Monday, 6 October 2008

Tickets Please!

Can anyone pinpoint the time when concert ticket prices went bonkers? My guess is around the year 2000.

I've been a regular gig-goer for over 25 years, and although prices have always been going up, between the early 80's and mid to late 90's, the increases always seemed to be fairly negligible... the odd 50p here or a pound there. But the last few years has seen prices going up by five and ten pounds a go. Today, tickets for any 'established' acts will now easy set ya back £50, £60 or £70.. which is outrageous for a couple of hours entertainment. Someone in my office was looking at tickets for Elton John, and was told they were over £100 each... face value! Oh and don't get me started on booking fees, handling fees AND postage fees!! (I remember when it was a 50p charge no matter how many tickets you bought!). Yet the 'entry level' gigs - and often my favourite shows... new bands in dark, dingy, small clubs - have changed very little, and it's still easy to have a cracking night out for a fiver.

For quite a while I remember that a fairly big gig was equal in price to an LP (about a fiver in the 80's and about £10-12 in the 90's). I remember this particularly in the 80's, as I was on very limited funds, and often had to chose between the two.

My theory for the incredible price hikes is that artists just ain't making the money out of releasing albums anymore. Live shows are probably the only way they can make money these days, so are fleecing the fans for as much as they can get. The arrival of e-bay has also not helped. Now every fucker is a ticket tout, buying up tickets for hot shows they have no interest in, and making the gig sell out quicker in the process. They then offer the tickets up on e-bay within minutes of buying them ("genuine reason for sale"... yeah, you are genuinely a greedy fucker!) for a bargain quadruple the face value. The trouble is, people by 'em. Once artists find out their tickets have been selling for double, treble or more, they are certainly going to think carefully about the ticket prices the next time they play. At some point, I'm convinced that some greedy promoter will cut out the middle man and put every single ticket for a show up for auction only... ensuring they can claw the maximum amount out of the poor old fans.

My mates have always taken the piss out of me for keeping my old ticket stubs, But these days they actually make quite interesting reading. Unfortunately I tend not to keep new ones these days, but I've just pulled a few old ones at random and the results were quite surprising.... Particularly when bands moved up to the bigger venue. These days that means double the ticket price, but the examples below show hardly any change.
Soft Cell (final show) - Hammersmith Palais - £4.90 (and it's a hand-written ticket too! how honest were we back then??!)

The Fall - Pink Toothbrush - £3

Erasure - Westminster City Hall - £6

Mission - Astoria - £7
Mission - Wembley - £8
Pogues - Town and Country - £7.50
Pogues - Wembley - £8
one day ticket for reading festival (inc wonderstuff, Ramones and Iggy Pop) - £12.50
Bowie - Wembley - £16
Psychic TV - Pink Toothbrush - £4
My Bloody Valentine - Pink Toothbrush - £3
Boys Wonder and My Life Story - Pink Toothbrush - £3

Frank Sinatra - Docklands Arena - £75!!!
Bowie - Docklands Arena - £25
Bowie - Milton Keynes Bowl - £20
Teenage Fan-Club - Pink Toothbrush - £3.50

Tin Machine - Brixton - £11.50!
Marc Almond - Royal Albert Hall - £12.50
Barbara Streisand - Wembley - £48.50 (yeah pricey, but wasn't she charging £200 last year?)

Marc Almond - Shepherds Bush Empire - £10
Blur (plus the likes of The Boo Radleys, Sparks, John Shuttleworth, Dodgy, The Cardiacs and more) - Mile End Stadium - £18.50
Day ticket for V Festival - £25
Sex Pistols (plus Iggy Pop, Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers + 6 other bands) - Finsbury Park - £22.50
Oasis - Earls Court - £19
The Monkees (all 4 original members) - Wembley - £20

I once worked with someone who told me that in 1980 he was forced to go see a local band, and was outraged at having to pay 75p to get in... Depeche Mode was their name. Anyone remember any 'bargain basements' gigs they went to?



Mondo said...

This whole ticket thing is a piss-take, and as you say P artists are re-couping sales losses by walloping up entry price. The more legendary an artist is the higher they seem to stretch it. The real heavy-hitters probably have 3 generations of fans now, with original followers being grand-parents and no generation gap anymore, so have more demand than they can supply to.

As much as they've moaned about touts in the past , these artists (the ones who really don't need the money) are quite happy to charge 'tout' rates themselves now.

Axe Victim said...

It gives me the pip. You are correct when you suggest that 'artistes' are not making the money from record sales and are hiking up live shows. It's a fact. Sinatra? Man I wished I could have seen him. What was it like? I have seen Shirley Bassey sevral times though!

Anonymous said...

