The rising cost of music tickets

I took a phone call the other day from a person wanting to purchase tickets for Aled Jones’ Cathedral Tour. When I announced that we weren’t selling them directly, but that we were simply the venue, he got quite annoyed about having to go through Ticketmaster as an only option. This wasn’t because he didn’t use a computer, or didn’t like paying for stuff online; rather, he was infuriated at the difference between the initial ticket price and the final payment. By the time you add extra charges, such as the booking fee and postage, it works out at an extra £10, he declared irritatingly. I told him I could sympathise, and that wasn’t just me trying to be polite.

This came off the back of Eddie Mair’s weekly column in the Radio Times (27th Feb 2016, pg.133) where, with his typically dry humour, Eddie rounded on the very same people this chap was exasperated  with:

‘Buying tickets online for a live stage show, I selected the date, the seats I wanted, entered my credit card details, ticked that I was “happy” to pay their ludicrous booking fee and everything else was accepted. After purchase, I was offered the choice of having the tickets sent to me through the post or I could print them at home. Normally I would print at home: quicker, easy and free. But this particular venue has spotted a genius way to fleece customers just when they feel totally fleeced out. The cost of getting the tickets by post was £2.70. Next to the box to check to print at home was the price tag: £2.50. Yes, that’s correct…. These charlatans wanted to charge me £2.50 to use my own printer, ink and paper to provide my own tickets for the gig which I had just paid handsomely. They wanted actual money to allow me to do something that involved them doing literally nothing’

I couldn’t quite believe it when I read this. Surely this isn’t legal? How on earth does printing your own tickets warrant an extra charge of £2.50?! I liked Eddie’s response:

‘there I sat in a wearily familiar situation: the angry consumer with a choice. Delete the entire transaction? Cancel a show I was excited about seeing? Send them an angry letter with a bill demanding ten pounds for sending the angry letter? I clicked on tickets by post. I wanted them at least to do something for my bloody money…. But ultimately, I’m left just hating them, and myself, just a little bit more’

And therein lies the irony I suppose. Do we start sending letters and asking the recipient to pay our postage of them? Do we prevent people from printing out e-mail attachments until they contribute financially to our nondescript efforts?

It’s sad when the world comes to this. For all it’s good, one of the downsides to a global, electronic marketplace is that music tickets have become something of a financial, rather than personal or emotional, commodity. No longer do some people aim to be the first to buy tickets for popular artists because they are genuine fans or excited for the experience. Instead, their aim is to sell them on for 10, 20, even 100 times the original price. I heard the other week of someone who was lucky enough to get tickets to Adele in Manchester; these same people knew others, though, who had missed out. The only way that they could attend would be to pay for tickets appearing afterwards on auction sites whose price had been drastically inflated. Why should they have to pay so much more for something that, if it wasn’t for these money-making scammers, they would have stood a better chance of getting in the initial sale?

Ultimately, I find it sad that these ticketing agencies and amateur businessmen have robbed some of the joy out of going to see live music. It’s sad (and somewhat unfathomable) the prices associated with purchasing tickets these days. I guess, once you’re there, grievances with the process tend to slip away (at least for those who actually acquired tickets to go). But, like Eddie Mair, I can’t help feeling that we end up hating them, and ourselves, that little bit more. If this post does nothing else, I hope it at least shines a light on the injustice that seems to be at work, perhaps not within the music industry, but certainly around it.

This post was initially published in April 2016.

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