Bon Jovi: How Much Is Too Much?

To be lasting, you have to look at your audience and see yourself, and they have to look at you and see themselves
-Bruce Springsteen

Last month on American Idol, Jon Bon Jovi announced that the band would be playing a ten-night stand at a new arena in Newark, NJ. I've seen Bon Jovi in New Jersey quite a few times and to be honest, I've always walked away a little disappointed so I've written off on traveling to see them play their home state. However, the thought of set list possibilities over ten-nights tempted me so I figured I would go out East, catch up with some good friends and possibly catch a few concerts. Then I saw the ticket prices.

For these shows, the ticket will be between $67 and $337, before Ticketmaster charges. No, that is not a typo but an actual number. I stared at the Ticketbastard page in disbelief wondering how this could be. Now, I do feel that artists have a right to make as much money as possible; however, they also have a responsibility to the fans who have afforded them to live their dreams. I don't have an issue with paying a lot of money for tickets, but I need to point out that Bon Jovi's top ticket price is more than the Police, Eagles, Paul McCartney, Kiss, Aerosmith, Genesis, the Who, Elton John, Billy Joel, Madonna or U2 charge. In fact, the only two acts who charge more than what Bon Jovi is asking for are the Rolling Stones and Barbara Streisand. I'm not making excuses or trying to justify either act but they were out there performing when Jon Bon Jovi was still in diapers. Did I mention these tickets are $100 more than seeing a Beatle?

I love Bon Jovi as much as anyone, specifically because their live shows triumph time and time again, but they are not in the same league as many of the aforementioned acts. I mean no disrespect to them�and even if they were, charging this much money is reprehensible. I find the Police ticket prices abusive, but the last time the Police toured together, �Slippery When Wet' was still being recorded so I can semi understand why tickets are expensive (that still does not justify the price). One Bon Jovi ticket for these Newark shows costs more than TWO U2 tickets from their 2005 tour (including service charges). Once again, no disrespect to Bon Jovi, but they're not in the same league as U2. If they treated their fans with respect and continued to push the creative envelope like they did in the 1990's, then maybe they would. But I don't think Bon Jovi has made music from the heart in a very long time. This is going to make my decision to abandon them that much easier. I think I have finally come to terms that they only care about the music they make as long as it turns a hefty profit. The days of deep, brooding and introspective music found on �Stranger In This Town', �These Days' and �Destination Anywhere' are long gone never to be heard from again.

I'm not sure if I've ever seen a more disappointing or discourteous ticket price in my life. I've seen Bon Jovi dozens of times in the last seven years with a ticket price ranging from $27 to $125. I've taken issue with their prices since the summer leg of the �Bounce' tour where most tickets ran around $100. In my opinion, no concert should ever cost more than $100. It's not worth it. I also tend to have a rule that any concert that costs more than $1 a minute isn't worth it. If I were to follow this rule it would take Bon Jovi 5 and � hours to make these shows worthwhile.

For a bunch of guys who pride themselves on coming from blue-collar background and claim to be "in touch" with the common man, how can they justify these prices? Do they care about their fans or the almighty dollar more? My vote is for the almighty dollar. Jon Bon Jovi constantly talks about how important the fans are in numerous interviews, but all he's doing here is slapping them in the face�multiple times. By instituting prices like this, you will ensure two outcomes;

A) Your die-hard fans who love you so deeply will see fewer shows and in many instances will go into debt by attending one or two shows.
B) You will begin to attract people to your concerts who don't care one iota about music but only care about being seen to be seen.

Just two-months ago when I caught Christina Aguilera (an AEG sponsored tour) I saw something alarming. The first twenty-rows on the floor stood motionless for the entire performance. More importantly, I don't think I saw a single person under the age of 40 in these seats. Why was this? The first twenty-rows were auctioned off to the highest bidder and as a result, people went for every reason imaginable except for the love of the music. This was profoundly disconcerting and in truth, it was distracting and detracted from the show. It was odd to see the stage up front sitting there motionless. I've seen more movement in a movie theater than I saw at this concert. Can you imagine being a performer busting your ass on stage only to have everyone stare at you like a deer in headlights?

