The Met Ticket Prices In Comparison

January 18, 2001

Thanks to Christopoher for his useful information and insights about arts funding in the US. He makes important points, but in a couple cases I have different information--though it is not based on absolutely rock solid research. This is all a wide open problem and I am not equal to the task.

1. There are economical seats at the Met, but in the view of many, the seats in the "Family Circle" ($25) are really quite bad. And even the seats in the next category, the "Balcony" ($50) are not much better. Partially blocked aerial views of opera are not always inspiring, to say nothing of the acoustics. And more importantly, I think European comparisons would generally throw the Met's average ticket price of $150 into a bad light, even in the better houses. (Ah, the many things I should research... Maybe someone can help, especially if I am wrong.)

2. Last summer Michelle posted very interesting information about the cost of the Met's tickets in comparison to other types of events. A comparison of the Met's average ticket at $150 made it more expensive on average than any of the other events she listed, including musicals and pop concerts. (I do not say this to attack the Met or opera, but to criticize America's system of funding the arts. Views that makes me mainstream here in Europe make me a leftist-pinko-pervert in America.)

Here are the prices Michelle listed as advertised on the web last summer by "Ticketmaster" at:

pop concerts:
Santana $30-59.50
Ani Di Franco, Rochester $26
Britney Spears, NY State Fair $33-35

Elton John & Tim Rice's Aida $10-85
Disney Presents Lion King $24-90
Blue Man Group, NYC $55

family "entertainment":
Pokeman Live $14.50-29.50

sporting events:
New York Yankees, at home $8-55

the movies:
General Admission, Hoyts Cinema, Ithaca NY: $7.50

amusement parks:
A ticket to 6 Flags, Darien Lake costs approx. $25.

Met $25 and $275

At $150, the Met is on average about three times more expensive than even the most costly events Michelle listed in her table of comparisons, way beyond Ms. Spears or the "Lion King" which hardly need subsidies because they only have a small fraction of the production costs and enjoy mass appeal.

For those interested in a closer analysis, the problem is made even worse by the way the Met sells tickets. 
As the Met's site says:

"Subscribers to Full-Series or Mini-Series receive the best seats in the
house which are guaranteed for renewal each year. Subscribers', Patrons',
and Guild Members' ticket requests are processed before tickets go on sale
to the general public. Additionally, Subscribers have exclusive privileges
including ticket exchanges, advance notice of all Met performances, and
priority invitations to Galas and other Special Events." 

The "series" packages range from 6 to 10 tickets. For the most economical
decent seats (Dress Circle,) this means the prices for a couple range from
$960 to $1600. Such expenditures would stress the average middle class
income. For the most expensive seats it would cost a couple from $1650 to
$2750. Since series subscribers receive priority ticketing and renewals,
most of the good seats are not available to those who can only afford to
buy tickets for single performances. And then come the ticketing
priorities given to the "Patrons" who pay from $1500 to $15,000 for that

I admire the attempts of the Met and many other arts organizations to reach a wider public, but I feel they face systemic problems in funding that create forms of cultural plutocracy. Through the long term effects of cultural isomorphism with the society that surrounds them, many of the more elite US performing arts institutions seem to have merged their identities with these forms of cultural plutocracy which they then consciously or unconsciously regenerate. But again, this is all beyond me.

Thanks again to Christopher (and Michelle from last summer) for their thoughts and insights. 

William Osborne