Concerts v Festivals: Value for Money?

 

Becky Kelly examines the ticket costs and impact of resale sites such as Seatwave as festivals, outdoor gigs or arena tours are becoming a staple in most people’s calendars

At Kendrick Lamar in the 3 Arena last week — a packed out gig to open his DAMN tour — I was struck by a harsh realisation: that everyone in the crowd had paid 80 and above for a gig that lasted an hour and a half. Not to take away from the Lamar’s stellar performance and true appreciation for the Irish crowd, it is a hard truth about gigs these days. This truth is that the Irish music scene’s holy trinity of promotion companies, venue sizes and demand have caused a serious hike in concert tickets over the past few years.

For example, in 2009 a ticket to Beyonce’s I Am… Sasha Fierce Tour in the then o2 Arena cost approximately €55. In 2016, her Formation World Tour in Croke Park cost between €90-140 per ticket. In the space of seven years, the tickets have almost doubled in price.

According to The Irish Times, between March 2015 and February 2016, over four million people went to a Ticketmaster concert or live event. This generated as much as 1.7 billion for the Irish economy. What that also means is that each of those four million people spent an average of 425 on event tickets alone.  

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A report released by Lets Celebrate 2017, described as an overview of the cultural and economic contribution of live entertainment events in Ireland, examined the contribution of these entertainment events to the Irish economy. With 2,262,090 in Ireland reported to have attended music events during this period, it significantly outweighs the number of those attending comedy or theatre performances and attractions/exhibitions.

So while these ticket costs are positively contributing to the economy, are we getting value for money when you compare concert and festival prices?

While some paid 80 euro to see Kendrick Lamar in the 3 arena last week, others paid €189.50 to see him as one of the three headliners of Longitude’s three day run in Marley Park in 2015. So where is the price difference coming from? As explained concisely by Alan Cross, while vendors such as Ticketmaster negotiate a price with the venue, the artist then negotiates a price with the promoter. It is then up to the promoter to determine the ticket price in order to maintain a profit.

“Are we getting value for money when you compare concert and festival prices?”

Whereas this middleman is somewhat eliminated in festival negotiations as the majority are self-promoted. Instead, festivals opt for sponsors, meaning more money to negotiate with acts and less of a need to punish the patrons.

Perhaps it is this value for money, that even festivals have increased their prices in recent years but have gone relatively unnoticed in comparison to concert tickets. In 2015, a ticket to Electric Picnic  would have set you back €194.50 for the weekend. If you want to head to Stradbally this year and have missed out on the early bird tickets, a weekend pass will set you back €240. Festivals in Britain have also been susceptible to inflation over the past decade. As reported by the guardian: “The face value cost of a weekend ticket to the Latitude festival in Suffolk in July has leapt 103% since 2006, the year the event launched, while the price of admission to the V Festival and the Reading festival has risen by 57% and 52% respectively over the same period.”

As well as inflated ticket prices,  both concert and festival-goers are equally susceptible to the growing trend of ticket resales. In March 2017, Ticketmaster released a report titled Consultation on the Resale of Ticket Events. In this report Ticketmaster stated: “Our data shows that less than 1% of the tickets that Ticketmaster sells in Ireland on behalf of its clients are subsequently resold”. It also states that the primary purpose of Seatwave is to combat “fraud in the market”.

Despite this report and justification of resale sites, fans are continuously led to tickets for sold out gigs on the Seatwave website, for which the prices are set by third parties.

As recently as last week, tickets for U2’s most recent tour went on sale, with prices ranging from 40.50 to 200, already an extremely high price bracket for concert tickets. Once tickets were sold out on Ticketmaster, prices of up to 800 per ticket appeared on Seatwave, leading to Fine Gael TD Noel Rock to call for the government to implement laws prohibiting inflated prices in the resale of tickets.

With a shift towards solving the ticket tout issue, one would hope that promotional influence on ticket prices will be next on the chopping block.

So where do Irish music lovers go from here? In my opinion, to Longitude or Electric Picnic for more music and less money per act. Or else, in search of a connection at MCD or Aiken Promotions.

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