Rock dinosaurs claw in the cash

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Money, it's a gas. Grab that

cash with both hands and

make a stash

Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

WITH a cash register jangling in the background, Pink Floyd were declaring their disdain for big-profit, corporate rock. But today the lyrics seem not subversive but prophetic.

Twenty-one years on, Floyd are part of a new trend among the rock elite - mostly British and dating back to the early Seventies - to drastically push up ticket prices for this year's American concert season. In some instances fans will have to pay more than dollars 100 each.

It is a trend some will see as finally squelching any notion that the performers have any lingering attachment to the counter-culture. In a recent book, Sound Bites, the contemporary music historian Albert Goldman calls some veteran British groups 'robber bands' bent on 'crass exploitation' of American fans.

However, it is a long-disbanded California group, the Eagles, who plan to charge dollars 115 for selected seats at their reunion concerts to be held later this summer.

Barbra Streisand showed the way by charging dollars 1,000 (pounds 650) a seat for her Las Vegas comeback concert in January, after an absence of 22 years. Tickets for the subsequent US tour sold for dollars 350 each. Yet they were snapped up within hours.

Tickets for Pink Floyd's 59-concert North American tour, already under way, were set at between dollars 22 and dollars 75. Elton John, who will be on a double bill with Billy Joel, is expected to pitch between dollars 50 and dollars 70. 'I think it's horrible,' says Cameron Greider, a guitarist with PM Dawn, an alternative hip-hop band that toured recently with Peter Gabriel. 'Especially when you consider how quickly the prices have gone up. It's not like they're passing on increased costs. They've been testing the market and realised like, the sky's the limit. Who wants to see the Eagles play 'Tequila Sunrise' from half a mile away anyway?'

Gary Bongiovanni, the editor of Pollstar magazine, points out that scaled pricing has long been the norm in the rest of the music industry. 'But rock bands thought somehow it would clash with their image to have their names on a ticket with prices of dollars 50 and dollars 60, or dollars 110 for that matter. That anxiety seems to have evaporated.'

James Monaco, spokesman for Toronto-based Concert Productions International, which is promoting the Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones tours, admits prices are higher, but argues: 'The profit margins are not what people think. It takes a fantastic amount of resources to put on a show like the Pink Floyd tour.'

He also blames the recent improvement in the American economy and the frustration of bands with touts who buy concert tickets in bulk at retail and pass them on for huge profits.

Jann Wenner, editor of Rolling Stone, claims the prices are not exorbitant. 'You'd pay the same for a good hockey game.'