Are tickets becoming too expensive?

Aug 2016 Are tickets becoming too expensive?

With audience numbers reportedly dropping for many types of shows, including 60 music tours and one-nighters, questions are being asked about the cost of tickets now that booking fees and other charges are added into the original price.

Tickets for Björk’s Royal Albert Hall show cost £99. For Beyoncé’s Formation tour, it was in more than £100.

At Radiohead’s three night run at the Roundhouse, it was £70.

Fans are counting – and questioning – the cost of top level tickets, and asking; “Are gigs getting too expensive?”

Mark Sutherland, editor of industry magazine Music Week, said: “I think it’s fair to say inflation for ticket prices has been running above that of other things, especially other sectors of the industry.”

Statistics show that, between 1982 and 2012, average cost of a gig ticket increased by 400%, and according to Statista, worldwide average cost of a concert ticket now stands at $78.77 (£59.94).

Even allowing for acts such as U2 and Madonna grossing the budget deficit of a small country every time they tour, the rise in prices is evident everywhere. The Stone Roses’ hugely successful comeback shows in 2012/13 were priced at £55: this summer their shows at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium were £75. It’s unlikely the promise of hearing All For One accounts for a £20 increase.

Gig listings for autumn show a range of artists charging £50 and more, once fees have been accounted for (Faithless, PJ Harvey, Selena Gomez).

Some artists’ managements say ‘a million quid a night – take it or leave it’, so £120 is the ticket price. Most promoters are wary of balancing making money and attracting fans.

“Ticket pricing is a delicate thing,” said Steve Parker, managing editor of Live UK magazine.

Jeff Craft, head of X Ray Touring agency, says “hugely increased touring costs” are often behind the bigger prices. “Equipment hire, trucking, crew wages, catering and every other aspect of touring is more and more expensive – especially at the highest level where audiences expect to see huge productions. The competition between artists at this level is intense, so the costs continue to spiral upwards.”

I was told production costs for a visual extravaganza were the principal reason Björk, a unique, critically-acclaimed artist, but hardly a best seller, is charging so much. But is it fair that such external costs are passed onto the paying punter?

Geoff Meall, MD at United Talent Agency, said: “In years gone by, lower level touring was given record company tour support, which allowed artists to cover losses, charge less on tickets and get more people in that way. With the massive decline in recording music, tour support isn’t coming as it used to be – and bands need to raise money from ticketing to cover costs.”

But are those extra costs necessarily equating to a better show? Few came away from Beyoncé’s stadium gigs feeling short changed, but such universal praise doesn’t necessarily correlate with ticket price.

“An artist should be giving a show that is value for money,” says Meall. “And as you go from theatres to arenas to stadiums, a punter paying more money expects a better show. If you don’t offer that, you’ll eventually get found out.”

The issue of the secondary market, where sold out tickets are traded for inflated prices online, is also having an effect on prices.

While a lot of artists and promoters are opposed to secondary ticketing, prices charged on the secondary market point to tickets being obviously under-priced in the primary market. It all leaves the fans out of pocket. Poor people get priced out by those trying to take advantage of maximum money.

So it seems the fans’ dilemma – pay up or miss out – is only going to become more acute. People will still take advantage of the fact it is there to maximise income.

The limit is when people stop paying it.

Shaun Curran