I’m not exactly sure when, though my own recollection starts sometime around 2010, the entertainment world’s marketing and advertising teams began to convince the general public that paying over £100 to sit in large, soul-less, venues, miles away from the main stage, represented good value for money.
Loving nothing more than insightful reporting showing revenue going up, and costs coming down, entertainment executives must take much glee to see ever increasing profitability in the live show sector. Case in point would be to see that whilst the largest grossing tour of the 2000’s (Rolling Stones ‘A Bigger Bang’) grossed $558,000,000, the largest tour of the 2010’s (U2’s ‘360 degree’) managed to pull in $736,000,000. Further, U2 play 34 less shows (110 to 144) whilst increasing total attendance by over 2 and a half million (7,272,046 to 4,680,000).
If we roll back even further we see this trend carrying on into the previous decades (e.g. 1990s – Rolling Stones ‘Voodoo Lounge’ $320,000,000 with 124 shows).
I’m no maths expert, but it doesn’t take a countdown judge to work out that if, over a 20 year period, we’ve seen a 100% increase in total revenue of the largest tours and a reduction in tour dates, then there must be some combination of either the average cost of tickets having increased, venue sizes having increased, cost-savings being made or corporate sponsorships of these tours having increased.
The reality suggests that we’ve seen elements of all 4 factors over the past 3 decades, though perhaps most impactfully, a 2012 survey suggested (in real terms) that the average UK ticket price has increased by 400% between 1982 and 2012. And, whilst I was unable to find any survey since 2012, it appears they’re still increasing. The price to see the Stone Roses come back tour in 2012 was £55, by 2015 it was £75; it’s perhaps easy to tut at the ever increases prices of ‘corporate rock’ machines like the Stones and U2, it becomes a bit more emotive when it’s a band who have a reputation as being the peoples champs.
In classic economics, price is set by the two factors of demand and supply. How much do we perceive we need a good or service (demand) against how many of those goods or services exist (supply). Impacting onto our demand value are conditions including the past experiences we have had with that good or service; if we have enjoyed something we’re likely to repeat buy, perhaps even paying more during our next purchase.
This is an interesting condition when applied to music, suggesting that as venue sizes have increased (perhaps in order to reduce the number of total gigs), and gigs become more corporate, our experience of the show has been enjoyable and we’ve still been willing to pay more for our tickets to the next tour.
The conclusion I’ll be coming to shortly is not that music shows are over-priced, or that performances are not special (they are, I saw both the U2 and the Stones ‘Bigger Band’ tour and they were magnificent) it’s that huge, corporate sponsored, tours are becoming so focused on putting on a good show/ receiving public acclaim/ driving repeat purchases, that they are in danger of trading some of the ‘music’ element of ‘music business’ in favour of the ‘business’ side.
There’s no doubt that Take That are one of the UK’s greatest pop acts of all time; though perhaps slightly 2-d off-stage, the band truly are mythical stage characters and well deserve their longevity at the top of the pop charts with their self-penned, well sung, compositions.
Based on the crowd’s reaction, their new tour gives their fans all they want (with the exception of the number of band members); it has the gymnasts, it has the dancers, and it has the air acrobats. But there’s no shaking my focus that it also has a price range starting from almost £100 per ticket. In 2008 their ‘Circus’ tour priced at an average of £70.
This is no attack on one band, but it is a question to the entertainment industry as a whole, asking how long they can carry on increasing ticket prices indefinatly, and when is the music more important than the business?