Concert ticket prices are expensive. How surging prices for admission prevent music fans from ‘finding community,’ experts say.
Gone are the days when saving up from your weekly allowance could guarantee you a spot at your favorite artist’s concert. Now, according to experts, tickets come with a higher cost that exceeds far beyond our wallet’s capacity.
“Ticket prices are skyrocketing. We have to be thinking about accessibility and inclusivity for everyone,” concert and music festival promoter Jake Resnicow told Yahoo Entertainment, noting that the ones suffering the most are the fans who can’t afford to meet the costs.
“It’s so much more than a concert,” he explained. “It’s a safe space for finding community, for people to come and let their hair down, be themselves and to make new friendships that last a lifetime.”
Even more upsetting, added Principles of Economics co–authorDirk Mateer, are the economic and emotional tolls these higher costs have on families, 80% of which are in a worse financial position now than they were before the COVID pandemic, according to Bloomberg.
“I don’t see this ending well for families who are occupying multiple seats at very expensive venues and pulling it off within a budget,” he told Yahoo Entertainment. “But the music industry is a business and you’re going to end up paying for your entertainment in one way, shape or form.”
Beyoncé fans faced similar challenges when trying to attend the Renaissance World Tour. Some chose to fly overseas to catch the European leg of the tour for a fraction of the price of what it would have cost at one of her U.S. city stops.
Lonnell Williams, for example, paid $400 for a Stockholm ticket that would have cost him nearly $1,500 in Atlanta. As he told Today in May 2023, the entire European trip — including hotel, airfare and food — cost him “less than $1,000” overall.
Similarly, Beyoncé fan Raymart Dinglas flew from Kansas City, Mo., to Hamburg, Germany, to steer clear of a potential Ticketmaster crash similar to the one experienced by Swift fans: “I was not going to risk it,” he said. “I wanted to see Beyoncé.”
‘Artists are more than a human being’
Despite the criticism, experts say it’s actually not the distribution companies and concert venues who set the ticket prices. It’s the talent themselves.
“Artists consistently price tickets to make them more affordable for fans — with prices to get in the door typically less than $40,” a spokesperson at Ticketmaster told Yahoo Entertainment in an email interview. “That’s far below what scalpers are charging for resale tickets, which are usually 2X the original price.”
Artists risk losing consumer trust if they set the price too high, Mateer pointed out. Just ask Bad Bunny, who received a backlash last year when fans lamented on TikTok that his concert tickets were going for upwards of $1,500 on Ticketmaster.
“Your brand suffers when you overprice your product so that your best consumers can’t enjoy it, or when you subsume it to a secondary party who then creates an inferior product, which reflects poorly on you,” Mateer explained. “The best musicians are really cognizant of that.”
That’s not to say that distribution companies haven’t placed tickets on secondary market sites upon the talent’s request. In 2019, Live Nation acknowledged to Billboard that, while extremely rare, it has legally facilitated the transfer of concert tickets to the hands of resellers at the request of the artists involved, as an attempt to keep tickets “near face value” and off the secondary market of scalpers.
To be clear, artists have long been accused of cashing in on their own concerts by hawking the best seats on resale sites, often splitting the profits between themselves and the promoters. New legislation, called the “Fans First” bill, is seeking to change that by mandating ticket sellers and resellers to disclose fees, provide proof of purchase, identify whether the seller is the original purchaser and issue full refunds if the event is canceled.
Bands like Pearl Jam and U2 have taken matters into their own hands by enforcing stricter ticket transfers, using Ticketmaster Face Value Exchange, allowing fans who can’t attend the show to sell their tickets at the price they paid.
There’s so much more artists can do to help, said Mateer. “They can do things in the community and offer free concerts, and spend their time in [rarely visited] places,” he pointed out. “Or they can find ways where they can make a difference in the world.”
Jack Harlow, for example, recently wrapped his annual “No Place Like Home” tour in his home state of Kentucky, which makes intentional stops in small towns across the state, charging as little as $5 a ticket. Swift “supports organizations” and “advocates for her fans to be politically active,” Mateer said, which goes a long way in terms of consumer loyalty.
“Performers are loved for who they are personally and their ethos as well,” he said. “Artists are more than a human being, they are basically an embodiment of who people want to become. And that’s super important.”
Venues and promoters recognize what’s at stake if ticket prices continue to soar and are making interesting moves to combat it.
“Some venues are understanding and are willing to allocate more comps to events or be able to give more concessions on the fees to create an inclusive space,” said Resnicow, whose premier NYC Pride celebration, Planet Pride, partners with venues to raise funds for nonprofits through bar revenue by adding $1 to every drink, which goes directly to charity. He’s also been successful at encouraging talent to allocate a certain number of complimentary tickets for attendees who volunteer a number of hours at a nonprofit of their choosing.
Resnicow said those kinds of strategies are attractive to Gen Z audiences, who care “much more about giving back” than older generations. They’re also comforted in knowing that any added cost — be it from the bar or the box office — is going to a good cause rather than the pockets of the artists.
“You’re seeing more of those trends,” he said of charitable partnerships. “I think that’s going to change the landscape.”