Curious Juneau: Why do Norah Jones tickets cost over $500?

Norah Jones performs on tour in 2010 promoting her album "The Fall."
Norah Jones performs on tour in 2010 promoting her album “The Fall.” (Creative Commons photo cropped from original by youngrobv)

Juneau mom Mara Jennings said she was over the moon when she found out Norah Jones was playing a concert in Juneau. Over the years, she’s sung the nine-time Grammy Award winner’s songs like lullabies to her kids at night.

“Yeah, moms get emotional about the songs they sing to their babies growing up. … I absolutely love her. I actually cried a bunch on Friday.”

That was Feb. 1, when the tickets went for sale online through Ticketfly. Jennings had an account ready and an alarm set to buy tickets. But they immediately appeared sold out.

Face value tickets started at about $60. She found tickets on other websites — of ticket resellers, also commonly known as “scalpers” — with huge markups she can’t afford. Up to $585 each.

So why did the prices get so high?

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First off, Norah Jones’ team, the concert promoter and the ticket vendor all declined or didn’t respond to requests for comment.

But I did find someone with years and years of experience with events and ticketing in Juneau: Nancy DeCherney, executive director of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. She also oversees Centennial Hall, which Norah Jones booked for her upcoming concert in July.

She can’t think of another act that’s come to Juneau that’s topped the fervor around Norah Jones.

“Well, people seem pretty upset that they didn’t get tickets. Yeah, it’s caused quite a stir,” DeCherney said. “You know, it’s a small venue for heaven’s sakes.”

To be clear, the arts council wasn’t responsible for the Norah Jones ticket sales, but as the manager of the concert venue, it was given access to an early, limited sale for its members. Similarly — full disclosure — Jones’ team gave KTOO members access to the same early sale after buying promotional underwriting.

DeCherney said professional ticket reselling is rare in Juneau. She can remember one notable case during one of her first years involved with Wearable Art.

“A young man came in and bought more Wearable Art tickets than necessary and sold them on eBay,” she said.

She didn’t know if it worked out for him.

“I mean, it’s a small town, and so we all knew who it was. You know what I mean?” she said, laughing.

At its core, the high prices are an indication of a supply-and-demand imbalance. Too many buyers for too few tickets. Mara Jennings suspects pros may have inflated demand for Norah Jones’ concert.

“Well, my message to Ticketfly,” Jennings said, “would be that I think it would be a step of good faith for them to research the ticket sales for this event and to see if someone has purchased an unusually large number of tickets.”

DeCherney said event organizers and ticket vendors like Vendini, which her organization uses, have a bunch of common ways to combat third-party sellers:

  • Cap how many tickets each buyer can get.
  • Make the tickets non-transferable.
  • Reserve some tickets to sell at the door.

Grumpy consumers probably don’t have a legal recourse. A state Department of Law spokesperson said there’s nothing on the books about reselling tickets.

But many states have tried to legislate remedies. New York, for example, outlaws software-assisted mass buys and requires ticket resellers get licensed and bonded.

Which is secondary market stuff. Before tickets get there, performers do have a supply-side lever of their own. Just this week, Norah Jones announced she was adding a third show in Anchorage due to demand as part of her tour.

And (hint hint, nudge nudge) Norah Jones’ tour schedule has a few buffer days on either side of her show in Juneau.

“I will be hopeful that I will be able to find a way to go enjoy her music live,” Jennings said.

Jeremy Hsieh

Local News Reporter, KTOO

I dig into questions about the forces and institutions that shape Juneau, big and small, delightful and outrageous. What stirs you up about how Juneau is built and how the city works?

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