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Saturday, May 26, 2007

In defence of Barbra Streisand

I won't be going to see Barbra Streisand but I'm getting huge entertainment out of her first European tour and it hasn't even started yet. Last night she cancelled the opening show in Rome because of "production issues". Her reps, who are legion, said it was absolutely nothing to do with high profile protests over the fact that her ticket prices were too high. On her official site, where massive pomposity presides just under a very thin skin, she claims that this tour will bring her into contact with lots of different cultures (London! Vienna! Stockholm!) while enabling her to make lots of money for her charitable foundation.
Obviously she is going to get as much out of the market as she can. Prices start at £100 and if you want to be in the first five rows at her London shows you have to post a bid starting at £600 and then slug it out with half the car dealers in Kent.
Are we bothered? Are we indignant? Are we cross? Is this something that the BBC should be getting steamed up as if it were an expense like road pricing or prescription charges that we couldn't avoid incurring? Here's a case for the defence:
  1. This is a unique event. All gigs are to some extent unique, which is why people will pay so much to see all kinds of people nowadays. A gig ticket used to cost half of what an album cost. It now costs five times more. Streisand has never played here before and she presumably won't again. It's not like Glyndebourne or Wimbledon, which take place every year. If it's that important to you to see her you'll pay.
  2. Things like this are not just for the rich anymore. We don't know who's got money. We only know who spends it. Thousands of weekly paid Scousers set off to Athens last week prepared to pay 800 euros to a tout for a European Cup ticket. Which was probably forged. Is there any system of price regulation that would have had any effect on that example of the madness of crowds?
  3. Some people get enormous pleasure from extravagant displays of expenditure. In fact it's a national sport. Last time I was in Tiffanys in Bond Street (quite a few years ago) it was full of cab drivers from Essex and their families spending bundles of folding money on tom. Chacun son gout.
  4. If the tickets were priced at a fiver they would still end up going for hundreds of pounds on eBay because of a thing called supply and demand. Promoters and artists are realising that millions of pounds of revenue are being raised around their concerts, revenue which they're not participating in. They're starting to figure "better to me than to the touts".
  5. Nobody has to go.