On Thursday, Feb. 28, country musician Willie Nelson will perform at Pomona College in Bridges Auditorium, but unlike many recent big-name performances at Bridges, such as Childish Gambino and Eddie Izzard, no special ticket price is available for students. Tickets are listed on the Bridges website at $48, $58, and $68, depending on seat location. Bridges Auditorium officials said that the higher ticket prices are necessary because Nelson’s concert is not being subsidized by funds from the 5Cs.
Bridges Events Manager Sharon Kuhn said that while the prices may seem high, they are actually much lower than other Southern California Nelson concerts.
“If you look on StubHub, they are selling for between $112 and $125,” Kuhn said, regarding tickets to a Nelson show in nearby Northridge.
While a show in Indio offers tickets as low as $39, Kuhn said that those are for standing room only on the far-off lawn and will provide nothing close to the intimate experience offered at Bridges.
Chris Waugh, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Bridges Auditorium, explained that there are different types of events offered at Bridges. Some events are funded through Claremont McKenna College, the Smith Campus Center (SCC) and Student Programs at Pomona, or other consortium organizations, but this is not the case for the upcoming Nelson concert.
“In those cases the entire cost of the show is already paid for going into it,” Waugh said, explaining that for such events Bridges is able to offer students discounted tickets.
The popular Childish Gambino concert last fall, which sold student tickets for $25, was cosponsored by CMC’s yearly concert fund and the SCC.
For non-subsidized events, Bridges staff must find other ways to cover the cost of the show. For some shows, such as the upcoming Bill Maher performance in May, music agents approach Bridges and rent the space out. For shows like the Willie Nelson concert and last October’s Capitol Steps performance, Bridges pays a fee to bring an artist to the venue and must price tickets accordingly in order to break even. Waugh said Bridges is trying to host more of these events.
“What we’re interested in doing with [Bridges] is beginning our own production of a season … We’ve done a few of those productions this year: Capitol Steps was one, in the fall, and Willie Nelson is another. Capitol Steps was extremely inexpensive to produce, so it didn’t take very much to recoup costs. I think we had special student prices for that,” Waugh said.
He said that for this type of event, Bridges staff attempt to keep ticket prices as low as possible. However, because of the fees required by artists, certain performances will have a heftier ticket price, and discounted tickets will not always be available.
Waugh and Kuhn are aware that ticket prices for the Nelson concert may be too high for many students. In order to provide more opportunities for students to attend, they have distributed a certain number of extra tickets for free through Bridges social media sites.
Ella Taranto PO ’15, who will be attending the Nelson concert next Thursday, received two free tickets after winning a lottery for students who had “liked” the link to the Nelson concert on Bridges Auditorium’s Facebook page.
“I’m a big fan of oldtime country, and I’m sort of getting into bluegrass … I wasn’t going to pay that much to go, but I’m excited to go now that I have free tickets,” Taranto said.
Taranto said she appreciated the spirit of the giveaways in that they make expensive concerts affordable to community members who are not willing or able to pay for a ticket.
“I think it brings the community more into the concert, as opposed to just having the concert here and bringing in a lot of outsiders who would come to see Willie Nelson for that much,” Taranto said.
Kuhn said she believes the Willie Nelson concert in particular will attract more local residents than students, due to the nature of the performer.
“A lot of students that I’ve talked to have said, ‘Willie who?’ It’s just not on their radar, and I understand that. This is a community show; if it turns out that way, fine. A lot of faculty and staff are interested. I have had some students purchase, but they’re laid back about it,” she said.
Rob Knickerbocker PO ’15 agreed that the $48 minimum price will likely be a deterrent to many students, including himself. He said he wishes Bridges would make an effort to make ticket prices affordable for students.
“I think it is important because students don’t have very much money,” he said.