The emotional experience of seeing your favourite artist live? Priceless.
The cost of the ticket? Quite a lot, actually.
This week, Harry Styles announced a one-off show in Auckland. Although tickets don’t go on general sale until March 20, the American Express pre-sale website suggests a general admission ticket to see the Watermelon Sugar crooner will cost $181 (with nosebleed seats going for $101).
“Your man is expensive,” one Facebook user commented on the announcement post, tagging their friend. “I know, gonna have to take out a damn loan for him,” was the reply.
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Fans are forking out more than ever for live music — Bloomberg reports that in North America, the average price of a ticket to a popular concert has nearly quadrupled over the past two decades, as album sales have declined and artists have become increasingly reliant on touring to make money.
So who comes up with the price of the concert ticket, and why is it so different from artist to artist?
Consumer head of research Jessica Wilson said the event promoter, venue and ticket agent could all influence what you pay for a seat. But the largest proportion of the ticket price typically goes to the promoter.
New Zealand Promoters Association president Brent Eccles, who runs the Eccles Entertainment agency, said the ticket price was determined after negotiating the artist’s fee and terms with their agent.
“You’ve got to add the cost of travel, cost of marketing, cost of the venue, cost of ticketing and the cost of production,” he said.
“Then you put that all in a spreadsheet and work out how many people you think you’re going to get, and that determines the ticket price.”
One misconception is that we pay more in New Zealand because it’s harder for international acts to get to.
“Ticket prices are usually exactly the same as Australia. Obviously there’s a difference in currency and GST, but the net ticket price is 99 per cent the same.”
Eccles said while it was true that ticket prices had gone up over the years, concert-goers were getting more bang for their buck.
Think of Taylor Swift, who charged Kiwi fans close to $200 for the theatrical spectacle — complete with giant inflatable snake — that was her Reputation concert in 2018.
“When you look at production nowadays, you’re not just getting a band sitting on the stage strumming away, you’re getting a full audio-visual experience. And that costs money.”
However, you also have artists like Ed Sheeran who prefer a more simple approach. General admission tickets to see Sheeran and his guitar cost Kiwi fans $159, with the cheapest seats costing $69.
That strategy worked for Sheeran, whose Divide tour was still the highest-grossing of all time.
“He’s being very economical and he’s spreading it out, which I think is clever. And it feels like he’s ‘one of us’,” said Eccles.
“The artists that seem to be reasonable and care for their fans normally have really good prices.”
Ultimately, ticket prices were based on good old-fashioned logic, he said.
“We try and do the right thing by the artist, the right thing by the public, and the right thing by ourselves. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.”