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Report: Are YOU being priced out of gigs?

With many of our readers often asking us what goes into the price of an average gig ticket, we asked the people in the know to explain all...

One of the single most common questions we get posed here at Hammer circles around the issue of the rising price of gig tickets – namely, “Where exactly does my money go?”

So, we decided to call upon various companies, industry heavyweights and bands – the majority of whom, in the interest of full disclosure, we work with on a regular basis – to find out what goes into the pricing of a ticket, where that money goes and why those behind it believe that, ultimately, it is still the consumer that is prioritised above all else.

According to US live music trade mag Pollstar, the average ticket price hit an all-time high this year at $76 (£49), up from $57 (£37) in ’05. Earlier this year, Limp Bizkit fans expressed outrage at the £40.50 price tag for their Brixton Academy show, while the band’s one-off date at the same venue cost £29.50 in 2012. And that’s without booking fees, which usually fall between £4-£8 extra. So, what’s going on?

There are many factors to consider when booking a tour, and many people to pay. Profits are divvied up by the promoter (the person in charge of the event), between themselves, the band and their management. The promoter has to pay 20% to the tax man and 3% to PRS For Music – the collection society that ensures songwriters are remunerated for their music being played live. Other costs usually include venue hire, production, insurance and catering. Band expenses include transport, petrol, hotels, food and drink, and wear and tear on their gear. In short, there is a hell of a lot to take in.

If the band are on a major label, they may receive an advance payment to finance some of the process, but they’ll have to recoup the money through ticket or record sales, depending on the deal they’ve signed. Production costs differ, depending on how big the show is. One of the reasons Vans Warped Tour UK can charge a reasonable price of £51 for 30+ bands is because production is rudimentary. A show with lasers, pyro, whistles and bells costs more. And running a venue in 2015 is no cash cow, either. Noise complaints from neighbours and developers building residential properties close by have caused a fair few to shut their doors, unable to afford soundproofing costs. In London, 40% of small venues have closed in the last decade, and country-wide casualties include Blind Tiger Club in Brighton. Meanwhile, the rising price of overheads but stagnant cost of beer have led some remaining venues to demand a 25% + VAT commission from bands for allowing them to sell merchandise, cutting further into sparse profits.

“The reality of it is that the band may walk away with $1,000 for four months of touring – there is really not much profit in it,” says Joey Simmrin, founder of management company Rebellion Noise, which looks after the likes of Architects, Escape The Fate and Counting Days. “Being in a band is a start-up business. When you get out on the road from the beginning you’re not making money for, probably, five years. The record labels used to fund that initial process, which has now got cut out.”

Bring Me The Horizon’s Alexandra Palace date on November 28 costs £25, and Five Finger Death Punch’s show at Wembley’s SSE Arena on the same day is £27. So far, so fair. 

“Everything from the size of production to what other tours are happening around that time can decide a ticket price,” explains 5FDP’s Zoltan Bathory. “The goal is to bring the best possible show for the most reasonable price. We have a creative, outside-of-the-box way of doing things, so we can put on giant shows without passing the cost down to the fans.”

But what of those extra fees? Ticketmaster (with whom Hammer’s parent company has a commercial partnership) add a £5.50 delivery charge and a £4 fee to BMTH’s tickets, while the 5FDP gig has a £5 fee and the same postage cost. The charges help cover the cost of processing bookings, operating the ticketing software and computer network, and envelopes and stamps. Hammer asked Ticketmaster whether it was doing anything to reduce the price of booking fees and postage costs, and whether they make a profit from such costs. The firm referred us to an online blog post explaining its commitment to “100% transparency”, and that “the complex nature of our business means that we need to charge them to ensure that right from the first step of the event-going experience, booking a ticket on our website is as easy as possible.”

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