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Are ticket prices becoming unreasonable? We take a look at the ‘great ticket price surge’

Costs are being passed on to the end-user and creating an unsustainable price hike bubble.

Are ticket prices becoming unreasonable? We take a look at the 'great ticket price surge'

Music is a beautiful thing and should be enjoyed by all. For many, it strengthens the heartbeat and feeds the soul with emotion, love and joy. Music can act as escapism, a release or a safe place. We often associate sounds with memories and listen to different styles in different situations. Music can heal. 

The above are just a few of the reasons why the world’s nightlife economy thrives. Live events are attended by millions of people daily and as we enter a period of regeneration from a global pandemic, the industry needs a fuse to light for it to become a safe haven and create life-long memories once more. 

How do we kickstart the scene and build for the future? What can be done to keep people attending live events? 

One thing is for sure, an exponential rise in ticket prices for live music is not the answer. Finances are tighter than ever for many. The number of partygoers hitting the streets each week is dwindling steadily. It is simply becoming unaffordable to party and socialise every week. 

Ticket prices have always been a contentious issue. Several factors cause a variation in ticket costs, but on the whole, have always been relatively accessible and affordable to the masses. 

Since lockdown restrictions were lifted, a surge of price hikes in ticketing has been evident. Nightlife promoters have come under fire for over-inflated fees for people to access their favourite artists and producers. 

What has caused this spike in price? Are the increases fair? 

Is the answer as simple as nightclub or event promoters being greedy and trying to recover their losses from the pandemic lockdown period as quickly as possible? 

Probably not, in most cases. 

Is it a problem, however? Absolutely. We have to find a solution to the problem.

Let’s take a brief look at a few reasons why the partygoer has been gazumped with inflated ticket costs and why pockets feel a lot lighter than before. 

Are ticket prices becoming unreasonable? We took a look at the 'great ticket price surge'

Travel & Accommodation

Flights and rail travel are at a premium and, staycations have become more popular than ever. Therefore, costs for artists to travel and lodge have increased significantly. These costs fall on the promoter of an event at the time of booking the artist. 

The knock-on effect from both Brexit and the pandemic travel rules have certainly damaged the hospitality sector more than could be imagined previously. 

Artist Touring Visas 

With the UK government still bumbling and playing the blame game over travel visas for touring musicians, the costs to fly over an international artist have more than doubled. This, when coupled with the additional costs for the actual travel, creates cost mayhem. 

In my view, this issue should be a long-term benefit. Realistically, it should incite lineup creativity from UK promoters, whilst enabling UK artists to take the fore. In this circumstance, the visa issues remain a problem when it comes to the costs being passed on to the end-user. 

READ MORE HERE:  Brexit minister insists the musician touring crisis is not his problem | Mr. Afterparty (mrafterparty.com) 

COVID Testing 

Covid tests are now part of both the artist booking and raving process. Lateral Flow and PCR tests are not cheap. Travel laws, quarantine and isolation legislation are all in play. This means that testing has to be carried out (several tests at different times for one artist) – at a cost to the promoter or venue. 

Artist & Agency Fees 

This issue is a can of worms that needs to open. 

Artist and agency fees have become absurdly high in some cases since the return of events. Today’s fees for DJ’s through an agency dwarf (in several cases) those of pre-lockdown (which were already getting a little silly). 

Should artist AND agency fees be regulated in some way? Should a capping system be looked into? Any system can be based on specifics such as venue capacity, day of the week and size of promoter? For example – A DJ capped at 3-4k per gig can achieve three gigs over a week. This math will still earn up to 48k per month. Not too shabby for what we do as DJs. (I deliberately used ‘we’ in this sentence. As a DJ myself, I am all for regulation of fees). The agency percentage should then reflect the actual work put in on their part.

Artist agencies need to re-think the fees they charge to secure an artist. Even with things like exclusivity deals in place, they are pricing out the promoters. Some of these promoters are trying to grow and develop. It only stunts the growth of the scene. 

Are ticket prices becoming unreasonable? We took a look at the 'great ticket price surge'

Venue Hire Fees 

As venues have been closed for almost two years and only kept alive by business rate relief and grants, the cost to hire venues for an event has increased. Staffing and security costs have risen from pre-pandemic rates. Tradelines have been at a standstill, causing a rise in product costs from alcohol to drinking straws and other products. These costs are inevitably included in any hire agreement. 

Demand for venues has also increased with an oversaturation of events. This has created a supply and demand problem and enabled the nightclub to charge a premium. All these costs are then passed on to, yes, you guessed it, the partygoer. 

On the flip, there are a few areas of concern around the hikes, that make you feel that there is some foul play at work. 

Viewing an event for Halloween last week, I went straight to the ‘buy ticket’ section. There were 12 different ‘ticket types’ for purchase over a month. 

The tickets ranged from ‘early birds’, all the way through to ‘8th release’. The early birds, listed at a very reasonable £5 per ticket plus booking fee but, the final release at an eye-watering £75 plus booking fee. 

The increase between the release stages is normal. Promoters reward early booking with more attractive prices but not by such a substantial amount. The difference in sale prices instantly raised alarm bells. The capability of offering tickets at lower prices should mean that there is more than enough wriggle room in the event costs to not ship out £75 passes. Greed? I will let you decide. 

There is also evidence that parties with smaller outgoings are charging an excessive amount on the door at the event, even when tickets have not nearly sold out. Is this on? Not really. We can all accept a small extra charge for not planning ahead – but not to the severity we are seeing currently. 

There is certainly a percentage of event promoters taking the p*** with their ticket pricing. Their shows do not encounter many of the above issues mentioned or warrant the prices charged. 

Are ticket prices becoming unreasonable? We took a look at the 'great ticket price surge'

Opinion 

In essence, the scene is currently eating itself from within. Something has to give. 

The ticket prices are unsustainable for the sector to thrive and return to the previous highs and pre-pandemic success. The way things are will result in empty venues and dead events regularly. This, in turn, will stifle growth and extinguish new talent and breakout artists/events, leaving a bleak and underwhelming future. 

What is the solution? 

I wish I had the answer. In truth, I don’t. There are immediate and quick fixes that will incite change. I do believe that the nightlife community leaders and governing bodies need to come together and strategise. Formulate a plan to future proof our beloved live gig scene. Could this be through regulation? A capping or re-evaluating the current structure? Ultimately a push for change is needed in the areas that have caused the situation to reach this point. 

The issue is another highly complex one. On the surface, it looks simple. Like most things in the music industry, it is a confused and tangled web of real-time issues combined with a small collective that takes advantage of them. 

Hopefully, once we settle down in the post-pandemic world, the issues iron themselves out and create a downward price pressure, rewarding the end user.

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