When Madonna kicks off her new tour Tuesday, she’ll also be debuting a new ticket-pricing strategy: Smaller shows at higher prices.
The 61-year-old pop-music pioneer, who holds the record for the highest-grossing concert tour by a woman, is planning her 11th tour around theaters, smaller venues than the arenas that dominated previous tours. And fans will be paying more, especially at the high end.
Long one of the concert industry’s biggest acts, Madonna will open her latest tour, called “Madame X,” at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House, which seats 2,100 people—a fraction of the roughly 20,000 capacity of New York’s Madison Square Garden, where she played two shows four years ago on her last tour.
The prices will be higher: Around $300 on average, according to Arthur Fogel, Madonna’s longtime tour promoter and the president of global touring at Live Nation, the world’s biggest concert promoter. That’s up from about $160 for the last tour, according to Pollstar, a concert-industry trade publication.
The rise is due largely to an increase at the higher end. Tickets for “Madame X” start at about $50 for the cheapest seats, not much more than her last tour. But she’s charging roughly $750 for the costliest non-VIP tickets, not including fees—substantially higher than the $350 tickets on her last three tours, according to Mr. Fogel. VIP packages, which can include perks like pre-show receptions and backstage tours, reach as high as about $2,000.
“Madonna’s going to charge you what the market says those tickets are worth—and then, at the same time, she’s keeping her cheap seats,” says Bill Werde, a former editor of Billboard magazine and the director of Syracuse University’s Bandier music-industry program. “I actually think this is a brilliant example of understanding the market.”
Madonna declined a request for an interview.
The “Material Girl” singer’s ticket prices reflect a growing comfort among superstars with charging more-affluent fans what they can bear. While some holdouts like Ed Sheeran are keeping concert prices relatively low, stars from Jay-Z to Taylor Swift have been raising ticket prices in recent years, accentuating a trend that began when profits on recorded music were squeezed by digital forces like piracy, downloads and streaming.