The summer concert season hasn’t yet started and tickets to see Barbra Streisand are already sold out, while Depeche Mode will be filling Hayarkon Park for the second time in four years. But with all due respect to promoter Shuki Weiss, who always manages to sprinkle Israel with a bit of stardust, the number of big-name international performers appearing here in the next few months can’t be compared to the wave about to sweep Europe.
Beyonce, Rihanna, the Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen are just some of the names that will be filling the concert calendar in Europe almost daily from May through October. Israeli concertgoers don’t want to be left behind: As in previous years, hordes will be descending on Europe’s parks and stadiums to take in the atmosphere.
“There are acts that will never reach Israel, so this is an excellent alternative,” says Roni Keren, who tries to attend performances in Europe every summer. “Israeli audiences miss out on many shows because of the security situation, political tensions, or just because we’re a backwater. So the best bet is to fly a few hours to where the performance is taking place, enjoying a vacation and another few days in Europe along the way.”
Ido Veg, marketing director at Issta Music, says the phenomenon is just gathering steam and musical tourism from Israel is growing from summer to summer. “It’s mainly happening because international performers began arriving more in Israel and people can’t get enough,” he explains. “Also, even though the Open Skies pact with Europe hasn’t yet been implemented, in recent years the cost of flying is lower than before, so many people have already visited Europe’s major cities. The performances provide an opportunity to enhance the trip, so instead of just flying to Barcelona and seeing the same old sights, you can also see Rihanna and experience something new.”
More than 20,000 Israelis going
The talk at travel agencies is that around 20,000 Israelis using their services are expected to fly this summer to shows abroad. Many more travelers, however, bypass the agencies and buy their tickets directly from the official concert promoters.
A brief search of Israeli websites reveals countless packages for performances in Europe that include tickets to the show, airfare, hotel, and even shuttles from the airport in some cases.
At On.Tour, which specializes in musical tourism, they explain that all their packages are built around the shows. “We direct customers to packages we’ve created,” says marketing manager Tal Ben-Shitrit. “We only deal with music, and all our resources are focused on finding the best shows at the most comfortable prices. For Beyonce’s tour, for example, we offer Berlin as a package even though she’s also appearing in London, since just the concert ticket in London could cost as much as the entire package in Berlin.”
The big advantage in packages offered by Israeli agencies is the peace of mind in knowing that the concert tickets are genuine and will arrive on time. But seasoned music fans say there’s another way.
Tom Shadmi, who chose to spend his post-army vacation following concert festivals in Europe for half a year, says there’s no reason not to put together a trip independently when it comes to Europe’s major cities, even for someone who’s never gone before.
“The best way to order tickets is through the official website of the performer or band, but to do this it’s better to register ahead of time to the email lists of the artists you plan to see, for immediate notification when they announce they’re going on tour,” he says. But the problem is that tickets from the official website are exhausted quickly, he explains, and then the next possibility is through the large ticket vendors. “Websites like viagogo are like an eBay for tickets, but there tickets that are meant to cost 50 euros will probably sell for 150 euros, while companies in Israel will charge even more.”
Another way to save, according to Shadmi, is by looking for a cheap flight corresponding with the concert dates. Dedicated fans, he says, are willing to take indirect flights, hitchhike, and check for other shows being staged nearby to take in as many performances as possible.
Surveying a number of performances to be held in Europe over the coming months, we found that tickets still being offered on the entertainer’s official website are more reasonable than those offered by the Israeli companies. The next possibility is viagogo and Israeli websites like ticketingo and Live Tickets, but the prices are higher, as can be expected from outside distributors.
For instance, a standing room only ticket to see Springsteen in Munich next month costs NIS 393 at his official website, and just several shekels more at viagogo. The same ticket at ticketingo, however, is offered at NIS 579, reaching almost double − NIS 735 − at Live Tickets. The Israeli option almost always boosts the price by around 30%, but is considered a safer bet since the website has Hebrew-speaking staff and is available to take calls if any problems arise.
“The direct market belongs to companies receiving a license from performers and serving as official agents for the tickets, usually at a 10% fee,” says Dror Levy, deputy CEO at ticketingo. “We, in contrast, operate as brokers in the secondary market and our price varies according to supply and demand.”
The secondary market, adds Levy, is split between brokers like ticketingo and exchanges like viagogo, which he claims could be a problem. “They have a large supply and well-maintained websites, but their level of liability is limited,” he says. “They are truly 100% responsible, and let’s say a customer buys a Rolling Stones ticket in London but the supplier disappears, they really might refund the customer. But this doesn’t help the Israeli customer who already bought a plane ticket and paid for the hotel. With Israeli companies this wouldn’t happen.”
Anyone who managed to buy tickets from the official agent could arrange airline and hotel bookings more cheaply on their own, provided they do it at least a month or two before the performance, not at the last minute, according to Veg.
On examining seven packages for performances in Europe, we found that for six, the trip could be put together more cheaply than the prices offered by travel agents. The differences stretched to NIS 1,000 per person in a double-occupancy room and could grow even more using indirect flights.
But since most of the official tickets for this summer have already run out, for several hundred shekels more you can buy some inner calm before your rendezvous with the stars and the right to complain if anything goes wrong. Still, it pays to comparison shop.
For example, a package offered at the ticketim website with a standing room only ticket to see Beyonce in Berlin on May 23 costs NIS 3,600 for a five-night stay in a three-star hotel. At Issta Music the following day’s show costs NIS 3.553 with three nights at a four-star hotel and a ticket in the upper grandstand.