Last year Billy Joel broke the record at Madison Square Garden for most tour appearances (Twelve shows beating out Springsteen's record of 10). You want to know how? All tickets were priced between $45 and $90. Billy's quote in Billboard magazine was something along the lines of how it was important for him that both the guy who owns the factory and the average Joe working in the factory could experience his concerts. These prices in Newark mean that only the owner of the factory will be able to attend these shows. Look at a band like Pearl Jam, the highest ticket price on last year's tour was $65 (the exceptions being the Bogarta and co-headlining shows with Tom Petty which still were below $100). They fight for their fans and as a result, their fan base is more loyal than any others out there. It also works from a creative perspective as Pearl Jam have been able to take chances artistically because they treat their fan base with the utmost respect never taking advantage of them. When I went to get my tickets for their two shows in Chicago last year, 90% of the ticket windows were reserved for fan club members. They very easily could auction off tickets to the highest bidder, but embracing their family (aka their fans) is what was most important to them. There was even a point during the first night when there was a sing-a-long that sent shivers down my spine. It was a deep album cut "Present Tense" that was possibly the live highlight of all shows I saw in 2006. If Pearl Jam sold tickets to the highest bidder and the richest people, a moment like this never would have been possible.

As a fan, all I can do is voice my opinion with my wallet. Not only will I choose to not attend any further Bon Jovi concerts but even if I wanted to, I won't be able to afford them. I've never seen a group of individuals so out of touch with reality. Once you begin severing ties with the core group of fans, most of whom kept the band afloat in the 1990's, the beginning of the end is near. Pretty soon these fans will move onto other acts who treat their fans with respect (like Pearl Jam and Tom Petty) while the band will be left with nothing but a bunch of fair weathered soccer mom's who may or may not buy the latest Bon Jovi album. In truth, whether they buy it or not will probably depend on how good Jon Bon Jovi's ass looks on �The View'.

Jon Bon Jovi needs to understand that his core group of fans is not millionaires with expendable income. A wise man once told me, "To understand a fan, you have to be one". What would Jon Bon Jovi have done if Southside Johnny, J Giles Band and Bruce Springsteen had charged a week's salary to see one of their shows? Would Jon have been inspired to make music and change lives? What if he couldn't afford to be inspired and became a full time shoe salesman? The band could play all the stadiums they want if only they kept their ticket prices low. By keeping a fair and cheap ticket price, you will win over m ore die-hard fans than any performance on the �Today Show' or �The View' could ever hope to.

In 2004, I caught five Prince concerts that overwhelmingly inspired me. I saw a total of five shows because the tickets were cheap ($75) and the worse seats I had for the entire tour were 7th row, and I got those off Ticketmaster! He respected his fans and as a result, I could afford to witness multiple sweltering performances that turned me from a casual fan into a die hard. I wound up going back and buying the entire Prince catalog because of the multiple shows I saw. I didn't want to just listen to the hits, but wanted it all! If tickets had been over $100 I probably would have only seen one show and would still only own a handful of albums. More importantly, I'll be sure to see Prince again on his next tour. With the prices Bon Jovi is charging for these shows, this level of devotion will be hard to find.

These offensive ticket prices are the final straw for me with Bon Jovi. I feel as if the band is giving me the middle finger and laughing all the way to the bank at my expense. Thanks but no thanks; I have a mortgage to pay. All I know is that for close to fifteen years I felt that as I matured and began to understand this world, Bon Jovi and their music grew and matured along with me. Each album was better than the previous one and showed artistic development. Their output from 1987 to 2001 changed the way I looked at life and I felt that I could relate to these five guys from New Jersey. Now when I look up at them, I don't see myself in Jon Bon Jovi. All I see is an aging man sadly willing to do anything for the almighty dollar.