Classic rock legend Billy Joel remains one of the most popular concert acts. The Piano Man consistently plays sold-out shows for his Madison Square Garden residency and tours worldwide. Joel makes plenty of money for his live performances, but he loses over $20,000 every show for refusing to sell one type of ticket.
Billy Joel regularly performs at Madison Square Garden and tours the world
Joel is famous for adoring his hometown, New York City, and that love extends to where he plays concerts. The “Uptown Girl” singer-songwriter is renowned for almost exclusively playing concerts in Manhattan, specifically the 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden. Joel has performed at least one show a month at the venerated arena since 2014.
But when he’s not tickling the ivories at The Garden, Joel plays sold-out stadiums across the nation and the globe. The rock star has performed in cities worldwide, including Dublin, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, and Melbourne. Each show’s total ticket sales can make Joel millions of dollars.
Billy Joel loses thousands every night by giving away front-row tickets
Some of the “New York State of Mind” singer’s tickets carry a hefty price tag, but it’s not all about money for Joel. At every show, he never sells front-row tickets. In fact, he leaves the first few rows unsold. But that doesn’t mean those seats remain empty.
“About 25 years ago, I got tired of looking down [at the crowd],” Joel explained during a 2017 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “The first-row tickets are always scalper tickets — always somebody who paid way too much money to be a big shot, sit in the front row.”
So Joel decided, “Screw this. The real fans are in the back.” Since then, he has sent crew members to the seats in the back to find enthusiastic ticketholders. The crew upgrades them to free front-row tickets, and Joel enjoys seeing genuine fans’ reactions while he performs.
According to a TikTok video, this practice loses Joel $20,000 to $50,000 per show. For comparison, Paul McCartney charged $3,000 for front-row tickets at a 2019 show, KWQC reports. But having real, passionate fans in the front rows is priceless to Joel.
The Piano Man is on tour with Stevie Nicks and has upcoming dates at The Garden
Joel recently kicked off a series of performances with Fleetwood Mac star Stevie Nicks. They performed in LA earlier this month and have upcoming shows in Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and other U.S. cities through December 2023. In addition, he has a solo show in London this summer.
That’s in addition to his usual slate of New York City performances. The 73-year-old has played a whopping 134 shows at Madison Square Garden throughout his career and shows no signs of stopping.
“I thought it would kind of taper off after four, five years,” Joel told Jimmy Kimmel. “But they’re buying tickets faster now than they were at the beginning.”
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