Random Thoughts From The Pit

The Cost Of Live Music: How Much Do You Spend On Gigs?

It's 2013 and live music is still big business...it has to be...the physical record buying industry has all but disappeared. Gig going can be an expensive hobby though and sometimes I wish I had taken up knitting. Knitting strikes me as a far cheaper option. You probably wouldn't get quite the same buzz from knitting as moshing at the front of a Metallica gig though. Seeing your favourite artist does not come cheap however, whereas you can pick up a pair of knitting needles for €2 on eBay (I checked).

So how much money do you think you have spent on gigs? How much has it cost you to go to see all those concerts? How much have you given to Ticketmaster down the years? How much could you have saved by staying at home and watching the DVD of the tour…illegally downloaded of course?


Where do you even begin to total up the cost? If you are like me and have been going to gigs over a long period of time (24 years since my first gig at 16 years of age…wait…that makes me 40 this year…fuck it) then do you take inflation into account? Do you include the differing costs of booking fees? Do you think about those times when you paid for other people’s tickets and they never actually remembered to pay you back? Once you have a wife / husband / partner / kids do you include the cost of all tickets or just your own?

A few things to consider:

Travel: It costs money to go to a gig. Even if you live in the same city you have to drag your backside to the venue whether it is by plane, train or automobile. If by automobile then parking, especially concert parking, is a nightmare. This is one of the main areas where concert venues and the owners of surrounding wasteland can sting concert goers. ‘Pay just €25 and be safe in the knowledge that your car won’t get its wheels nicked, wiper blades broken or ‘Gay Lord’ written in the dirt (that you really should have cleaned off weeks ago) across the bonnet’.

Accommodation: If you have to stay at a hotel after a gig then those prices could be included in the cost of gig going. If it is an ‘Event’ concert then prices can mysteriously double and triple in value. As I write this tickets for Bruce Springsteen in Kilkenny Ireland are due to go on sale. Hotel prices have reportedly tripled in cost…supply and demand? Me arse. Ripping off bastards more like.

Concert T-Shirts and assorted Merchandise: You don’t have to buy T-shirts or merchandise but I am a sucker for something with my favourite band logo on it…whether it’s Rolling Stones Cigarette papers (why not), a James Scarf (rude not to), an ill-fitting REM Baseball cap (bought because it started pissing it down at a gig in Hull) or a David Gray mug (I have two) I have randomly bought all sorts of items at a merchandise stall. The price can start to add up.

Programmes: Like the merchandise you don’t have to buy a concert programme, however I love them and will generally always try to get one. Are they worth it? Are they bolloxs. However I always want a memento of a gig if possible and some programmes can be really nice souvenirs. Most though are cheap cash in jobs. The worst was a Michael Jackson ‘A Celebration Of The Life Of...' that was sent to those mugs that decided to keep their tickets for the cancelled concerts in 2009 (to be fair they were cancelled for a pretty good reason). Yet despite widely varying quality I still I buy programmes. They can range in cost but you would normally expect to pay in the region of €20+ at the bigger concerts for something that probably cost €2 to make. So what do I do with the shiny souvenirs? I flick through them once and chuck them on the pile with the rest of them.

Live CDs: Pearl Jam, The Who and Robbie Williams, are just three artists that have made the audio from the show you have just been to available to download or on CD. The audio is direct from the sound desk and so doesn’t suffer the same way as the old bootlegs used to (…having said that there were some superb bootlegs back in the day, ‘Queen Live at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975’, ‘The Stones Brussels Affair in 1973’ and ‘Guns n' Roses Live At The Ritz in 1988’ come to mind). Yet despite my liking for the idea (and yes I do own a Pearl Jam, The Who and Robbie Williams Gig Live CD) it is just another way to make more money from the fans.

Drinks and Food: This has generally shown a marked improvement in terms of quality over recent years however the prices show no sign of decreasing. When you enter an arena or stadium you are at the mercy of their food and drink. Unless I am in a venue for any length of time then I am unlikely to bother with any. Although it has been known for me to have a few swift pints of Guinness at the cheap price of €6 or have a burger for €7.50. In fact some venues don’t accept cash. Instead you have to buy a Card for €5, €10 €15 or €20 or whatever it may be. You then use the card to purchase items in the venue. All good except the items you buy never quite add up nicely to the €5, €10 €15 or €20 so in fact you end up with a useless €2 left on your nice shiny Amsterdam Arena Take That Card. So again you don’t have to eat or drink at gigs but if you do then be warned it can get VERY, VERY expensive.

