Money: Why are concert tickets so expensive? Here’s who’s really in charge Great Britain news

Where does all the money go? Here’s who’s really responsible for the concert ticket craze

By Kathy Williams, The Money Team

Spending a fortune to see your favorite big name act live is nothing new – but it sure feels like concert prices have entered a new stratosphere.

Bruce Springsteen fans will pay £120 for standing-room-only tickets for his May 2024 tour, while some recently expressed frustration at the £145 price tag for Billie Eilish’s 2025 UK standing-room-only tickets.

And while you could pick up tickets for Beyoncé or Taylor Swift in the UK for £50 (before fees) if you grabbed a ‘nosebleed’ seat, tickets were limited and sold out quickly. General admission tickets for Swift’s Eras tour – which hits the UK next week – started from £110.40, with previous tickets costing £172.25. It didn’t stop there – by the time many fans hit the online ticket queue, the remaining tickets were worth more than £300.

So what’s behind the ticket hike? Here are some reasons…

People seem willing to pay for a big spectacle

Simply put, ticket prices would drop if people voted with their feet.

Matt Hanner, booking agent and Runway’s director of operations, said prices at the top end had “increased quite a bit” – but the increase was partly driven by demand.

“We’re seeing a lot of stadium shows, greenfield, festival-type outdoor shows that are now a staple in cities across the country,” he said.

“There are a growing number of people who are happy to spend a large part of their income on going to a major music event.

John Collins, chief executive of LIVE, the trade body representing the UK live music industry, had a similar view.

He said there were now more large-scale shows and tours than ever, and there was a “massive appetite” among music fans for “bigger performances”.

Bigger shows mean higher costs—staff, venue, transportation, artist needs, insurance, and more.

Of course, all this affects inflation. Collins said ticket prices also reflected rising costs, which affected everything from venues to major arenas.

“You have a number of different factors — you have the performance of the show and the production cost and everything that goes into the ticket price. But then you also have the fundamentals,” he said.

The cost of renting a place has risen “significantly” over the past two years due to rising electricity and gas prices, he added.

“You’ve got the cost increases for people … very justified costs like minimum wage increases and living wage increases. At every stage of the process, we have these cost increases, which will increase the pressure on the ticket price in every possible way. “

Are artists greedy?

How much money artists actually make from live tours is a matter of interest to many – but the music industry is generally reluctant to release details on the subject.

People we spoke to suggested it wasn’t as simple as the artist being ungrateful because, as mentioned earlier, there is a lot to be paid before anything reaches their bank accounts.

The Guardian In 2017, he spoke to anonymous insiders about this topic. His report suggested that 50-70% of the total revenue remained with the promoters and artists. The paper also quoted the commonly quoted figure that the promoter gets 15% of the remainder and the act gets 85%.

It all depends on the caliber of the artist and how hard the promoter has had to work – they’ll have a bigger stake if the show is hard to sell.

People we spoke to said that musical acts and their teams do negotiate the ticket price, and the bigger the act, the more influence they have – but that’s ultimately set by the promoter.

Taylor Swift – perhaps the biggest pop star on the planet right now – will personally earn between $10m and $13m (£8m – £10.5m) at each stop on her Eras Tour, according to Forbes. It is known that he took home 85%. All income from the tour.

But it’s also worth noting that he’s known to be generous with cash, giving out $100,000 bonuses to dozens of truck drivers on the tour.

What did other artists say?

Some artists criticize the high ticket prices others charge.

Tom Grennan told ITV back in 2022 that he saw “a lot of artists buying tickets that are too expensive for the time we’re in”, adding that he wanted people to enjoy the shows without worrying if they could Not paying taxes.

Singer-songwriter Paul Heaton also praised Jacqui Heaton for capping tour tickets at £30, tackling “greed” in the music industry and helping people with living costs.

British star Youngblood recently announced his own music festival, Bludfest – saying the industry was too expensive and needed a “shake-up”.

“I believe that concerts are too expensive, festivals are too expensive and I just wanted to work on something that was completely made by me,” he told Sky News.

Meanwhile, frequent Taylor Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff said “dynamic pricing” by ticketing sites like Ticketmaster was also a problem when it came to pricing.

He told Stereogum that he wanted artists to be able to opt out of the system — which basically sees ticket prices go up when a show is in demand — and be able to sell them at whatever price they choose.

On its website, Ticketmaster describes its “Platinum” tickets, which are priced according to supply and demand.

