Gig Ticket Prices: Fair or Foul?

On the same day that Radio 1’s Newsbeat ran a story about UK music venues introducing a new tiered system for ticket prices, my favourite band Kings of Leon announced a new UK show for June of next year at the O2 Arena.
Ticket price: a neat little £65.
Really? £65? My initial excitement which more or less involved running round the room wailing excitedly turned to one of stomach churning horror when I realised that there was very little chance of me being able to afford a ticket. It’s November for crying out loud! Why do bands INSIST on announcing gigs and tours right before Christmas? I raged at Santa. I raged at the Followills. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that £65 at any time of the year is pretty damn steep.
Okay, I appreciate that we’re not talking the butt-clenching prices of The Rolling Stones but when did the prices shoot up so much and who fixes these prices? Is it the band? The venue? The promoters?
As fans we would love to think that our favourite band sit back in their New York condo’s and say “the world is in financial crisis. People are struggling and it would be morally wrong of us to make ticket prices unaffordable for many.” Of course they don’t. I doubt many of them even think about it, because ultimately they WILL sell out shows regardless because people WILL pay the money. Whether they can afford it or not, people will pay through the nose to see their favourite bands. As a band becomes more famous, the number of shows and the frequency of shows decreases. The band no longer have to go on the road for ten months of the year playing every shitty, flea infested venue they happen to come across. They can do a handful of festivals or huge arena gigs and go back to their condo’s, make another record and think about doing it all again in a couple of years time.
But the fans CRAVE gigs. You can pop the CD in the player as much as you want. You can endlessly watch the DVD’s and You Tube vids of your favourite gigs. It’s just not the same as going to the live shows. For the fans, the live show is the Holy Grail, the One Ring of Middle Earth and Blackbeard’s Treasure all rolled into one.
The band knows this. The promoter knows this. This is how people like The Rolling Stones can charge upwards of £105 for a gig. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how much you set the price at, people will pay it. Brings to mind that quote from Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come. Or, if you charge it, they will pay it.
Of course, I’m not saying it’s the band’s fault, although they of course have some hand in it, but it seems that the greedy promoters have a big part to play in all this. I read an interesting article from an old blog post rockandrollguru.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/who-sets-prices-for-concert-tickets.html talking about how the promoters get bands to sign exclusive contracts with them, which basically then gives them the right to fix ticket prices at whatever the hell they feel like. They also have contracts with certain venues, which means the promoter ensures the big bands only ever play that particular venue when in town – makes a lot of sense considering Kings of Leon only seem to play Hyde Park and the O2 when they come to London. I mean, whatever happened to Wembley?
Putting on a mammoth show at the O2 or staging a full-length tour is of course, no mean feat. The costs are no doubt astronomical and I’m sure those costs rise every year with every one from security to caterers putting up their fees. Ticket prices have to reflect this, I get that, but it seems that as everyone makes their pound of flesh out of a band, ultimately it’s the fans who will suffer.
I already know many hardcore fans who are saying that they simply can’t afford the £65, particularly not at this time of year with the cash-cow Christmas just around the corner. Just last year we paid £55 for a top price KoL ticket and even that was a kick to the guts. Now we need to pay an extra tenner more plus the booking fee which will probably be another £5. With bands like Radiohead and Muse charging a more respectable price of £40, surely this is proof that huge gigs can be staged for affordable prices and there’s no need to squeeze the very blood out of the fans?
I don’t even think I agree with the tiered system that Newsbeat were discussing yesterday. It’s meant to mirror the system held in our West End theatres where you basically pay for how close you are to the action. I think this just gives promoters the right to charge whatever they want for that hallowed golden circle spot. Sit at the back, pay a tenner. Sit at the front and catch the sweat, be prepared to re-mortgage your house. How is that fair for fans? Say what you want, but no fan I know is happy to sit up in the gods and see their favourite band turn into ants. I’ll be honest, I’d rather not go at all, if it meant I could only afford to sit three miles away from the stage. If the gig experience only constitutes me watching them on a big screen, well then I’ll wait for the DVD and do it from the comfort of my own sofa. At least then I wouldn’t have to also stump up the travel fares just to see Honey I Shrunk The Band.
The problem comes back to demand. As with most things, if there wasn’t a demand for tickets, then the promoters and the band wouldn’t be able to charge these inflated prices. If I had £65 would I buy a ticket? Sure. It would hurt like hell, but yes, I probably would pay it. The ride won’t last forever and at some point the gigs will stop, so yes, if I had the money I would pay it. But I’d rather want to pay it, than feel forced to.
I would love it if at some point bands said “enough is enough, lets be fair about this and set affordable prices for our fans.” But that’s never going to happen. Not whilst they continue to sell out shows, not whilst greedy promoters hike up the prices and not whilst we continue to pay the prices they enforce upon us.
What do you think? Would you pay whatever they charge to see your favourite band? Do you think ticket prices are fair? Or do you think bands should have more influence in what their fans are being charged?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Gig Ticket Prices: Fair or Foul?

  1. Lisa

    Well said. I won’t be buying a ticket. I decided that last year when I paid £55. I can’t understand how I went to see 30STM at the O2 and it cost almost half of what it did to see KOL. I am sticking to smaller music festivals like The Great Escape and Standon Calling where I can see up and coming bands. 🙂

    • That’s a good point actually, I think it’s great to be more supportive of the up and coming bands. I know lots of people who just won’t pay the inflated prices so it will be interesting to see who goes next June.

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