Why Are Concert Tickets So Expensive? Key Factors Explained!

Author: Brian Campbell | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 2023 has officially been dubbed the “year of the $1,000 concert ticket.” Concert ticket prices have always cost enough to make you pause before buying them – but in a good way. Never, NEVER have they been as absurdly priced as this year.

To illustrate this point, the most expensive Taylor Swift Eras ticket was purchased for $1,311. And although it was technically 2022, multiple people spent over $40,000 for Adele tickets in Las Vegas!

Other top-selling live acts like Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé average around $500, quite regularly – not as much, but still exorbitant!

All those zeroes beg the obvious question: why are concert tickets so expensive these days?

Well, first things first: let’s identify the factors!

The Factors Behind Expensive Tickets

There are four parties that contribute to the final price of tickets. They are the artists, venues, promoters, and resellers. Add ticket fees to this list, and you have five factors that affect the final price.

The interactions between these five factors are affected by even more factors: post-COVID increases in concert attendance, inflation, supply and demand tensions, and bot resales.

Things can get pretty complicated pretty fast, and I’m not an economics expert. However, we’ll take a brief look at the factors that I think make the biggest impact.

The Post-Pandemic Increase in Concert Attendance

We all remember the pain of quarantine during 2020. When quarantine finally ended, many people (understandably!) took the opportunity to catch up on missed experiences.

Concert attendance post-COVID saw a 24% increase from 2019, and has only increased since then.

Here’s the thing though: while we were all chilling at home, the big music corporations spent every second planning a profitable comeback. Of course, that’s the smart thing to do. After all, they did lose lots of revenue.

But some companies capitalized on “live-music-starved” individuals by jacking up prices and increasing production costs. While they did need to make up for lost money, many chose to bleed their customers unnecessarily.

The Artist

The four parties of artist, venue, promoter, and reseller have an incredibly complex relationship. Each one has a certain amount of influence on the final ticket price. This has always been the case; however, as with everything else on this list, COVID increased the problems.

Even though we attend concerts for the artists, they have less influence on tickets than you might realize. If they’re popular enough they can set their own prices; otherwise, they’re at the mercy of promoters and venues.

An artist obviously needs money to make more music. Nowadays, their main source of income is from live concerts.

Why? Because of one word: streaming.

Back in the day fans had to buy records to listen to their favorite songs when they wanted. If they didn’t own music, they had to wait for the radio to play their favorite songs. As a result, artists made most of their revenue from album royalties.

Hardly anyone buys physical music these days. Instead, they listen to streaming for free – which, sadly, rips off most artists. Because of this, artists have to rely on live concerts for money.

This puts them in a tight spot. They want to make prices high to earn money but don’t want to prevent fans from affording them.

Venues

Venues may not be as powerful, but they certainly require a large portion of a ticket’s cost.

The venue itself earns a certain cut of the ticket price for providing a gathering space. They must also account for their staff, which includes everyone from janitors and cooks to security.

Think of it this way: part of your ticket’s money serves as a “thank you” for the cooks and security that ensure you have a good time.

Interestingly, some venues have exclusive business relationships with promoting companies. The bigger the promoter, the more a venue can charge. Money equals power, right? (Unfortunately!)

Promoters

Promoters are the final “link” in the price-setting process. After artists make their bid, and venues set their costs, promoters determine the ticket’s final value.

Promoters are the guys that actually sell the tickets, and they get a cut of every ticket they sell. Naturally, the more tickets they sell, the more money they can make.

But things aren’t quite that simple. Promoters also advertise, which is another cost they have to factor in. Then they have to see how high they can make prices, while still getting people to buy them.

In reality, people are willing to spend far larger amounts than they might admit. And since promotion is a capitalist venture at heart, they will raise the stakes as much as possible.

People have been calling out greedy promoting companies for decades – especially TicketMaster, the largest promoter out there. People magazine claimed they are the only company with the resources to sell high-demand tickets, which results in a ruthless monopoly.

Joe Biden has recently called out promoters as well, requiring them to enumerate every fee for every ticket upfront during purchase. Other outspoken critics of promoters include Pearl Jam and Robert Smith of the Cure.

Fees

This is a short section that could technically be linked with promoters since they are the guys that set fees. But since they’re so substantial, I decided to make them a brief section of their own.

On average, fees increase a flat ticket price by 27%. In other situations, it can increase to 50%, and in some rare cases, 150%!

Resellers

Resellers do exactly what their title says: they buy a large number of tickets, then resell them at a higher price. In theory, this is supposed to create more “conversation” between seller and buyer to make prices more accessible.

In reality, resellers can mess things up even more than promoters. In 2023, many would say they’re more nefarious.

This is where things take an interesting twist: reselling has become a huge problem due to AI and bots. Artificial intelligence has been a huge topic for some time now, and its far-reaching influences can be found right in the cost of your tickets!

Here’s how it started: during quarantine, TicketMaster decided to borrow a concept from Uber called “dynamic pricing.” According to this business model, prices go up when there is more demand for a product.

This means that if a concert is popular enough, the fewer the tickets, the higher the price can go – ardent fans will find a way to buy them.

After a while, resellers realized that thousands of bots could automatically buy tickets in a matter of minutes. When it comes to numbers, “real human” buyers simply cannot compete with the automation and speed of bots. With the resulting lower supply, they can resell them for insane prices.

Suddenly, TicketMaster finds itself losing revenue, even though other parties are selling higher-cost tickets! To fight back, they sell even more. But venues only have so many seats . . .

Soon enough, you have one big hodgepodge of tickets for sale, and no one knows what the “real” price should be. On average, resold tickets cost around $252!

Conclusion

After explaining all the factors that go towards a ticket’s price, here’s a list:

  • Artist’s rate
  • Venue’s initial rate
  • Venue’s staff
  • Promoter revenue
  • Promoter advertising costs
  • Fees
  • Resellers’ additional cost

While that’s all pretty sad news, there are some ways you can fight back!

First, you can buy physical media or MP3s (but don’t worry, you don’t have to say goodbye to streaming!) By giving the artist more money directly, you are helping curb prices elsewhere. Plus, you’re supporting them directly!

Second, you can join a fan club program and buy tickets during pre-sales for cheaper. Essentially, this lets fans get “dibs” on cheaper tickets before they’re released to the entire market. And while it might be overkill, sometimes you can get left-over tickets on the day-of for dirt cheap!

Third, certain credit cards have rewards programs that go directly to tour tickets. See if yours has one!

Lastly, there’s nothing like a good ol’ positive rebel! Let your friends know how they can fight back too. Join Pearl Jam, Kurt Cobain, and Robert Smith to raise awareness of music industry shams. It’s a good crowd to be in 🙂

Until next time, enjoy your musical journey, and always, ALWAYS have fun!

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About Brian Campbell

Brian has been playing piano since elementary school and started learning guitar in 7th grade. He teaches K-8 students in Columbus, Ohio, and writes lessons covering a broad spectrum of genres. As a child, he moved back and forth between Colorado and West Africa. He credits those experiences with opening his eyes to the cultural and artistic diversity he appreciates today. Several of his favorite musicians include J.S. Bach, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Radiohead. When not doing music and teaching, you can find Brian reading, hiking, traveling, or making just one more shot of espresso.

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