Prices soaring in Korea for classical music performancesJang Yu-ho, 44, has attended the concert of almost every famous visiting orchestra since he was in college.
But Jang recently decided not to go to hear the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Seoul Arts Center last month.
Instead he booked a ticket to a concert by the same orchestra in Tokyo in November. The most expensive seat for the Seoul concert was 400,000 won ($428), compared to 31,000 yen (about $263) for a seat in Tokyo.
“The ticket is cheaper with a better program,” he said. “So my wife and I decided that we might as well travel to Japan.”
Some of the top orchestras around the world have played or will play in Seoul this year. But complaints are pouring in from classical music fans about the soaring ticket prices.
Critics say that the cost of concert tickets to see world-class orchestras in Korea are higher than in many other countries.
The most expensive seats for the Vienna Philharmonic at London’s Barbican Center, for example, were ?65 ($122); in New York, a concert by the same orchestra at Carnegie Hall cost $92 for the best seats.
But in Korea, the most expensive seats to hear the orchestra, which performed in Hong Kong and Sydney after their Seoul concert, ranged from 210,000 to 220,000 won ― double the price in other nations on the same tour.
Sarah Chang, a violinist who appeared as a soloist during the concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, was surprised to find out about the ticket cost during an interview with the Korean press.
The most expensive ticket for Concentus Musicus, which will perform in Seoul in November, is 300,000 won, but in Tokyo, the best seats only cost the equivalent of just over $190.
The best seats for the Berlin Philharmonic, which sold at a record-breaking price of 450,000 won in Seoul last year, were 36,000 yen in Tokyo, and 2,000 yuan (about $253) in China during the same tour.
Industry experts said that the high ticket costs are largely due to the small scale of the classical music industry in Korea. Because there is only enough demand to fill five or six concerts on a single tour, they say the only profit option is to raise ticket prices. Others blame a lack of corporate sponsorship. Corporate funding is not helping lower ticket costs, one expert said, because many Korean companies, instead of providing cash to help hire the venues, buy bulk packages of tickets.
“It’s put a lot of burden on organizers of classical concerts, because corporate sponsors tend to invest more in musicals than classical music these days,” says an industry insider.
There is also the social bias that classical music is an icon of high society, inducing high ticket costs. In fact, the best seats for the Vienna Philharmonic were sold out a week before the performance.
“Ticket prices are soaring because classical music is considered nothing more than an elegant pasttime of rich people,” says Park Seong-jun, a composer.
by Kim Ho-jeong