U2 Promoter Defends Tour's Festival Seating

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1.19.01 - Sonicnet

Irish rockers' plan - intended to keep ticket prices down, add intimacy - had been attacked by concert-safety consultant.

Corey Moss reports:

The promoters behind U2's upcoming Elevation Tour 2001 are confident the partially general-admission concerts will be safe.

They said the band chose the controversial seating plan to add intimacy and keep tickets prices down.

"By making this tour general-admission seating on the floor, we are able to price the tickets considerably lower than reserved seating," SFX Music Group President of Touring Arthur Fogel said in a statement issued Thursday (January 18). Tickets for the U2 tour range from $45 to $130.

"If you compare the two seating configurations with reserved seating costing substantially more, it is obvious that financials were not the deciding factor when choosing general admission seating," Fogel said.

Fogel was responding to comments made last week by Paul Wertheimer, owner of concert-safety consulting firm Crowd Management Strategies, who accused U2 and SFX of dangerously stuffing as many fans onto the floors of their venues as possible to make more money.

Crowd Management Strategies released a controversial report last year stating nearly 70 people were killed at concerts in 1999. The subject made headlines last year when nine concertgoers died as a result of a crowd crush at a Pearl Jam festival performance in Denmark in the summer.

But Wertheimer - who authored the taskforce report on the 1979 Who concert stampede in Cincinnati, where 11 fans were killed rushing into the open seating inside Riverfront Coliseum - still feels U2 and SFX, not the concertgoers, will profit from general admission.

"While festival-seating events are, as a rule, less expensive to produce than reserved-seating events, that does not mean they are less profitable," Wertheimer said. "To the contrary, the potential to reap a greater profit exists. In a typical 18,000-seat arena, that could mean an increase in capacity of additional 1,000 to 2,000 people. At $50 per ticket that's an additional $50,000 for 1,000 more people. Then, add concessions, souvenirs, etc., purchased per person."

SFX said the decision to use general admission seating was made by U2 with the complete support of SFX.

"General admission seating offers an intimacy between the band and the audience that U2 finds desirable," Fogel's statement said. "Safety is always a priority for both the band and SFX. SFX considers the audience, the venues, and the entertainer prior to setting the seating configuration for any tour."

Wertheimer said that Crowd Management Strategies, which has been hosting a public forum on the festival-seating issue on its Web site (crowdsafe.com), was glad to hear SFX say that safety is a priority with Elevation Tour 2001.

"However, SFX knows that not all high-profile festival seating events the promoter has been associated with have been trouble-free," he said. "That is why this public debate over festival seating-general admission is healthy. We will all gain an increased awareness of the discomforts and dangers of festival seating and of the techniques that can make festival seating safer."

U2's decision to use festival seating on their tour has also prompted fan George Combs of Trenton, Ohio, to petition the band to change to a safer seating policy.

A spokesperson for U2 at Interscope Records said the band had no comment on the issue.

The Irish rockers originally announced a 33-date North American tour, but they added six more shows (including two each at Fleet Center in Boston and United Center in Chicago) after tickets quickly sold out in those markets. Tickets for shows in the remaining cities go on sale this weekend.

Some reserved seating will be available in the lower levels of each arena and in all of the upper levels.

The Elevation Tour 2001, which will include opening act PJ Harvey, kicks off March 24 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and will continue at least until June 21.

Copyright © 2001 Sonicnet.com, a division of MTVi. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on January 19, 2001 2:47 AM.

U2's Festival Seating Plan Draws Fire was the previous entry in this blog.

U2 Beef Up Tour Schedule is the next entry in this blog.

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