The Numbers Of Live Entertainment

An article examining the soaring cost of concert ticket prices.

Ultimate Guitar

Wake up at 11:50 on Saturday morning and run to the computer. Heart racing in anticipation, you refresh the page over and over and over until, finally, 12:00, they are on sale. Choose two, best available, type in the security code and hope for the best. To your excitement, you are one of the lucky few: General Admission Floor. You finally get to see your favorite band play live. They are coming to an arena two hours from your house for the first time in five years and there is no way you would ever miss this show. However, as you go to press purchase, you look at the price: $80 for each ticket, $12 for Ticketmaster fees, $18 for venue fees, and $26 for a convenience fee! What is this? Suddenly, your $80 ticket turned into $216, plus parking, plus a few $8 hot dogs, plus some $45 T-Shirts, plus a $20 poster, plus three hours of traffic trying to get out of the parking lot! This once-in-a-lifetime concert experience is starting to look like the last concert you will be going to for a while. The price of live music is uncontrollably expensive. There is no reason to charge so much for one concert and it is discouraging to young adults looking for a night with their favorite band and 20,000 other people who have also been ripped off.

According to Billboard Magazine, nearly 1.7 million people around the world attended Bruce Springsteen's Working On A Dream Tour at 84 different shows. At an average of $91.76 per ticket, the entire tour grossed approximately $156 million. I was lucky enough to be able to experience his sold-out show at the Los Angeles Sports Arena with my family and some friends, but I am not sure we would be willing to spend over $500 to see another concert anytime soon.

What if the average ticket price was 30% less? I'm sure that the Boss, The E Street Band, venues, ticket agencies, and roadies could survive just fine on $109.2 million. At over $1 million per show the revenue still remains remarkably high. With so much money being pumped into the live music system, what is the need for such high prices? Could it be based on the theory of supply and demand? There are only about 20,000 tickets available in a certain city so it seems that the industry can get away with charging as much as they want for this valuable merchandise. This theory could easily be proven wrong by simply lowering the average price of tickets. Then could it be greed that inflates the cost to extremes? Bands, venues, and ticket brokers are getting thirsty for more cash in their pockets, and this greed is taking a huge toll on the fans, especially young adults. It is time we shed some light on one of the greediest industries in the world.

In the shadows of 20,000 seat venues featuring the biggest names in music exists another breed of live entertainment. Local venues such as Guitar Merchant in Canoga Park, California provide hours of entertainment for a minimal cost. Why pay over $100 a ticket to see one band play for an hour and a half when you can go right down the street and pay $10 for a four hour concert with six or seven local bands? It is unfortunate that not enough people support, or are even aware of this entertainment. Granted, most people would prefer seeing Bruce Springsteen than my band, The Spinning Jennys, (although I'm not sure why); it is still an enjoyable form of live entertainment that young adults can afford.

I have a poster on my wall that advertises Springsteen's Born To Run Tour for only $6 a ticket. Even with inflation since 1974, $6 does not even come close to the staggering $91.76 that we have to spend today, not to mention he played about twice as long back then! The price of live music is out of hand, and if it is not fixed any time soon, no young adults will be able to afford to attend concerts. Bands, venues, and labels need to realize that we are reluctant to spend hundreds of dollars per ticket. The continuing increase in ticket prices is a huge problem in the entertainment industry and will soon become a huge problem for the entertainment industry unless it stops now!

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    The companies do that because they can. They still sell out venues with incredibly high costs. And people don't want to see locals bands nearly as much because most of them suck...
    honestly there are some acts where it is more than reasonable for them to charge so much... think about it if you have room for 20,000 people but there are 200,000 people that want to go, you need to cut that number down. if you have a local band that has 15 fans, then any venue can hold them and $10 tickets are fine, then a year later the number of fans becomes 500+ now they may need to charge a bit more, then a year later they have their single on the radio, and they blow up to millions of fans, but their entire tour is scheduled in smaller venues made for like 500-600 people. this means they need to bring the price up, it's simple supply and demand. your example it taking early springsteen, from when he was not quite as famous, and didn't have as much success as he did during the working on a dream tour. when you have 5 fans you cant charge much since supply(number of seats available) > demand(number of fans). however when you have 10 million fans supply < demand. supply > demand = lower prices supply < demand = higher prices simple economics. now if you picked up someone with a similar sized fan base as springsteen circa '75, I'd say maybe Cage the Elephant or kings of leon would be close, then you can compare prices but your thing here is like comparing the price to see Cage the Elephant headline as compared to Metalica headlining. there is a big difference.