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U2 Promoter Defends Tour's Festival Seating

Posted on Monday, January 22 @ 01:49:56 CET by Macphisto

(VH1) -- By Corey Moss

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 ticket prices down.

"By making this tour general-admission seating on the floor, we are able to price the tickets considerably lower than reserved seating," Arthur Fogel, SFX Music Group's president of touring, 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 when nine concertgoers died as a result of a crowd crush at a Pearl Jam festival performance last summer in Denmark.

But Wertheimer - who authored the task-force report on the 1979 Who concert stampede in Cincinnati that left 11 fans dead - 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 www.crowdsafe.com, was glad to hear SFX say that safety is a priority with the 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."

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 after tickets quickly sold out in those markets. Tickets for shows in the remaining cities go on sale this weekend.

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, Fla., and will continue at least until June 21.

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