It says the goal of the dynamic pricing system is to “give fans fair and secure access to tickets, and allow artists and other people involved in live events to price tickets closer to their true market value.”

The company claims that artists, their teams and promoters set the prices and choose whether or not to use dynamic pricing for their shows.

Website ticketing fees

As well as dynamic pricing, ‘cheat’ charges by online ticketing sites are also causing issues for live music fans, consumer champion What?

Last month the group reported that a range of fees, which are not visible until booking, can add around 20% to the cost of concert and festival tickets.

which one It has called for an end to “staggering” surcharges that include booking, “delivery” and “transaction” fees, seat fees and sometimes e-ticketing fees.

Cure lead singer Robert Smith tweeted that he was “sickened” after fans complained last year about Ticketmaster’s processing fees, which in some cases cost more than the ticket itself.

Which one does he answer? Ticketmaster’s findings (which were far from the only company named) said: “Commissions are typically set and shared with our clients… who all invest their skills, resources and capital to launch the event. Ticketmaster supports legislation that requires all-prices in the industry.”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster are suing for “dominance.”

The US government is suing Ticketmaster owner Live Nation over allegations that the company “monopolizes” the live events industry.

Justice Department officials said it was unfair for the firm to control 70% of the primary ticket sales for concerts in America.

Live Nation has been accused of entering into lengthy contracts to prevent competing ticket companies from choosing venues, blocking the use of venues for several ticket sellers and threatening venues with the loss of money and patronage if Ticketmaster was not chosen as the seller.

Live Nation said the lawsuit shows the White House has surrendered competition enforcement to a “populist demand that simply denies how antitrust law works.”

“Some call it ‘antitrust,’ but it’s really just anti-business,” the statement said.

And it said its market share was shrinking and its profit margin of 1.4% was “the opposite of monopoly power”.

The lawsuit “will not resolve the issues fans have about ticket prices, service fees and access to in-demand shows,” the company said.

“We will defend against these baseless allegations, use this opportunity to shine a light on the industry, and continue to push for reforms that truly protect consumers and artists.”

In addition to reportedly controlling most of the ticket market, Live Nation also owns and represents some acts and venues.

Canadian artist Dan Mangan told him In terms of money, this allowed the company to get “more and more of the pie”.

He said when venue hire, equipment and other costs are factored in, lesser-known artists can take 20% of ticket sales.

VAT

Another important cost of tickets in the UK is VAT (Value Added Tax).

20% is quite heavy. It dropped to 5% and then 12.5% ​​as the live music industry was disrupted by COVID, but returned to pre-pandemic levels in April 2022.

The allegation puts the UK “at a crossroads” with other countries, Collins said.

“In competitive key markets like France, it’s 5%, Germany 7%, Italy 10%. Sales tax in the US is typically 6% or 7%. So we’re way behind other markets when it comes to It concerns the case. How much VAT do we pay on tickets,” he said.

Touring is now a bigger source of income for major stars

With the decline of physical products and the rise of subscription listening, artists are making less money making music – and income from live shows has become the most important for the biggest stars.

Writer and broadcaster Paul Stokes said that major stars, who rarely toured in the past, were now willing to do more shows because it was becoming more profitable.

He says some artists will even pencil in huge venues like Wembley Arena on some nights – something that would have been unthinkable two decades ago.

“When Wembley was built and they said we’d be doing regular shows, you’d be thinking, ‘Are there any acts big enough to fill this massive stadium?’

“It’s become an absolute part of the live calendar that artists will come and play not just one night at Wembley, but two or three times every summer,” he said.

Stokes said this demand has also led to the scale of the shows we’ve grown accustomed to seeing expensive productions and pyrotechnics.

It doesn’t feel even

While a night out to see a platinum-selling artist is a pricey affair, industry insiders are also keen to point out that escalating ticket prices aren’t necessarily on the low side.

Collins said that while the main stars were putting on shows at the arena, there would be plenty of other live music going on at the same time, “from a free pub gig to a £10 ticket in the arena to a £30 mid-cap. .”

“People have an absolute range of opportunities to experience live music, from free to experiencing the biggest stars on the planet,” he said.

But concertgoers choosing to save money for artists they’re more familiar with could lead to a “squeezing” of prices for lesser-known acts, Hanner noted.

“Everyone is missing disposable income because there is a cost-of-living crisis. [Artists’ and promoters’] Basic costs also go up, so it’s more expensive for everyone. People’s fear of putting a price on it just gets stronger,” he said.

“I think [that] It really caused prices to be depressed [at the lower level]when they really should have gone up.”

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