Drake and Ye (perhaps still better known as Kanye West) may have put aside their beef in performing a concert together next week, but the ticket pricing strategy seems to have gone very wrong despite the presence of two mega-stars on the bill. Sky-high ticket prices as well as liberal use of “dynamic” and “platinum” pricing schemes have left the event far away from anything even close to sold out with just days to go before the performers take the stage in California.

“Free Larry Hoover” was announced just shy of two weeks ago, bringing together Drake and Ye at the Los Angeles Coliseum on December 9. The benefit concert is an attempt to “raise awareness and support for Larry Hoover and the cause of prison and sentencing reform,” but the conversation thus far from fans has mostly surrounded the astronomical asking prices involved. With more than 70,000 seats available at the spacious venue, the get-in price was set at a minimum of $200, with lower level seats going for more than $400 at “standard” prices, with dynamic price surging and “platinum” tickets closer to the stage reaching well over $1,000 on the primary market, including some at $4,000 even before fees are added.

“Fans shocked by ticket prices for Kayne and Drake’s “Free Larry Hoover” show,” read the headline of a story posted by The Source Magazine after the event went on sale. HipHopDX went with “Kanye West & Drake’s Larry Hoover concert ticket prices make DONDA event feel like charity” with its headline. Fans themselves were not shy about their thoughts on social media.

While the sum generated by what sales have happened is likely astronomical, the strategy seems to have imploded in a similar fashion to other aggressively priced tours in recent years – an estimated 20,000 seats remain unsold on the primary market, and that’s likely an underestimation, given that large swaths of the stadium likely have unsold rows that simply aren’t being displayed at all when one visits the Ticketmaster event page, which already features a sea of blue dots indicating available seats.

With limited time to the show and so much inventory remaining unsold, the prices are beginning to fall, with tickets that had previously been marked up as “platinum” now going as “standard” for hundreds less, and standard tickets seeing prices dropped as well. In practice, this of course makes sense, save for the fact that it penalizes the most dedicated fans who show up during the initial moments of the tickets going on sale, instead favoring those who are fine with waiting it out until the price drops closer to the show date.

Just Friday morning, prices across the board were once again slashed, with the get-in price cut in half to $100 in the upper level, and lower level seats cut to below $300 – a slap in the face for anyone who purchased the day of the initial sale when the same seats or worse were “platinum” priced at more than three times that figure, not including fees.

Similar strategies were put in place by Taylor Swift’s management on her Reputation Tour three years ago. Promoters used Ticketmaster’s “verified fan” system to stoke the impression of enormous demand for the stadium run, then priced tickets very aggressively, even adding shows in several cities and citing the enormous demand. But as show dates came closer, huge sections of previously held-back tickets were moved through back channels at steep discounts, and sometimes free, in order to avoid the embarrassment of taking the stage in front of a half-empty building after an aggressive public relations campaign talking up how hot the sales had been.

Such strategies, often referred to as “slow ticketing” involve throwing away the concept of any “face value” entirely, and just pricing tickets as high as they can go at any given moment, capitalizing on peak demand when an artist’s biggest fans who will buy regardless are making emotional, rather than rational, decisions. In order to work, the strategy requires both time to move the tickets despite the prohibitive cost, and sleight of hand – deceiving consumers regarding how many tickets are actually available vs. held back and hidden from view.

It may work in terms of the revenue captured by the event organizers (selling the early tickets for maximum value makes up for the late discounts), but it comes at the expense of the wallets of the biggest fans – and instead of a small number of consumers paying secondary market prices for a sold-out show, the entirety of the most ardent supporters pay prices that are higher than the secondary market would charge instead.

In the instance of the Free Larry Hoover benefit event, the timeline may have been too short for the strategy to work at all, given the number of tickets remaining on sale (or hidden entirely) just days out. It would not be shocking to see a complete price collapse over the weekend – or an event postponement to buy more time to make sales.

As one might point out, there is the “benefit” aspect of the concert, which means that some portion of the funds may be going to one of the various charitable organizations cited on the event website. But numerous requests for details on that front to both concert organizers and venue operators have gone unanswered as of Friday morning. TicketNews also directly contacted each of the charitable organizations listed on the Coliseum’s event page – The Innocence Project, Reform Alliance, Dream Corps, FAMM, Alliance for Safety and Justice, Anti Recidivism, Buried Alive Project, FRRC, and The Sentencing Project – but none responded to a request for confirmation that they had been pledged any financial support from the event ticket sales.

Last Updated on December 3, 2021

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