Nation and especially the Police and Elvis would want to maximize their profits by selling as many tickets as possible. Indeed, lawn tickets were still available when we finally got to the actual venue at around 8:45 on Friday night. But when you sell 20,000 tickets, it takes a fair amount of planning to actually get people to the event they’ve paid money to see. While there were a few signs of some modest planning — an electronic road sign on Rte. 9 advising people of parking options and a police car with two officers parked near the entrance to the park who were watching the traffic mess unfold — it wasn’t nearly enough.

The bottom line is that if you want to host big events and take in big revenues, planning for the people who show up shouldn’t be an afterthought. I’ve left messages this morning for people at both SPAC and Live Nation. Let’s see if they manage to get back to me.

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