By Sue Zeidler
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Wild horses couldn't drag many of the most die-hard of Rolling Stones fans to the kick-off of the band's North American tour - at least not at prices of up to a whopping $600 a ticket.
Three weeks after tickets went on sale, and a day before the British band take the stage on Friday, the Los Angeles Staples Center was far from sold out for the "50 and Counting" gig.
Secondary ticket sellers StubHub had more than 500 tickets available 24 hours before the May 3 show, Good Seat tickets said they were slashing re-sale prices by 40 percent, and Epic Nation rolled out a 10 percent discount code.
The veteran rock band announced on their official website this week that they were releasing an additional number of tickets at a modest $85, the only price point that quickly sold out for the May 3 concert.
According to the website, some of the $85 seats will be among the best seats in house in the "Tongue Pit," with others spread around the arena. Buyers will be notified of their seat location on the day of the show.
Concert promoters AEG denied they were cutting prices, saying tickets once thought to have an obstructed view had come to light after the tongue and lip shaped stage was set up.
"Seeing (the stage) in this setting for the first time, we were able to determine that seats previously thought to have obstructed views were in fact unobstructed and could immediately be offered to fans for $85 each," AEG said in a statement.
On Thursday, seats at prices ranging from $250 to $600 were still available, according to the AXS website operated by AEG, which owns the Staples Center arena that seats about 19,000 people.
BIGGEST STONES TOUR IN SIX YEARS
Friday's show officially kicks off the band's 17-date North American tour to mark their 50 years in the music business. It's the biggest tour by the Stones in six years and follows a handful of dates in London, Paris and New York at the end of 2012.
Tickets for the London shows in November sold out swiftly despite complaints from fans over similarly high prices.
"Having a $600 price point for prime seats is definitely pushing the envelope," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar, a concert industry magazine.
He noted it was a particularly tough sell to core Rolling Stones fans who have seen the band many times.
"It's easy for someone who has seen them to rationalize and say I'm not sure I want to skip my mortgage payment to see them again," he told Reuters.
Nevertheless Bongiovanni expects sales to pick up with the lower prices. "I wouldn't expect a lot of empty seats because they're repricing tickets to whatever it takes," he said.
The band played a more reasonably priced $20 "surprise" gig in Los Angeles last Saturday.
The Rolling Stones last went on the road from 2005 to 2007, playing 144 shows globally and grossing more than $550 million, one of the world's most lucrative tours.
Guitarist Mick Taylor, who played with the Stones from 1969 to 1974, is joining frontman Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and drummer Charlie Watts, as a guest on the North American tour.
As was the case last year, the set list is expected to focus on classic Stones hits like "Gimme Shelter," "Paint it Black" and "Jumping Jack Flash."
Later this summer, The Rolling Stones will play London's Hyde Park, and for the first time in their career, the Glastonbury music festival in England, both of which are sold out.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Eric Walsh)