Tickets: Last but not least the tickets themselves. This is where you can have an exact figure of what you have spent on a concert. No guessing, estimating or making up. An actual figure. Unfortunately ticket prices are getting pretty silly. Yes there are overheads, yes insurance costs have gone up, but the rate at which the ticket prices for the bigger tours have shot up cannot be justified by those reasons alone. As far as I can see artists and promoters have found ways to get more money from fans whether it is through Gold and Diamond Circles (yes Bon Jovi I am looking at you), VIP Tickets (some better than others – front row seats, soundcheck, merchandise all thrown in – James did this very well back in 2011), or, if you are the Rolling Stones, then it has simply got ridiculous. Just take a look at the prices below:

£22.50 - Rolling Stones - Wembley Stadium 1990

£25.00 - Rolling Stones – Wembley Stadium 1995

£27.50 - Rolling Stones – Sheffield Don Valley Stadium 1999

£150.00 - Rolling Stones – Twickenham Stadium 2003

€116.50 - Rolling Stones – Slane Castle 2007

Stones Money.jpg

That is some sudden rise in prices over a short period of time. Notice there is no entry for last year’s 50th anniversary concerts…the first time I decided I just couldn’t justify the price.

There is light at the end of the tunnel with bands like U2 making sure to spread ticket prices...yet even they hold the title for having the highest grossing tour of all time. They seem to have a better grasp on prices though as paying just €59.80 for standing tickets to see the band at Dublin's Croke Park in 2009 was great value. Credit also to Bon Jovi for at least making some tickets just £12.50 for their new tour (although whisper it quietly but I have an inkling there weren't that many and it may have been a publicity stunt…however I could be wrong and to be fair they are a great live band).

So what does this all mean? Well if we include Programmes, Merchandise, Live CD, Food, Drink, Travel, Parking, Accommodation as well as the Ticket price itself then it is safe to say that it can cost a lot of money if you want to shake your ass at a gig. At least this is true for the bigger concerts. Maybe it is the smaller gigs that I should concentrate on in the future. It is still possible to go to the more intimate venues and see up and coming bands for a fiver. I need to get to more of these…a quick browse through my 220 gigs shows me that I have been to far too many arenas and stadiums and not enough clubs and theatres.

220 gigs in 24 years. Not bad. That's nine or ten a year. Not nearly as many as some but a hell of a lot more than most. Of course if you work in the business (yes all you at Hot Press) then you get free tickets to all the gigs you want. Then again if you are in the business you don’t always get to pick and choose which gigs you go to (be prepared for a Spice Girls reunion concert along with a gig from the latest and greatest next big thing). I don’t work in the business (although I did once nearly get to write for Kerrang…sort of) so how much has it cost me to go to those 220 gigs? The true answer to that is I really don’t know. There are far too many variables (see above) to take into account. I can remember a lot of things about the gigs but not what I spent on food, drink and parking etc. What I do know though is what I have spent on tickets. That is to say the total of the actual ticket prices not including fees. I went with what was printed on the ticket unless it was obvious how much of it was a booking fee. In those instances I removed the fee from the printed price. Why? I’m anal and want things to be consistent.

These figures include what I paid for concert tickets in Euros, English Pounds, plus a bit of Irish Pounds, Francs and Czech Krona thrown in. Also there are 12 gigs that I have no idea what the ticket price was. If I estimate that on average the ticket price was €15 for each of those 12 then in total I have spent the following on tickets:


€5951.74 (EUROS)/ €5951.74             

£1781.87 (BRITISH STERLING)/ €2082.11

£34.50 (IRISH POUNDS) / €45.00

1190 (CZECH KRONA) / €48.00

250 (FRANCE FRANCS) / €35.00

TOTAL €8161.85

These figures probably don’t mean that much without adjusting for inflation but I reckon if I double that figure I would get a more accurate reflection. Still for the €8161.85 I could have bought a much better car than I currently have (I own a Ford Fucking Focus...Rock n Roll people, Rock n Roll), or a better laptop, or 4081 items at the local 2-Euro Store or one Stones ticket for their 55th anniversary tour...

It can cost big money to go to gigs but I wouldn't have spent it on anything else...well I maybe should have spent the money I used to go see Cher in 1990 on something else but you get my drift.


by Dado Rock
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