Might as well start the year with a moan.
I was reading Mojo magazine (as you do) and noticed a ticket stub for a King Crimson gig from 1972 with the price showing as £1. A quick calculation shows this is the equivalent of £10 in 2012 money. I then cast my mind back to the Gary Numan Wembley gigs in 1981 – A fiver back then. That means £20 today or if you take into account the fact he famously subsidised every ticket to stop the fans being fleeced for the large venue, about £24 each.
Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve not paid much less than £50 for any semi-decent band in recent years (to be fair, smaller bands can still be seen for much less but I’m talking about the bigger ones here) and have had to pass on a few who wanted £100+ which was beyond my reach. So why the huge increase?
Two main culprits keep cropping up. Firstly, the rise of Ticketmaster who realised how much can be made just selling tickets. You know when they add an extra £5 to the price to allow you to print the ticket at home, something is pretty rotten. It’s now assumed that any ticket you buy wil pick up a whole raft of extra charges out of all kilter to the actual cost of providing them. Yes, I expect them to make a profit too but c’mon!
Another more interesting view is that there has been a shift from artists making their money via album/single sales to gigs. Given the high levels of piracy, smaller income from aggresive licencing deals with outlets such as Google’s Play store and Apple’s Itunes plus the tiny residuals they get from Spotify and the like, this does make sense.
A Concert ticket breakdown from 2011 showed an average $70 dollar ticket netting $41 for the artist with the rest made up mainly from additional fees ($14) and the cost of putting on the show ($11.50).
Certainly, it’s a given these days that any half decent band will be expected to put on a major light show plus other sundry gimicks and that does cost money. That said, Numan did manage the epic Wembley gigs for the equivalent of £20.
On balance, it looks to me that the bulk of the increase does seem to lie with the artist shifting their income streams from CDs/Vinyl to gigs. Given that most CDs are a fiver and often less, especially as downloads compared to the £15 they hit at one point, this doesn’t seem entirely unfair. It would certainly be interesting to see some stats on how a band like say U2 derive their income now compared to 20 years ago. Sales of music via download show a healthy year on year increase but the prices are lower and the percentage going to the band is lower too.
Welcome to the modern world then, cheap music as downloads (played on tinny mobile phones or iPods but I’ll save that one for another day) but if you want to see it live, be prepared to have deep pockets.