Are Radiohead charging too much for tickets?

Are Radiohead charging too much for tickets?

Radiohead have announced details of a whistle stop UK arena tour in October (LTW News), where they’ll play Manchester’s MEN Arena on October 6th and two nights at the monolithic O2 Arena in London on October the 8th and 9th.

Whilst this announcement should evoke only delight within Radiohead’s huge UK fan base, many have expressed their angst at the high prices Radiohead are charging. The face value of the tickets are £47.50 and £65.00 for different qualities of place in the arena. With the booking fees that all sites place on orders, fans of the Oxford indie legends will end up handing over in excess of £52 and £70 for tickets. Is this too much? Are Radiohead exploiting their fans or is this how much seeing a big band has to cost these days?

In grim financial times like these, people look to music and the arts as an escape and from the anxieties and mundanities of everyday life. Undoubtedly, many will find it nothing short of distasteful to see a bunch of millionaires charging over £70 a head to watch two hours of music. This isn’t like the Rolling Stones being able to charge over the odds because most of their tickets end up going to bosses and corporations anyway; Radiohead have a reasonably young and diverse fan base from students to their teachers, shop workers and their bosses, kids and their parents. There is an argument that why shouldn’t Radiohead charge this if these are the kind of prices that the big guns currently charge, the U2’s and Coldplays of this world. But shouldn’t a band that have always been conscientious and ethically minded strive to be better than cold, out-of-touch industry giants?

Famously, Radiohead let their fans choose how much to pay for their 2007 album ‘In Rainbows’ – maybe this is just the other side of the coin? Radiohead may well be outlining a music industry precedent of accepting that recorded music is losing its value but that live music should have to compensate for this. In ‘the good old days’, ticket prices could be kept relatively low because there was always the assurance that most ticket holders would buy an album if not before the gig, then certainly afterwards. Nowadays this is not the case, like it or not there will be fans at these Radiohead gigs singing every word to songs for which they’ve never ever paid to listen. Perhaps the biggest casualty of the digital music revolution will be live music – no money in recorded music seems to be shifting ticket prices higher and higher and pricing out the good fans who buy albums regularly and want to enjoy their favourite bands in concert.

Maybe this situation is the doing of online ticket touting. When bands are scrolling down eBay pages seeing fans happily pay £50 to £100 over face value for tickets, they must be wondering why they can’t have a slice of that pie. Why should online touting barons be able to capitalise off a band’s success when the band are having to be incredibly cautious over what they charge their audience? Indeed, by setting their prices quite high this may dissuade touts from buying tickets to sell in the first place. Ticket touting is all about investment, and someone is less likely to invest £70 on a ticket when they may not make too much back. Either way, it seems that the fans are being caught up in the friction between the music industry and the ticket touts and becoming very much the victim.

As difficult as fans may find the higher ticket prices to stomach, it could mean an added pressure onto the bands themselves. Facing an audience that they know has forked out a significant chunk of their hard earned brass, will a notably experimental band like Radiohead feel they have to simply ‘play the hits’ and give their fans their value for money? This strain on bands could become incredibly unhealthy and force a situation where bands are afraid of taking those bold onstage decisions for fear of disrespecting their high-paying fans.

Is there a way to be ethical when it comes to setting ticket prices? Are these kind of prices simply what it costs to put on a good show for the punters in 2012? How much profit are the band really taking home with them? I don’t know, but I do know that many fans would be happier paying £15 for an album then choosing what they want to pay for tickets…

18 COMMENTS

  1. They only charge as much as they think they can get away with??
    Personally, I wouldn’t pay that, even for a band I really like, never mind Radiohead.

  2. Only 3 UK dates for a band as huge as Radiohead? Stinks of ‘Let’s do as little as possible for as much as possible’.

    Bound to ensure massive prices on ebay & rip-off so-called ‘Partner sites’ of the main agencies. The whole thing is a scam.

    I thought Radiohead were amongst the more ethical bands, but clearly not. Too precious now. F***’em.

    • Good article. Ticket prices are way too high for a band supposedly as ethical as Radiohead. And a ‘UK’ tour of 2 English cities…? Don’t get me started. Much as I love them, I think I’ve probably seen them in concert for the last time.

  3. Pretty sure your precious Stone Roses tickets are going for £65, for a band who had one album anyone liked, 23 years ago. If Radiohead were a Manc band you’d call them seminal.

    • Dan, they are not my precious Stone Roses! I didn’t write the blog either, I don’t really care where bands come from (I’m from Blackpool…)! I like bands from all over the world, the blog has been met with lots of agreement though- people feel that a band who make a big point about being fair etc should not be that expensive.

