With the declining sale of records, artists have begun charging more for the live music experience
The only light igniting the arena is that of thousands of cellphones swaying back and forth in the hands of fans as the infamous melody of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” plays. Band t-shirts dominate the sight of the crowd. There is a feeling of adrenaline, but also of unity as an audience of 30,000 sings so loud it almost overpowers Mick Jagger’s voice. It is as though everyone in the room connects not only to the artist, but to a past experience in that very moment. It is an overwhelming feeling.
This is how Bianca Marrocco, a 19-year-old devoted music fan, describes the live concert experience. Now, a ticket to this very concert has never been more expensive.
According to Pollstar—a trade publication for the concert tour industry—the average North American ticket price for the Rolling Stones more than doubled in 2013, jumping to $287.89 compared to $136.63 U.S. in 2006. Although the Stones may be an exception since they are rock legends, even Justin Bieber’s concert tickets doubled from $48.90 in 2010 to $90.47 U.S. in 2013.
“There’s no way I can afford to go,” says 19-year-old Sarah Camacho, a frequent concert goer. Camacho has attended more than 70 concerts in her life: “I used to go to two a month and now it’s once every four months because it’s ridiculous. ”
This may be the case with many Anglophones in Quebec, as a recent study shows a 33 per cent dip in revenue from English music shows in 2013. However, Jon Weisz, founder of concert promoter Indie Montreal, pointed out that touring cycles could play a part in those numbers. The dynamics of the industry changed after big companies started buying out concert promoters. This started in 2000 when American mass media company Clear Channel Communications bought out music industry company SFX Entertainment. As a result, live event conglomerates such as Live Nation, Evenko and AEG dominate the market today.
Weisz says the profit made on a concert ticket differs depending on the artists and their management. He said, for larger shows, 80 per cent of ticket proceeds go to the band playing, and for smaller shows, the band gets 33 per cent of proceeds on average.
“It’s like the bigger the act gets the more expensive it is, so it’s really frustrating,” said Camacho.
While production costs for high-tech shows are passed onto fans, the main cost is still paying the bands and their expenses, although Weisz suggests that this may not be the main reason for the increase in concert ticket prices.
“Artists can’t make money selling records anymore,” says Weisz.
According to information and sales tracking system Nielsen SoundScan Canada, physical CD sales declined 15 per cent in 2013. Weisz explains that in order to have a profitable business, artists have to charge more for tickets. He says they have become increasingly aggressive with that they ask for from promoters and the industry has adjusted as such.
“My dad paid $5 for a concert, but I tell him ‘you bought records, you bought Cassette tapes, there was no Internet then’,” says Camacho. But clearly, for some, the cost of a concert ticket is worth every penny.
“I think that the artist to fan experience that a concert allows is priceless,” said Marrocco. “When you’re really passionate about music and connect so deeply with a certain artist, I don’t think there’s anything that should get in the way of that.”
Weisz confirms this is the case with a lot of fans today. He said they have accepted the fact that in order to see a concert, it’s going to cost them a pretty penny and they’re willing to do so.
“My favorite artist is Adele and if she would ever come to Montreal I would be willing to spend up to $500 to see her,” revealed Marrocco.
Weisz suggested part of the reason for this acceptance among fans is that the music consumption experience has changed drastically. He said that 30 years ago fans would open up an album and there would be information about the band inside. He explains that it would be something they could hold in their hands that helped them interact with the band. He says now people can easily buy a single on iTunes, “That interaction only truly exists by going to a concert,” he said.
So, what does all this mean for the future of rock and roll?
Weisz argued that in a music-driven era like the 1960s, music was made simply for the sake of making music. He says people can listen to anything they want for free today; therefore the whole industry becomes less about music. He believes music is going to become even more of a “brand building exercise,” where the artists’ image is what’s of value. This relates to the increase in tickets prices, because their image directly influences what they charge for their tickets.
“People used to tour to sell records, and now people sell records to tour,” Weisz said.