Nothing like a poorly researched tabloid story to incur the ire of one of the most esteemed executives in the live business. The New York Post ran a story on Madonna’s Madame X Tour with the provocative headline “Madonna’s Upcoming Tour Tarnished by Sluggish Ticket Sales,” claiming hundreds of tickets had gone unsold.
“It’s just absolute lies,” an incensed Arthur Fogel told Pollstar, referring to the inaccuracies strewn throughout the story. This, according to the Live Nation chairman of global music and president of global touring, includes the writer’s lack of knowledge of how ticketing works, misstating of Madonna’s past touring numbers and a pattern of the newspaper attacking Madge.
“There’s something really amiss there,” Fogel said. “If you go back in history, each of her last four tours, they’ve gone on full attack mode on Madonna.”
In its broadside, the paper claimed, “hundreds of seats were still available for each gig” based on Ticketmaster’s interactive seat map as a sign of poor sales.
But Fogel, who spoke with the writer, Richard Morgan, asked if he understood Ticketmater’s Verified Fan platform, intended to keep tickets out of the hands of scalpers and into the hands of fans, which he apparently didn’t.
“With verified fan, you register and the point is to try and protect as many fans as possible from scalpers getting tickets if you just put them on sale. So, we get all these registrants and at the end of registration period, you do a cleanse because you have algorithms to get rid of duplicate credit cards, people trying to scam blocks of tickets and all that sort of stuff. After all the registrants were satisfied with tickets, we had a few thousand tickets left so we put them on sale Monday morning”
The article also compared Madonna’s “Madame X” tour, which is built on vast underplays at theaters, with her last “Rebel Heart Tour” which the Post claimed “often drew more than 30,000 fans for a single performance.”
“You do realize that they were 82 shows on Rebel Heart and there was only one show with a capacity greater than 14,000,” Fogel asks rhetorically.
Fogel also took exception to the story’s insinuation that rolling out the shows hadn’t been thought out.
“Look I’ve been doing this for a long time, pretty successfully,” says Fogel understatedly, and who has worked massive tours by U2, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and Sting among others. “So I started with seven [Madame X] shows and then I announced another five, so I’m at 12. Then, I announced another five and I’m at 17. Now, is there some business model that says you add shows when you’re failing? Because if there is, I’ve never seen it. I’ve gone backwards in my career but I’ve never added shows because they’re not selling.”
It’s not the first time media, pundits and others have erroneously mischaracterized successful tours. Last year several outlets claimed Taylor Swift and Jay-Z and Beyonce’s tours weren’t selling tickets because of deeply discounted tickets on the secondary market and/or empty seats in the upper echelons or arenas and stadiums.
Those tours, however, had record-setting grosses and most of that inventory sold but ample supply meant scalpers couldn’t cash in on pent-up demand. Furthermore Swift grossed $345 mil. and sold 2.88 mil. tickets, good enough for No. 2 on Year End Worldwide chart; and Jay and Bey came in at No. 3 with $254 mil. Gross and 2.16 million tickets sold.
One look at the Material Girl’s Pollstar Boxoffice report dispels any notion of lack of demand for her shows. With 245 headline reports, her average gross is nearly $5.2 million a with an an average of 38,997 tickets sold, with many reports being multiple shows per venue.
“It’s astounding to me.” Fogel adds, “that a business writer would have no clue about our business and people keep putting out stories like this.”
Pollstar reached out for comment from the Post but did not hear back at press time.
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