aThe cost-of-living crisis continues to subside, you might be hoping to find some escape through the good old world of popular culture. Maybe you can get rid of your financial worries with a little live music? Well, about that…
Looks like buggies have never been more expensive. There seems to be a new wave of anger every week about the cost of seeing a top-notch artist do their work in person. First there was Bruce Springsteen, whose US tour tickets were – in some cases – several thousand pounds, sparking fan outrage and a flurry of press commentary (never underestimate the number of journalists who love the President!) Then there was the rise At Glastonbury prices, from £265 in 2019 to £335 for next year’s festival. (Glasto advocates argue that’s a pretty reasonable number to see thousands of bands over five days—and the festival certainly had no problem changing it.)
Now, Taylor Swift fans are bracing themselves for purse shredding prices for The Eras Tour, Swift’s first stadium in operation since 2018. Tickets for the US game will be on sale next week, starting at a reasonable $49, going up to $449 with VIP packages and occupying First place at only $900. But those fees don’t take into account the intimidating “dynamic pricing” model used by the distribution monster Ticketmaster, which was responsible for sending Springsteen ticket prices into the stratosphere, which would likely do the same for Swift’s tour as well.
Dynamic pricing – a phrase I wasn’t familiar with until fairly recently, after following the illusion rule of indecision, but which now seems to follow me like a specially designed wasp – is nothing new for anyone booking a flight or taking on the challenge to get a ticket for one of Horribly overcrowded Avanti trains. But until recently, the world of live performance seemed to have escaped its clutches. Although promoters and venues are chasing the lost profits from the pandemic, they are growing more and more. Harry Styles and Joni Mitchell have both been recent victims, and soaring ticket costs have led to calls for a Ticketmaster investigation by the US Department of Justice (really the ’90s here again). Ticketmaster, for their part, claims that dynamic pricing offers protection against resellers and promoters — although consumers may struggle to tell the difference when it costs them four figures either way.
What is remarkable is that these runaway prices appear to be largely limited to the higher end of the market. For small and mid-size gigs, it appears that prices – while certainly higher than they were a few years ago – have gone up at a slow, steady rate rather than going bananas. For example, if you want to see Working Mens Club – a very solid example of a mid-level band (and very cool to boot) – at Manchester Academy, this will set you back a not-too-terrible £19. These are top-notch performers – in high demand, delivering amazing, great live performances (and in the case of Bruce and Johnny, probably not likely to perform for much longer) – who fans are more likely to see themselves (dynamically).
So the solution is simple. Go see a smaller and cheaper difference! Even better, go see a band for free – there are plenty of places across the country that offer free concerts every night. (I’m a huge fan of Blondies, the former Money-Transfers East London dive bar that’s barely bigger than the boardwalk but somehow manages to squeeze in a load of bands and metal without paying a penny.) Well, it might not be the stunning fireworks Taylor Swift’s on the ballpark—unless you count blown amps as fireworks—but you might come across the next big thing…and save yourself a fortune in the process.
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