I've always admired the way you have kept on plugging away with gigs P. I've been to hundreds but as prices went up i just could not be bothered any more. I'd rather buy some CD's that will last me till i croak. What really offended me was paying a booking fee ,even when buying straight from the venue , when i was young you only payed a booking fee through a ticket agency. It's just a blatent fucking rip off.You pay through the nose and the bands dont play any longer than they did in 81 when i started gigging. Plus the fact you have travel on some dirty horrible train with a load of drunk office wankers and dont get home till 2.30 in tne morning gets on my tits too. I just stay away for the most part these days. As for bargian basement gigs i've seen Deep Purple , Status Quo (4 times) , Paul Wellar , Chemical Brothers , Edger Winter & Alvin Lee & Tony McPhee and another bill featuring Jack Bruce, Frank Marino , Uli John Roth and Glen Hughes for FREE !!!.A mate of mine worked at the Cliffs and got me in for nix , bargain !!!.


E F RICE said...

Piley the great thing about this article is me thinking which artists I was there with you for. I make it Teenage Fan Club, Tin Machine (pronounced Tin Maheeen on the night due to a pre-gig raid on Oddbins !),Sex Pistols and Oasis. Never knew you went to see Barbara Steisand, sounds like one for the 'Guilty Pleasures part of the Lads Xmas piss up this year .... ?!

Piley said...

cheers gang... good to see it's not just me feeling royaly shafted on this.

EFR - you got all those right! There are many more besides, but this was just the handfull of tickets i pulled. Did you not come to the Blur gig at Mile End??

One i forgot to mention, but it is in the picture is the Great Xpectations gig at Finbury park! (1996!!!) cost us £18.50 for Belly, Blur, The Cure, Catherine Wheel... mind you, we did have to poke up with Kingmaker, Family Cat, Carter USM and Frank & Walkers, so maybes it wasn't the best value ticket!!


Piley said...

Oh, BTW Col - Frank was an incredible evening. I remember it so well, as it turned out to be the night England played Germany in the World Cup semi in 1990. Had it been anyone else, i'da blown the ticket to watch the match, but how could i blow the most expensive ticket i ever bought??

Weird thing is, I went to see him again two years later in 1992, in what turned out to be his last ever show in England. Despite being 77, and having to read all the lyrics from autocues, it was one of the best shows ever, and even better than the docklands event. Still got the bootleg tape of that night too!


rockmother said...

Yeah Pilester - you have such a good point! Gig going used to be a relatively cheap pastime like going to the cinema which is also disgustingly expensive and shouldn't be. Cheapest ticket I ever bought by walking to school for months instead of taking the bus was £4.50 to see The Police at The Rainbow Finsbury Park c. 1979/80 - bloody brilliant - I remember being so short (only 13 at the time) that my chin was just resting on the balcony edge of the upper circle. I must have looked idiotic. But it was amazing. I love your ticket stubs - I threw all mine out - wish I hadn't now.

Mondo said...

Wot no Boys Wonder - ULU 'Pile of snags' ticket stub.

PS picked up a DVD boot of the Pistol's Hammersmith show

Axe Victim said...

I'd like to her that bootleg mate?

Piley said...

Col - you talking my Sinatra bootleg or Mondo's Pistols one??

If it's my one i'll sort you out a copy no probs. I recorded it myself, and is quite likely (judging by the average age of the audience... not bootlegger material) the only recording of Sinatras last ever UK show.

Lemme know fella (or contact Mondo if it's the other!)


Anonymous said...

yeh, free festivals in the late 60' It dont come cheaper than that.


Nazz Nomad said...

back in my college days...

rem - free
revillos/the bongos - free
The Cramps - $2
Black Flag - $3

ACDC - $12

Queen - $12

i remember not having enough money to see Pink Floyd's doing the Wall in 1980 (and tix were $15!!!!!

The most I ever paid for a ticket was $175 for the Rolling Stones a few years back. But I was able to sell 2 tickets for $800, so the show was really free.

These days, through a friend with an expense account, I get to see the dinosaur acts for free (Cream tickets were $475 a couple of years back and The Who were $225 - but I didn't pay).

The only thing I would pay still big $$$ for would be an actual Led Zeppelin reunion.

Anonymous said...

John Bonham is dead, no Bonham no Zep in my opinion. I wouldn't walk across the road to see them with out him let alone pay big bucks.


Piley said...

Warble... ahh yes, the ol free festivals!!! hard to believe they ever existed now!!

Nazz - The Cramps? $2?? you win!! that's the best deal ever!!! Plenty more good examples too (Queen for $12 is pretty impressive!).

Carl - it could be even worse than that mate... word is the reunion is going ahead.... WITHOUT Plant!! WTF??!!


Nazz Nomad said...

Led Zep without Bonham is passable IMHO.
Led Zep w/o Plant is like Queen w/o Freddie Mercury... a total sham.

Anonymous said...

Zep with out Bonham is passable ?, no one played drums like him! i cant believe how fans so soon forget. The Who carried on with out Moon and were passable (shite in other words),i dont get all these bands reforming with just two members, move on guys for fuck sake. The Who with no Moon and Entwistle, Queen with no Deacon and Murcury and Paul Rogers singing WHHAAAATTTT!!!!!. It's all about money fuck em (and i grew up loving these bands)it's over smell the coffee !!!!.


Anonymous said...

Great post Piley.

I'm off to see The Telescopes (those wonderful early 90's Shoegazey types) up that London with two other bands for a fiver in a couple of weeks. It IS still out there but you have tyo be lucky and look very hard.