The concert industry saw record-shattering profits in 2023, drawing billions on the back of high profile tours from big-name artists like Taylor Swift and Beyonce. However, these ground-breaking numbers came with ever higher ticket prices — a fact that has left a sour taste in the mouths of concertgoers across the globe.

While companies like Ticketmaster, its promotional giant parent Live Nation Entertainment, or other whales like AEG, Oak View Group, or the umbrella indie lobbying coalition NIVA are quick to point the blame for inflated ticket prices solely on the existence of an independent ticket resale industry, the truth is far less cut and dried than they’d like consumers to believe.

Over the past year, we’ve seen a typical scenario, particularly with newer artists. Country star Zach Bryan is one artist who garnered a massive amount of attention over a year timespan. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, tickets to his show at Summerfest in July 2023 started at $68.17, with prices topping-out at $476.70. However, just eight months later, his gig on March 20 at the Fiserv Forum started at $330.

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Rising indie star Noah Kahan experienced similar success, touring in support of his breakthrough Stick Season, as well as pop’s Olivia Rodrigo, who stirred up controversy during tickets to her GUTS tour. Rodrigo’s tour was followed by tour announcements by the likes of blink-182, Bad Bunny, Morgan Wallen, and Sleep Token. No matter the genre, fans were all experiencing the same scenario: they’d struggle through Ticketmaster’s ticket-buying process — leading to either being kicked-out of the onsale queue or placed in the infamous waitlist — just to reach a checkout page and find unattainable prices.

So, why are prices on the rise?

Dynamic Pricing

Most notably, Swift’s Eras Tour presale was so chaotic that it sparked an investigation by the Department of Justice into Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s 2010 merger, pointing to monopolistic and alleged anticompetitive practices.

FPC Live’s Goldstone noted that while ticketsellers like Ticketmaster don’t set the price of tickets, they have the ability to use algorithmic pricing tools like dynamic pricing. These tactics allow Live Nation and Ticketmaster to surge pricing based on market demands.

Live Nation antitrust czar Dan Wall disagrees with assumptions that his company has anything to do with surging ticket prices. He argued that the high prices are simply a natural progression of the events industry in its modern form, rather than a reflection of an industry where one company serves as both the largest promoter in the world, and the operator of a ticketing platform that handles an estimated 60-80 percent of ticket transaction volume in North America.

Post-Pandemic Recovery

Although the COVID-19 pandemic may seem far behind us, the concert industry has just began to fully recover. After almost two years of tours halted and mask mandates, the industry returned in 2023 with a box-office haul. According to Pollstar, there was a 46% increase in ticket sales from 2022, with sales for the top 100 tours up 18.4%.

| READ: Live Nation Highlights Stranglehold on Industry With Record-Breaking 2023 Earnings

Live Nation also reported its “biggest year yet,” with revenue was up 36% to $22.7 billion last year with an operating income up 46% to $1.07 billion. Live Nation reported all-time highs for attendance, ticket sales, and sponsorship activity, with over 145 million fans attending over 50,000 events. In terms of concerts, revenue increased by 39% to $18.8 billion.

It’s no surprise that concert tickets would be on the rise following the halted few years during the pandemic, and it became clear that people were itching to get back to venues to see big-name acts like Swift and rock icon Bruce Springsteen — both who boast a successful, years-worth catalog of music that could offer shows spanning over two hours each.

The Concert Experience

Especially following the pandemic, people want to feel that sense of unity again, and that’s something a concert can offer. Scott Leslie, FPC Live co-president, told the Sentinel that “people have a different kind of relationship with artists than other entertainers.”

“Whether it’s the lyrical connection or whatever else, it’s individual for everybody, and where the demand comes from is being in the room with them for those two hours,” Leslie said. “That is not something that is able to be replaced, and that is why demand is so much crazier.”

Costs of Touring

While Swift could have played even more shows on The Eras Tour, it’s impossible for one person to play high-energy shows every single day. This leads to a limited number of shows, and subsequently, a limited number of tickets. Amid the scarcity, touring costs have become higher, with more money needed for a tour bus, hotel accommodations, technology, and more.

Last year, the metalheads of Flotsam and Jetsam had to cancel their European tour due to higher-than-expected costs associated with touring following the COVID-19 pandemic. Others have been outspoken regarding expensive ticket prices due to touring, including Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine. 

Mustaine explained that every person on tour with his band gets paid on a per-day basis, whether or not they’re working. These include the crew that works on lighting, sound, and monitors, as well as the guitar and bass techs. Additionally, there are people working backstage, along with bus and truck drivers, caterers, and hotels.

“So the cost just keeps going up and up and up,” Mustaine said. “And a lot of people look at the ticket price, and they think, ‘Man, I’m not paying 75 bucks to go see these guys.’ And it’s unfair to say that.”

Fans Are Willing to Pay

At the end of the day, concert prices would likely fall if concertgoers came together and collectively decided not to purchase tickets. But, the reality of the situation is — people love concerts. Whether its for that special concert experience to feel close to an artist and their lyrics or to get out and have an unforgettable night, they’re going to shell out a good amount of money to see their favorite performer.

It’s also worth noting that spending habits have shifted over the years; Gary Witt, CEO of Milwaukee venue operator and events promoter Pabst Theater Group, told the Sentinel that back in 2008, the average home buyer was 31-years-old. Now, that number has jumped to 49-years-old.

“Concerts are very much a place where people are putting some money they used to save to buy their first home,” Witt said.

Artists Can Charge More

Ticket prices are also increasing simply because artists want them to. According to Dave Brooks, senior director of live and touring for Billboard, “tours are finding out they can charge more.”

“Fans are willing to pay more for high-demand shows. They are willing to pay more for the artists that they like and want to see, and they really value that experience.”

Springsteen actually stood by the uptick in ticket prices for his tour last year, telling Rolling Stone that if a ticket broker is allowed to make so much money off a resale ticket, “Why shouldn’t that money go to the guys that are going to be up there sweating three hours a night for it?”

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