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It’s a Rich Man’s World – Has the Live Market Reached it’s Peak?

Many moons ago, there was an Office of Fair Trade (OFT) investigation into the price of CD’s. Older readers – most of you, frankly – will recall that the CD, from its inception, was a pretty pricey piece of kit. I vividly recall being charged £13.49 for Nevermind way back in 1992, and that was the rule rather than the exception.

The OFT were asked to look into whether the price was artificially high, and duly reported back that yes, of course it was, record companies being scoundrels and all. However, they were powerless to do anything about it because CD’s were a luxury item; no-one put a gun to your head and told you that you had to buy a CD. You chose to, and if you felt it was too expensive, you had the choice to walk away from the Steely Dan Greatest Hits.

Now, that doesn’t take into account people who live and breathe music. I have a friend who told me that he feared going deaf more than going blind as he couldn’t live without it. But I could see the logic and the market, as it so often does, righted itself with the onset of mail order and indie shops such as Fopp, before the onset of digital music obliterated the market anyway.

But I see history repeating itself here, as it has become clear our thriving live scene is in danger of cutting its own throat. more people now like going to gigs than ever before; live music has never been in ruder health. However, greedy promoters – and, to be fair, bands – are in danger of kicking to death the goose that lays the golden eggs.

ELM faves Sigur Ros are touring in October. one only needs to read the fawning reviews of their Connect set on this site to see what we think of them. But, despite playing the 2,500 capacity Carling Academy, they haven’t sold out. Could it be that the £25 ticket price has something to with it? I know people who really want to go, but that is a lot of cash at a time when money, to quote the bleedin’ obvious, is a bit tight for punters.

Similarly, Elbow are swinging round the country, and will play Glasgow for the second time this year….and are asking £20 a throw to see it. I’d love to, but can I really justify it for a band I have seen twice this year?

It is a luxury item, and bands who sell out in seconds have a perfectly reasonable argument for charging what they like; supply and demand. But when decent bands are struggling to sell out medium sized venues, then it is time to look at the bigger picture. I’m all for stuffing my fingers in my ears and pretending that the bad things will go away, but there is no denying we are in a recession.

It’s a luxury item, no-one makes you buy tickets; but musicians will have to face the fact that in tight times, concert tickets will be one of the first things to be sacrificed. For atmosphere alone, surely it’s better selling 2,000 tickets at £10 than a thousand and £20 anyway?

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9 Responses

  1. I recall many years ago REM charging £15 less for a Wembley Arena gig than anyone else at the time….when asked why Michael Stipe said: “For our show, and including hiring the venue, everything above £8 is profit, and don’t believe anything to the contrary. We have added enough to make the tour a success, and no more.”

    I love Sigur Ros but I doubt it costs over £60,000 to put on their show……I bought a ticket simply because I am lucky; credit crunch not hit me yet.

  2. I will probably end up going….but I feel a bit ripped off.

    As you say, it’s doubtful that they need the cash to stage the show, especially as this jaunt has no Amiina or horn section.

  3. It is just a trend of late: to push prices until people complain, and clearly no-one has really kicked up a fuss yet. Same in sport, especially football. Bleed the audience dry until they walk away.

  4. I’m with you guys. I strongly object to the prices of gig tickets and try to blag my way into the ones I fancy. However, this only works at the wee venues and how any band can justify 30-40 quid for a fucking gig is beyond me.
    My daughter went to see kylie (freebie ticket which had face value of £50.00) and the EIGHT PAGE programme of glossy pics was twenty fucking notes. Needless to say, lots of kids were getting them bought. I suppose, that with falling cd sales, merch and tickets is where the bands make the cash, but as you say, its only time before people vote with their feet.
    I say, lets only go and see local/breakthrough acts until it levels out. And go watch Albion Rovers instead of the Old Firm!!

  5. The live nation deals being signed by every already millionaire act in the world strike fear in my heart – not because I can’t afford to go and see Madonna – I’ve seen better stringy old birds in an Asda 2-for-1 battery hen special offer, frankly – but because they are going to start setting dangerous precedents for bleeding the live audience dry.

    I don’t have a problem with musicians making money, they are the talent after all, but I have a very big problem with cunts in suits talking bilge about 360 degree contracts.

  6. Capitalism and the free market working to part you with your readies.

    Don’t think I’ve ever sprung more than 20 notes for a gig and don’t think I ever will, not worth it IMO. Like the overpopulated festival circuit the crowds will ultimately decide what the price will be. Next time you are presented with a gig you want to go and see but think too expensive, just pick 2 or 3 small gigs by local bands to go to then score yourself some crack to freebase before it, I promise you’ll have just as good a time.

    As far as CD’s are concerned at least the US got something right in that it fined the big record companies, sadly for a fraction of the money they fleeced their customers for.
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/07/29/labels_charged_with_pricefixing_again/

    Price fixing is always occuring in society, people are greedy. Largely they get away with it, or are fined less than the profits they reap so such behaviour makes economic sense. Until there are laws and regulatory bodies with the proper powers to swiftly investigate and prosecute the offenders there is a strong case for companies to continue operating in this fashion.

    Toodles
    C.L.

  7. I’ve never seen us all agree so unanimously on here!

    Sure, we’ll pay it until we can’t anymore…but what do the bands do then?

  8. very very simple, when they stop selling enough tickets, they drop the price till they start selling enough tickets (or have a war with the ticket agency’s fees).

    Dukes up, round one. ding ding!

    Toodles
    C.L.

  9. Smaller gigs can be as rewarding anyway. Three of my favourites from 07 were the cheapest: Marah, Stephanie Dosen and Great Lake Swimmers. All sensibly priced and breathtaking gigs. I already have my ‘no SECC’ rule and sadly soon there will be a ‘no £25 tickets’ rule joining it.

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