Cohen tickets go on sale starting at about $300

Tickets go on sale today for the Nov 27 concert in Phnom Penh of iconic singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, with prices starting at $282.50 plus booking fees, local promoter Mekong Sessions said yesterday.

Christopher Minko, executive director of the Mekong Sessions, defended the high ticket-prices yesterday in an interview, saying proceeds from the concert will go to charitable causes. He also said Cambodia stands to benefit from the money spent by visitors who come to Phnom Penh for the show.

“The real beneficiaries of the concert will be ordinary Cambodians, the market sellers, the hotels who will benefit from the influx of tourism,” Mr Minko said, adding that the government will benefit from entrance visa fees.

Some $200,000 in proceeds from the Nov 27 performance will be used to refurbish the iconic Olympic Stadium, where the concert is to be held, with another $200,000 going to the Cambodian Red Cross and to build a school in Prey Veng province, according to Mr Minko.

About $100,000 from the show will go to support the next concert in the Mekong Sessions series, which Mr Minko said is meant to promote “Phnom Penh as an up-market cultural center of Southeast Asia.”

Asked who that performer is, Mr Minko said “the answer is blowing in the wind,” an apparent reference to a famous song by Bob Dylan. He declined to comment further. In the past Mr Minko said the Mekong Sessions considered trying to book Mr Dylan.

Mr Cohen’s international tour manager, AEG Live, is in a “long-term” partnership with the Mekong Sessions, according to Mr Minko. He said the US-based firm has also “made a commitment to promote internationally” popular Cambodian singer Preap Sovath, although he said the singer himself was currently unaware of this.

AEG Live President Rob Hallet did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Six hundred of the 3,600 tickets for Mr Cohen’s Phnom Penh concert are set to go on sale online at 4 pm Saturday for Cambodian residents, with another 300 available at the Mekong Session’s Phnom Penh office, according to Mr Minko. Unsold tickets in this batch will made available to buyers from anywhere in the world at 3 pm Sunday, he said.

Members of Mr Cohen’s fan clubs have been able to buy tickets since July 1, and Mr Minko said European fans have bought a significant number, although he declined to provide exact figures. He said making tickets available beforehand to fan club members was done at the request of Mr Cohen, who usually performs before sold out shows.

Tickets prices for the singer songwriter’s performance in Cambodia range from $282.50 to $565, plus booking and transaction fees, which is a hefty chunk of Cambodia’s 2009 per capita income, estimated by the World Bank as $650.

Tickets are more expensive in Cambodia than in the wealthier countries of Australia and New Zealand, where Mr Cohen will stop before his visit to Phnom Penh, and where tickets were listed yesterday for just under $200.

Mr Minko said he didn’t need to “justify” prices for the show in Cambodia. But he cited high production costs, saying sound equipment is being brought in from around the region.

The concert is targeting the “well-heeled,” Mr Minko said, adding that about half of the “constant stream” of inquires have been from Cambodians. He drew comparisons between Mr Cohen, known for his melancholy songs, and Cambodian legendary singer Sinn Sisamouth.

Mr Minko said he was responding to criticism in the blogsophere over Mr Cohen’s Nov 27 show.

One local blogger wrote this month that the concert is “a rather expensive night out in one of the poorest countries on the planet.” Another said the show “should be available for ALL, not the rich and famous.”

Phany Tum, country manager of local NGO Cambodian Living Arts, said by telephone yesterday that “a lot of Cambodians will not be able to afford that ticket price.”

But she added that she didn’t think the show is “a bad thing if it’s a benefit for Cambodians.”


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