A Little Friendly Competition: Barclays Center vs. Madison Square Garden

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Last year, New York City’s greatest crosstown rivalry gained some new momentum, with the opening of Barclay’s Center in the borough of Brooklyn. Forget the Giants-Jets, Islanders-Rangers, and Mets-Yankees enmity—the true battle lies in music, more specifically, music venues. Nothing is more exciting than the newly emerged rivalry between the iconic Madison Square Garden and the new Barclays Center for best venue in New York City. To add some more fuel to the culture feud, Brooklyn native and hype-extraordinaire, Jay-Z, spearheaded the opening of the venue in September last year, with eight consecutive sold-out concerts. The opening of Barclay’s Center officially marks the first major league team in recent history to call Brooklyn home, and as such, the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets competition was reborn. But with the new arena, the Manhattan-Brooklyn tension delves deeper than sports, into music, as the boroughs will now rival visiting artists.

We worked out the logistics and found that tickets at the Garden are just $5 more on average than Barclays. Out of the 21 shows we have lined up at MSG, the average price is $286, and out of the 19 shows we have lined up at BC, the average price $281. This leaves Brooklynites and Manhattanites at a stalemate. As of now, opposed to monetary value, crossing the river is purely a matter of taste in choosing a venue. To stay tried and true? Or out with the old and in with the new?


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MSG holds 20,000 seats for concerts, while BC holds 19,000. In its first year, BC grossed $46.9 million in tickets between Nov 2012 and May 2013, while MSG came in second at $39.5 million—MSG has not been the runner-up to any venue in a long time. Partial owner Bruce Ratner considers Barclays Center crucial in “the renaissance of Brooklyn” and at $1 billion to construct, it is “probably the most expensive arena in the country.” Amenities include a grand glass entrance, “Vault Suites” designed by Jay-Z, 100 luxury suites, three clubs, four bars, and food locals will recognize. These impressive niceties outdo the newly remodeled Madison Square Garden and are tantalizing to New Yorkers of all boroughs, who can simply hop on one of the 11 subway lines that cross under the stadium. BC designers were inspired by its famed predecessor, and modeled the arena similar to MSG: “Here you are going to have the same kind of thing, the same kind of feeling of activity that the Garden has,” but when asked to compare MSG to BC, the owner replied, “there is nothing like new. You can renovate your house, but there’s nothing like a brand new house. There’s nothing like a brand new car.” Barclays Center sounds revved up indeed!

There are only two performers playing both venues in the upcoming months. Justin Timberlake averages $475 at Barclays with $105 being the cheapest ticket for his November show. Recently, The 20/20 Experience singer added two back-to-back dates at the Garden in February (2/19-2/20), which are considerably cheaper than his Brooklyn night: the first averages $319 and the second is $259—definitely worth a train ride over to Manhattan to save some bucks. Yo Madison, we’re really happy for you, we’ll let you finish…but Kanye West is also set to play two consecutive nights at Barclays. But, showing no personal arena preference yet, West will also be playing back-to-back shows at MSG: $259 (11/23) and $336 (11/24). Unlike Timberlake, the rapper’s BC arena shows are much cheaper, at $165 (11/19) and $183 (11/20), for just a drive over the Brooklyn Bridge. Kanye West’s addition of shows, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s stake in Barclays, alludes that hip-hop and rap will be a fitting mainstay at the new stadium.

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Brooklynites have won the holiday season concert contest, with BC booking renowned classical singer, Andrea Bocelli, for the second year in a row. The singer formerly slated his holiday shows in Manhattan for nine straight seasons, but he is “particularly excited to perform in Brooklyn…the city that has given me much affection.” His popular concert rounds out the top 5 events at BC, at $381 on average.

The only country artists to visit New York are taking on Madison Square Garden. Keith Urban averages $259 (1/29), while Luke Bryan surprisingly boasts the highest ticket price for all our MSG performers, at a lofty $635 on average (1/25), during the first weeks of his That’s My Kind of Night Tour. It looks like country fans in NY, and all over the country, are salivating for more Southern-fried live music—ticket demand is through the roof. So far, iconic musicians generally prefer old faithful and choose to play at “The Mecca” of music in Manhattan. Elton John ($469), Eagles ($399) and Rod Stewart ($367) are lined up as the most expensive shows at MSG behind Luke Bryan. Conversely, younger artists such as Pink, Pitbull, MGMT and John Mayer are dated at the fresh Barclays. Naturally, Beyoncé will to perform two nights at Barclays, in support of her beau. Her second night in Brooklyn is the highest priced ticket for all BC and MSG shows, at $672 and $113 at the lowest (12/22); Beyoncé’s first night at BC is cheaper, at $414 on average (12/19). Queen B’s hubby Jay-Z will be back at BC for two nights as well: $299 (1/13) and $238 (1/12).

