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Why are concert tickets so expensive? The truth about online record sales

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Why are concert tickets so expensive? When is enough really enough?

& The truth about online record sales..

admit one

Released yesterday the IFPI annual digital music report showed that subscription services revenues were up 51 percent in 2013.

“Music fans’ growing appetite for subscription and streaming services helped drive trade revenue growth in most major music markets in 2013, with overall digital revenues growing 4.3 per cent and Europe’s music market expanding for the first time in more than a decade.” said the report.

Sounds pretty promising right? Well the unfortunate reality is that most of the profits from our insatiable appetite for the next best thing online will never find it’s way into the pockets of those who create it.

Google any new song or artist and the top ten results will likely come from sources that are not paying or barely paying the artists.

This recent post on shows the reality of a musician who made less than $2 for almost 200,000 plays on YouTube and others who pocketed mere pennies:

Source: auxtv

Source: auxtv

How much do you think YouTube made on the advertisements viewed by those 200,000 people? And who owns YouTube? You guessed it…Mr. Google!

Another article on last August showed how much another online streaming music company was paying out. Canadian cellist ZoĆ« Keating, reported making $300 on Spotify while pocketing $47,000 from iTunes during the same period. You may have seen or heard about Spotify in the news last summer when Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke pulled all of his solo music from the service stating in a series of tweets: “Make no mistake, new artists you discover on Spotify will not get paid.” This comes as some concerning news considering 750,000 songs are streamed on spotify each minute, so does this mean for those music streams, artists won’t be getting compensated as they should be?

As the online debate rages on about who’s being fair and who’s not, one thing is clear; no one is going to be taking on Google or Spotify anytime soon.

Ask anyone in the music business where the money is these days and they will tell you “Touring” and “Live Concerts”. This is because, as explained so eloquently in articles on sites like Manila Concert Junkies, every big music fan is looking for their dream concert experience and will fork out a lot of money to see their favourites perform.

With record sales drying up, artists and labels have been struggling with business models. Some have turned to re-printing collectable vinyl, others are sponsoring big brand names and many depend on fan support through crowd funding websites like and

While everyone fights over the crumbs left on the table in the recording industry, concerts and summer festivals are getting bigger and more expensive.

So the real questions are:

Does it really cost more than the good ole days? If so, then why? And finally when will it stop?

We often hear stories of people going to see Bob Dylan for $5 or their favourite 90s Seattle band for less than the price of parking at a concert these days. So we took a look at old ticket stubs and pitted them against today’s prices with artists that are comparable. Now, bear in mind their will be obvious disparities as, rightly so, you can purchase military discounted concert tickets – so we’ll be looking at average prices instead to try and balance the sheets if you will.

Here’s a ticket to see Bob Dylan Circa 1966. Price $3.50



In Feb. 1966 Bob Dylan was 24 years old, he had been performing professionally for about 7 years. He had released 6 albums including two that hit no.1 status in the UK. He had appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, played his famous Newport Folk Fest set electric and superstars like of Sonny and Cher had covered his songs. In a nut shell Bob Dylan wasn’t the biggest thing in the world, but he was still a pretty damn big deal. Such a big deal in fact that his 1965 hit “Like A Rolling Stone” influenced the name of a little music magazine that came out of the San Fransisco bay area in 1967, perhaps you’ve heard of it?

Here’s a ticket to see Mumford and Sons 2013. Price $49.99 + 13.90 (surcharge???)

mumford and sons ticket

Now while not as legendary as Mr. Dylan, they have made a respectable name for themselves over the past six years. Mumford & Sons won album of the year at the Grammy’s last year and they’re the only thing on pop radio that seems to have actual instrumentation and lyrics that stretch deeper than four lines. Many people have also learnt how to resell tickets in order to turn over a profit for themselves. However, strategies like these normally involve using bots or being available at a very specific time.

Using Mumford and Sons 2013 as our bench mark we see that the prices certainly have gone up. Through the Bank Of Canada inflation calculator it’s revealed that:

$3.50 in 1966 should equal around $25 (not $49.99) in 2013.

