I was 15 when Drake announced a concert in what was then known as the O2 Arena. I was too young to go to any concerts on my own, so I told my parents I was staying at a friend’s house, and then me and two others snuck from Kilkenny to Dublin to get to the gig without my parents finding out; it’s one of my fondest memories. Back in 2012, the tickets were priced at €44.50, and it took a month of saving to buy them. We bought them 3 days before the gig and needed no ID to prove we were over 16. Those were simpler times.
Last week Drake announced a one-off show in the 3Arena. And the cost? Well, based on that previous experience of the same artist in the same venue at nearly the exact same time of year, you’d guess around €50, and in guessing this you would be dead wrong; one ticket to see Drake in 2017 will set you back €85. What happened? Why the sudden increase?
The main reason for the increase is the effect of music streaming, iTunes, and especially the creation of Apple Music. Until recently, iTunes was one of the major players that made you pay for music by the album; it was a place where you had to pay per-product consumed. That meant it was a constant flow of income to the artist and to the label, and if your album was a success you were guaranteed to make a sizeable amount of money, and be rewarded richly for your album being so popular. Now, however, with Apple Music, I can pay a basic fee to ‘no artist in particular’, download their album onto my phone for free, keep it there for as long as I want and listen to it as much as I want with no added costs per listen. This means that, as an artist, you’re not being paid an amount in correlation to how popular your album is; you could have a number one album and still only receive an average paycheck. This means that the artist needs new ways to make money, and increasing the price of concert tickets does just that. The audience is almost guaranteed: you can charge what you like, and people will come. Interestingly, on average, 74% of concert ticket sales go to the artist while they only receive 10% of an album sale, and even less than a cent for a stream of an album.
Added costs include the maintenance & hiring of a venue: the now-3Arena is not cheap to use. You need to consider cleaning, food, drink, electricity and the pay for security & venue staff every night. Ticketmaster service charges are also added. This is the only part of the fee that Ticketmaster pays for themselves to keep the company going. The backstage crew of the artist and the artist themselves need to be put up in a hotel, fed and looked after, so that adds a little bit to the fans ticket. For massive concerts, like Coldplay’s Croke Park gig, the equipment they use can be another reason that tickets are so expensive: the use of Xylobands , the wristband every audience member gets that light up in time to the songs to create incredible star-like effects across a whole arena, cost £400,000 a night to distribute and use, according to the band.
Looking at it this way, the increase in price does make sense despite being so frustrating. Will it get any better? Not any time soon, but maybe as streaming becomes more acceptable, and labels learn how to generate an income from it, they can afford to lower prices. For now just relax: appreciate that finally the biggest acts in the world are taking Dublin seriously and not just treating it as a London warm-up show. Big things are coming for 2017 and I, for one, will be going to as much shows as I can.