“The World’s Most Famous Arena” is centrally located at 34th Street in the heart of Manhattan, and is as integral to New York as Times Square and the Empire State Building. The Garden hosts over 400 events annually, and has welcomed people through its bedrock doors for over 130 years. MSG has seen two Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fights, Marilyn Monroe and President Kennedy in 1962, and Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra over the years. MSG officials released a statement that expresses its infallible respect as a one of a kind venue that will last the test of time: “While we always respect any competition, the Garden will always be the Garden…It’s the pinnacle of an artist’s career to play at MSG.” But because MSG’s calendar is perpetually chalk-full, having to book between four sports teams and countless artists has proven difficult for performers to play multiple shows, even if able to sell out each night, so, BC grants promoters a fine alternative venue option. In fact, AEG Live officials “consider it a godsend Barclays arena is there. Prior to this we were really kind of held hostage on a tour to the availability of MSG.” Still, other promoters share the feeling that “you can’t trade tradition and that sense of accomplishment for something that’s newer. No one can compete on that level with the Garden. But you can compete on cost and efficiency.”

Barclays provides much-needed breathing room on the NYC music scene, and grants New Yorkers of all boroughs the opportunity to see more live music at a setting that raises the bar. Rather than drinking the Haterade, New Yorkers should appreciate both stadiums that appear to exist in harmony with one other; after all, there cannot be innovation without precedent. No sleep til Brooklyn!

BARCLAYS CENTER
Artist Date Min. Price Avg. Price
Beyonce 12/22/13 $113.00 $671.87
Justin Timberlake 11/6/13 $105.00 $474.79
Pink 12/8/13 $57.00 $418.61
Beyonce 12/19/13 $125.00 $414.25
Andrea Bocelli 12/11/13 $87.00 $381.01
Jay-Z 1/13/14 $19.00 $299.04
Pink 12/9/13 $19.00 $254.64
Alejandro Fernandez 11/21/13 $19.00 $246.72
Cher 5/9/14 $24.00 $237.46
Jay-Z 1/12/14 $19.00 $237.80
Marc Anthony 2/15/14 $19.00 $225.37
Kanye West w/ A Tribe Called Quest 11/20/13 $10.00 $182.81
Pitbull 12/26/13 $57.00 $182.30
John Mayer w/ Phillip Phillips 12/17/13 $19.00 $163.34
Kanye West w/ Kenrick Lamar 11/19/13 $48.00 $165.34
Avett Brothers 3/7/14 $54.00 $146.87
Queens of the Stone Age 12/14/13 $15.00 $129.09
MGMT 12/13/13 $19.00 $95.38

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
Artist Date Min. Price Avg. Price
Luke Bryan 1/25/14 $150.00 $634.48
Elton John 12/4/13 $90.00 $469.06
Eagles 11/9/13 $118.00 $398.74
Rod Stewart 12/9/13 $85.00 $367.45
Eagles 11/11/13 $112.00 $345.23
Phish 12/31/13 $149.00 $343.29
Elton John 12/3/13 $68.00 $337.38
Kanye West w/ A Tribe Called Quest 11/24/13 $68.00 $335.55
Justin Timberlake 2/19/14 $95.00 $319.01
Eagles 11/8/13 $109.00 $316.35
Kings of Leon w/ Gary Clark Jr. 2/14/14 $72.00 $293.14
La Salsa Vive 11/15/13 $90.00 $265.09
Keith Urban 1/29/14 $53.00 $261.19
Justin Timberlake 2/20/14 $123 $259.00
Kanye West w/ Kendrick Lamar 11/23/13 $73.00 $258.74
Phish 12/30/13 $81.00 $214.50
Armin Van Buuren 4/11/14 $68.00 $200.09
Phish 12/28/13 $75.00 $191.63
Phish 12/29/13 $77.00 $190.78
Ed Sheeran 11/7/13 $69.00 $171.28
Paramore 11/13/13 $41.00 $126.64
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  1. [...] many think of Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden as the top music venues in New York, locals often prefer the famed Roseland Ballroom as their venue [...]

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