What price live music?

I have a large number of musician friends and so the conversation about the price of gig tickets has come up many times over the years. It seems that the general perception is that gig tickets are expensive.
Are they? Really?
Let’s have a little think about that….

Firstly, putting on a gig is incredibly expensive. The venue requires a great deal of sound equipment, licenses, power and insurance and then of course there is the advertising – and that’s all before the bands arrive. Now some of you will say “but the venue has that already!” Yes, and it magically maintains itself and replaces by growing out of the musical equipment patch at the back of the venue. No, really.

Then there are the bands. Ok so let’s assume this is a smaller gig with semi-professional (i.e “I have to work in another job for a living as well as do this”) musicians. Let’s also assume that there are three bands playing at our imaginary gig, say 15 or so musicians in all. They’ve had to travel to the gig, transporting their equipment too and so the travel costs will be quite extensive. They are probably going to have had some advertising costs of their own, and we’re not going to take into account their general expenses such as equipment maintenance and rash and indulgent things like eating.

So we are starting to see how expensive this all is. Chances are the bands will be offered a fee that would make people on minimum wage feel flush, or they’ll take a cut from the door. After the venue takes their expenses, and the money is split fifteen ways through the three bands, they’ll be lucky to cover a bit of petrol, a pint and some chips.

And yet the audience at our imaginary gig have had a great time and a good few hours of entertainment for less than it costs for a takeaway pizza. It is interesting that people balk at spending £10 – £15 for a gig ticket, and yet are comfortable spending multiples of that on a round of drinks.

I loathe the idea that just because someone enjoys what they do they should not be paid fairly for it. I’m pretty sure that each and every professional footballer enjoys what they do, and it doesn’t stop them being paid tens of thousands of pounds for the pleasure. Musicians and all creative people have every right to be paid a fair wage for what they do. Haven’t you enjoyed it out there in the audience watching people sweat at their art for your sakes?

There has also been a lot of talk about the cost of festival tickets. Let’s take Download 2014 for example. £200 (or a shade under) does sound pretty expensive to camp out in a noisy and muddy field – but look at what you get for that! You could see a band every hour for ten hours straight (or more, but I’m simplifying it a bit – you might want some sleep) so maybe watching thirty bands or so over the weekend. That means you are averaging £6 a band, amazing value – and the cost of putting on a festival is astronomical.

£10 to £15 for a gig ticket is nothing, really, think about it. What can you get for that? How many times have you blown a tenner and not even noticed?

What will your standard night out in the pub involve? £10 will get you two pints and some crisps in a London pub (if you’re lucky) and you might spend £50 or more at the bar on the whole? £15 a curry or takeaway on the way home? £10 a taxi instead of walking? And the only entertainment you’ve had is watching the drunks in the taxi queue?

Live music is life-enhancing and liberating. There is nothing like the soul-lifting joy of feeling the pulse of a good band throb up through your feet. The atmosphere, the sounds, the whole scene is just something that needs to be experienced, particularly in smaller venues where the music really feels live (unlike huge ones that farm you in, plug you into machine generated sounds, and then farm you out again)

Do yourself a favour, find out where live music is going on around you and get out there. Chuck less of your night out down your throat, and throw a bit more in your ears.
You won’t regret it.

Shameless plugs here for some great local music venues…and bands worth seeing at them…

Check out Trashville – a collective of superb bands (no wedding singers here!)

A personal bias and I’m linking to The Metatrons Trust me on this, you won’t regret it!

Club 85 in Hitchin

The Horn, St Albans

The Good Ship, Kilburn

The Bedford Esquires

If you have other local venues (local to you!) who specialise in good and original live music – please add in the comments below. I get a pretty good hit rate on this blog and I’m happy to share. I’ll check every link before approving, and I warn you now I’m not keen on those venues that only have cover version bands.

Trolls need not apply….

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2 thoughts on “What price live music?

  1. londongigger says:

    I agree with you up to a degree. £10-£15 is nothing these days for a live gig. And neither is £25 -£30 for an established artist or band. But it goes on multiples. The bigger the band, the larger the venue they will fill and for the cost of employing only marginally more staff. Where I object is when you see bands like the Rolling Stones, charging £600 for corporate tickets so that you can stand at the front and the common people stand at the back for £90; and Madonna charging £150 pounds. These sort of prices are ridiculous and greedy. Springsteen, for example, I saw play a long and brilliant gig this year at the Hard Rock calling festival for just £55.

    • Dawn Finch says:

      Absolutely, you are bang on there. Some prices for big names are disgraceful and disproportionate. I also have serious issues with people being charged full price for seats that are so far from the stage that it means they have to watch it on the screens. £200+ to watch a big telly?! That’s a total rip off.

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