Are Costly Gig Tickets Damaging the Music Industry?

What can you buy that lasts two hours and costs more than a week’s holiday in the sun? Watching your favourite band or artist perform live in a clammy arena could set you back a small fortune.

Ticket prices have been rapidly escalating for the past few years and it’s having a knock-on effect on the number of tickets getting sold. In the USA, the average price of a concert ticket during the first six months of last year was $46.69 which was over 4% higher than the average cost of a ticket for the same period last year, according to the latest figures from music industry magazine Pollstar.

Krueger, a professor of Economics and Public Policy in Princeton, New Jersey found that “The top 5 per cent of artists in 1982 generated 62 per cent of the revenue. Today, they’re generating 84 per cent of the revenue. More people are paying more to see the best.” The reason the world’s most successful artists and bands can opt to charge so much is because their music reaches fans all over the world. But interestingly, Krueger said he was interested to learn that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band has the same price range wherever he performs, and that this year his concert tour ticket price is $75. “That’s kind of a throwback to the days when high and low prices were the same,” he said.

He also discovered that genre played a part in hefty price tags for gigs and festivals; Jazz and Pop tickets tended to cost more than Reggae or Folk events. The four main reasons he found that may be behind the rapidly rising costs of tickets could be in increase in production charges, consolidation and job loss in the industry, the effects of digital and illegal music or even that tickets were too cheap to begin with. However, these prices don’t even take into account the fee that ticket touts or sites such as SeatWave or Viagogo may charge fans.

The Rolling Stones released tickets for their 50th anniversary tour last October, and outraged fans by making them fork out as much as £375 to see the Rock legends live. The band are said to be facing empty seats at many venues as their tour kicks off this month. Perhaps it was simply an overestimation of how eager Stones’ fans and how willing they are to fork out so much cash in such desperate economic times.

According to the Daily Mail, the band are set to rake in £15.7 million from their four gigs in the UK this year. The Editor in Chief of Classic Rock magazine, Scott Rowley calculated that the four original members of the band could earn an extortionate hourly rate of $781,250, which is approximately half a million pounds an hour.  “The thing is that people will pay it. The Stones don’t tour that often so it’s still a special event, there’s the suggestion that this really could be the last time…” he said. “These ticket prices are like a tax on people who haven’t seen them yet.”

But perhaps Mr. Rowley doesn’t know his music fans as well as he thinks he does. More £55 tickets have been released on the band’s site Rollingstones.com to try and fill as many seats as possible. It appears the tour’s organisers and promoters have recognised the unjustified price tag was simply unaffordable for so many.

Cut backs in the music industry, just like so many other sectors today, mean that events such as festivals are suffering substantially too. Both last year and this, Sonisphere festival was cancelled in the UK due to lack of interest. However, Sonisphere 2013 will visit mainland Europe. Hop Farm festival has also been cancelled this year because of poor ticket sales despite the fact that it was due to be headlined by My Bloody Valentine and Rodriguez. Ten thousand tickets were released for this year’s Kent based festival in spite of its organisers making a loss in 2012.

The turmoil in the economy can be seen on a daily basis and has cast its dark shadow over the entire consumer industry including the music sector. Those cagey booking and transaction fees often reach 20% to the ticket’s original face value. Perhaps it’s to cover the intense competition in the musical marketplace where it is perfectly acceptable for the world’s biggest stars to request extravagant wages to perform.

Over the past twenty years, festivals in particular have undergone a startling transformation, becoming less disordered awash with phone-charging points, gourmet food options and even plumbing, which makes use of much of the festival organisers’ income. Along with fire safety, policing, general security, health and safety maintenance and sanitation, festivals are far less chaotic and far more systematic than ever before.

Concerts and festivals, which were once fairly-priced treats, have now become exclusive luxuries reserved for those with the highest incomes. As the world’s economy keeps struggling, the music industry is bound to do the same in tandem and everyone involved with the organisation and maintenance of festivals, events and concerts from roadies, to lighting technicians, artists and security needs to be paid for their services. Unfortunately, those who compensate for this are those who are music lovers who are willing to financially sacrifice for seeing their favourite artists live.

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