Here's Why Ticket Prices are So Outlandish, and a Modest Proposal to Change That

Ticket prices are getting a little silly, wouldn't you agree? The smaller venues are doing a great job of holding them down (it cost me less than a cheap meal for three hours' of the Melvins and Unsane last year), but at your larger scale venues they long ago passed the $50 mark and kept climbing. I've started restricting myself to small gigs only unless it's an absolute can't miss artist, because not only are you paying the ticket price, you've got the insanely arbitrary fees charged by, well, you all know who I'm talking about. $8.71 convenience fee, $12.42 booking fee, $1.50 for emailing you a PDF, and so forth.

Then, once you've paid the toll to even gain access to the venue, you've got $10 of parking, the cheapest beer for $8... a night out at a big venue has just become an exercise in nickel and dime economics, as several forces combine to squeeze every penny out of you they possibly can. I don't feel like it's always been this way, despite my tendency to view the past with overly rose-tinted lasses.

That said, here are some reasons I can think of for the rise, and if you stick around, I promise to suggest a solution that works for everyone.

Drugs are more expensive
Everyone knows musicians love drugs, and drug prices just ain't what they used to be. This catastrophic rise in expenditure has led to a similar increase in ticket prices. Remember, kids, without your ticket purchase, Axl Rose will have to go clean.

Stage shows have become overly complex
With lighting rigs, inflatables, dozens of musicians and sound techs, elaborate props, and really anything that could possibly distract you from the paucity of the music on display, stage shows are out of control. Did you see how much a ticket to watch Roger Waters' slow, slippery, slide into senility cost? IT'S A WALL, ROGER. WE GET IT. "WALL" HAS SEVERAL POSSIBLE MEANINGS.

The cost of preserving artists as they age is prohibitive
I mean, when the Stones go out on tour, they probably require round-the-clock medical assistance, if not an entire cryogenic lab to store them in between tour dates. Combine this with my first point, and $150 for the cheapest seats begins to look like a bargain.

The real reason: It's what the market will bear, because people will just keep paying it
They're just going to keep charging these prices, because it's what everyone will happily keep paying. Is seeing Beyonce, Lady Gaga, or Madonna really worth an entire car payment, or most of one month's rent? As long as you don't let Kiernan answer that question, it would appear that the free market has somewhat got out of hand in this particular case. Which, if you agree with me that ticket prices and ticket vendors need reining in (especially given that they hold a monopoly on access to the artists in question) leads us to our clear solution.

Solution: Nationalized Music
It's easy. What happens when the free market rages out of control and monopolies crush wallets and competition? The government gets involved. So, the government should start buying up musical assets and controlling ticket prices with the consumer in mind. This would lead to a number of fantastic things. First, haphazardly organized tours, set up by suited bureaucrats, using only the barest of stage shows. That'd sort the men from the boys. Second, ticket costs, or at least any booking fees, could be tax deductible because screw it, everything else is. Third, wonderful headlines like "Obama Administration Cancels Madonna in Budget Reforms" or "Failure Of Recent Bon Jovi Album Necessitates Welfare Cuts" or "Manager Of Popular Indie Band fun. John Kerry Hosts Album Release Party, Declares Band Officially "Wack"" or "In Surprise Reshuffle, Weird Al Promoted to Secretary of Defense, Declares Road To Middle East Peace Paved With Waffles and Friendship" or "House of Representatives Demands New Tool Album Immediately" or "Congress Officially Repeals Last Album By Pink".

This idea is a no-lose for everyone. It would single-handedly eliminate Ticketmaster, generate profit for the state, make tickets affordable again, lead to amusing stories of mismanagement, make pop star's wages subject to public scrutiny and protest, and give mid-level bands something even bigger to aim for than a major label - being signed by the government.

My Voice Nation Help

Didnt much care for Pearl Jam back in the day but I did appreciate how they at least tried to take on Ticketmaster. Wish more artists would have  jumped on that bandwagon. That convenience charge has always chapped my ass.

Robert Rockula Knott
Robert Rockula Knott

I went to see Buckethead at House of Blues a year or so ago. I got there an hour before the door opened. Went to the window and paid cash for my ticket. Can anyone explain to me why they feel justified charging a $5 convenience charge?


It's what we get because of downloading music on the internet. Musicians can't charge 20 bucks for a CD anymore, so they charge 60+ for a live performance. And people pay it because listening to music isn't rare/special anymore. Owning an album is meaningless because it's available to everyone instantly, sometimes even before the album is officially released.

ChrisYu topcommenter

very funny and so many good points. first of all, your view of the past is not so overly rose tinted. I was there.

as a teenager I could get a prime seat for a major band like Queen without going through a broker and paying  the face value of NINE BUCKS (okay i slept outside on the sidewalk of the ticket vendor before they opened). so anyway, rock bands were just as decadent in the seventies, how did my nine bucks  support all of that? sure nine bucks went farther back then, but figure in whatever economists do does not equal 200 bucks we pay today. yeah, too many more hands got in on the action. something should be done, but please don't let politicians get involved!  "Obama Administration apologizes for Snoop Dogg behavior at Observer St. Pat's celebration, promises closer scrutiny of subsidized artists"


I like the "socialized music" idea in theory, as surely government experts can do better than the ticket and album buying public. However, in practice, I'm afraid of what particular music President Obama could get passed through this particular Congress. 

Seriously, though, I refuse to see a "big show" anymore. Just think about all the great shows at smaller venues that you could see for the amount you'd spend on one ticket, let alone all the "extras."  

Jon Lopez
Jon Lopez

the real reason for increased ticket prices is because artists refuse to let you starve them anymore. it's near impossible to make it in the music biz these days anyways unless you're one of the few lucky enuff to be corporate sponsored. but i do have an idea. if you dont like ticket prices, MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN MUSIC and stop bitchin about it.


@Robert Rockula Knott Wait, they do a convenience charge at the BOX OFFICE now?! I used to go to the box office to avoid that very thing. Crazy. If they're going to charge you the fee no matter what, just add it to the face value of the damn ticket. 

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