Here’s some good news, smart news and odd news from the local music scene:
Bill Edwards, whose company runs the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, has done away with service charges on tickets at the venue. That includes ones purchased at the box office, online or by phone. People who get Mahaffey tickets through Ticketmaster will pay that company’s fees (although Edwards will attempt to convince TM to drop its fees as well). The takeaway: Buy tix direct from the Mahaffey.
What can I add, other than this is a great thing? I’ve always felt that a reasonable handling fee of a couple bucks was acceptable, especially if the tickets are mailed. But the charges have become ridiculously inflated—add-ons for Mahaffey shows had reportedly ballooned to a $9-per-ticket average.
Having worked in the concert business for a spell, I know that amped-up service charges supplement a concert’s gross revenue. Promoters negotiate kickbacks from ticket agencies.
Edwards is betting that eliminating service fees will increase ticket sales. I’m not sure about that, but it will certainly engender good will toward the Mahaffey, and perhaps put some pressure on other venues and promoters to reduce their service charges.
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As the local concert business experiences a marked upturn, according to No Clubs’ Tony Rifugiato, competition among venues intensifies. Jannus Live and the Ritz Ybor, for instance, constantly try to outmaneuver each other to land important acts.
To diversify, the Ritz has put a smaller side room—the one to the right after you enter—into play as a place to house smaller shows. The Ritz is calling the space the Royal Room.
The general-admission space handles around 250. The Denver band Churchill played the room on Tuesday, and singer/songwriter Kristy Lee has performed there as well. Rifugiato said he’s considering putting some shows in the Royal Room.
“The RITZ Ybor is currently seeking newer, up & coming acts of all genres to feature in that room throughout the year,” the venue’s marketing director Okesene Tilo said in an email. “We are looking to brand the Royal Room concert series as a whole.”
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And now for the odd: Bluesman Johnny Winter is doing an in-store appearance at Daddy Kool Records at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17. He plays the Capitol Theatre that evening. Why is this weird? Winter is a 68-year-old albino who by most accounts is in frail condition.
Further, I’ve been told by sources in the concert business that he has had—and may still have—a rider in his contract that allows him to cancel a concert on the spot if he is touched by anyone. I think it’s safe to say that Johnny Winter is not comfortable with the masses. Further still, in-stores are a young band’s game.
Regardless of all this, Winter is a legend, and still has a lot of devoted fans. Whatever his motives, he’s offering folks a chance to see him up close. Just don’t expect a lot of chummy quality time. I looked at a brief Youtube fan video of one of his in-stores. He sits at a table, flanked by two aids, and signs stuff, looking down, his head covered by a black cowboy hat.