There’s also the pre-sale fan clubs, VIP corporate zones and Visa/MasterCard seats which make it very difficult for the average fan to even get tickets these days, meaning the scalped floor seats probably cost alot more.

Keep in mind that the light show you’re going to see at TD Garden in Boston 2013 is going to blow away whatever excuse they had for a light show at the YWCA in Ottawa in 1966. Don’t forget security, permits, licenses, taxes, (surcharge WTF?) and every other middle man that needs to make his cut and there’s some justification for the price. Of course we don’t know if the Mumford and Son’s ticket was bought through a fan pre-sale or not. Also balcony 302 seems alot further back then Row L seat 3 on the Dylan ticket.

Nirvana Cica 1993. Price $29.30 + 4.80



After ‘In Utero’ debuted at no.1 on the billboard 200 in Sept. 1993, it was clear to the rest of the world (who didn’t already know it) that Nirvana was the biggest band in the world. While we can’t think of any band today that even comes close, this next comparison should be fair game.

Foo Fighters 2011. Price $49.50 + 9.25

Foo Fighters ticket 2011

While every Foo Fighters album is awesome and every one has been extremely successful, 2011’s ‘Wasted Light’ debuted at no.1 in more countries than Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’, so it’s the best comparison we could find.

Inflation calculator for the Nirvana concert 1993 to 2011: $48.66

Kudos to Dave Grohl for keeping it real all these years.

Disclaimer – For those of you who are reading this post and not knowing how you came here or wondering why we are comparing these two bands:

Dave Grohl before and after

Finally we look at the modern dance scene aka EDM. We’ve all heard of the old school raves, the outdoor parties that never ended and the way electro used to be. 20 years ago, world class DJs battled it out for respect in North America, while Europe saw a more established scene with festivals like CzechTek and Dance Valley. DJs never could have dreamed of the Rock Star status pay days that were awaiting them in the 21st century.

Today EDM (Electronic Dance Music) is the fastest growing genre in the music biz and all the big bucks come from mega concerts. One of the first promoters to establish themselves in North America was Ontario’s Destiny Events.

Here’s a ticket from WEMF 1 (Circa 1995) aka Destiny 10 Price: $45 (includes camping!)

WEMF 1 ticket 1995

The days of ‘secret locations’, warehouse parties and BYOB are long gone. Today’s dance scene involves, multiple security check points, EMS and police, over priced alcohol, strict curfews and crazy noise by-laws. However, Rock Star DJs have elevated the various genres to such a status that there is no end in sight for ticket prices.

Toronto’s Digital Dreams Festival 2014 Price: $200 (with VIP packages hitting $400+!)

Digital Dreams ticket 2014

Sadly WEMF is gone but the Destiny team is still active and behind much of the organization for Digital Dreams.

Inflation calculator for WEMF 1995 to 2014: should be $63.97 instead of $200 (That’s an increase of over 200% !!!)

Balk about the price all you want, however the video screens, lighting displays and general organization of today’s Digital Dreams festival is nothing short of spectacular!

On a positive note, due to savvy entrepreneurs (new young talent managers) and the power of the instant information age, most DJs are making more than a fair wage. Bottom line? Everyone’s getting paid.

In closing here are a few reasons why our favourite concert tickets are so expensive these days:

1. Everything we said above about the recording industry.
2. The equipment is more expensive and the people needed to operate it are more skilled
3. Concerts have become more sophisticated and everyone wants to make a cut
4. Service fees! WTF! (We won’t get into that)
5. Pre-sale fan clubs, VIP corporate zones etc…Leading to more scalped tickets
6. Disposable income. Seems like people have more than they did back in the 60s.

…and did we mention greed?

rolling stones ticket prices

Whether its a blast from the past or the hottest DJ, it seems as though ticket prices increase exponentially as each year passes.

As long as we continue to seek free music online, while lining the pockets of companies who care very little about fair payment for artists, ticket prices will be used to balance the books.

If we continue to delve deeper into a reality of virtual machines and person-less connections, ‘the man’ will make us pay more for the REAL DEAL in person experiences.

When wondering how high it can possibly go, one thing will always remain; prices will go as high as whatever we are willing to pay.


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