      Roses tickets were £55 and it’s a festival type event as well, but again I’m not on anyone’s side here apart from Fugazi…

    • Dan, where a band comes from seems to mean more to you than it does me, I couldn’t care less, I’m from Blackburn as it is. Take the chip shop off your shoulder mate, I like Radiohead and my piece had absolutely nothing to do with their artistic output, just about the price culture in the music industry.
      F

  4. Awful, overrated band who have not made a good record for years. Loved by students who are easily conned by the band’s PR machine into believing that shallow tuneless rip offs of better band’s music is somehow cutting edge.
    Not worth a fiver let alone 70 quid.

  5. Disappointing on so many levels – 3 dates across 2 cities, poor choice of venues, expensive ticket prices with little prior notice of sale dates – the Pre-sale still bloody sold-out within 8 minutes! All 4 of my immediate family are huge fans (including me) this will cost us somewhere in the region of £300 to see a band we love, who to us are still producing amazing music. I think its exploitation of loyal fans who woill do most anything to see the band they love. Bloody shame ; /

  6. Bollocks. The comments on here and on Facebook about them being a boring, self-regarding PR cow willing to bend over and take it up the arse from a record label they don’t have are about as balanced as a tabloid rag.

    Yes there is a north-south divide in all walks of life, but music shouldn’t be one of them. This is the first negative article LTW has run in about a million years, and the comments in the vein mention above are indicative of a self-regarding small-mindedness that resents a band for daring to be middle-class and successful.

    Regardless of background there are crap bands and there are good bands, and whilst you’re entitled to your opinion on any band the lack of balance in the comments is laughable. Fergal is admittedly refreshingly open and fair in the article itself, but the reception to the piece has been nothing short of crass. Deny it all you want, but the LTW readership these days isn’t a group of music fans, it’s a single-minded collective of cheerleaders for the working class north; people who wouldn’t dare criticise anything that ticks both of those boxes regardless of the band’s merits.

    As I said, there’s nothing wrong with a band being working class and northern just as there’s nothing wrong with being middle-class and from Oxford. You just wouldn’t know it to follow this site anymore.

  7. I’m from the South of England and I don’t like Radiohead either! not sure why their fans seem to be going on about a north/south divide? some confused lines of argument on here.

    One of the things I really like about reading this website is that is very open minded and doesn’t follow the usual conventions of music writing.

  8. Like some have mentioned, its pretty much every name band going so its not fair to single out Radiohead alone. You pay your money, you take your choice. Expect to see British Gas, BP and Network Rail sponsoring these events.

  9. What really got me about this was that a) on top of a £65 ticket price, they were charging £6.50 for ‘handling’ when they’re e-tickets with no printing or postage costs attached, and b) because ticket-buying was such a frenzy, I ‘had’ to just go ahead and pay it without having time to think about it. All this just 24 hours after the gigs were announced, a pitifully short time for some people to raise such amounts for two tickets.

    I love Radiohead and am fool enough to pay through the nose to see my favourite bands (see The Cure, RAH, last year), but it certainly doesn’t seem to chime with the ‘Head’s supposedly ethical and fan-friendly approach (assuming they know).

  10. I’m a big Radiohead fan and am immensely looking forward to the Manchester gig, however, have to say I was very disappointed with the price. Other European dates were about a third cheaper. I’d be interested to know what profit margin they’re making and if any is being donated to charity.

    • This is the going rate now for large arena gigs, unfortunately. I dont mind them but would not bust a gut and 70 notes to see them, £40 yes.
      Weller at the Roundhouse next week are almost £40, pretty standard nowadays

  11. There’s a lot of rubbish in this thread, while the original article is realistic about the state of things re. gigs and prices. The only thing that really winds me up is the sell-on websites and touts. RH seem to be trying to limit this with e-tickets/names on tickets/ID for their European gigs (Berlin for example). Why not here too? I don’t know how much control the band have over pricing. And no doubt 02 and MEN take an enormous cut, hence the higher prices here than in Europe. Most things cost more here, why not gigs?

  12. Been a Radiohead fan since the early days. First saw them at Leeds Uni. On Pablo Honey tour and enjoyed the gig so much went to see them again in Manchester. Seen them many times over the years and always admired them not only for their music but for their political awareness and apparent moral stance as the people’s band. Like many others, I am disappointed By the extortionate prices for the current tour. In general I hate arena gigs but can endure them as long as I can get standing tickets down on the floor but not at £82.50! I could have got tickets this morning and sat with my finger poised over the complete purchase, button before deciding it was time to say goodbye to Radiohead for now. Instead I kept the funds for my paperless tickets and decided I would rather spend my money watching maybe another 10 or so up and coming ‘Radioheads’. To Thom and the boys: see you on the way back down off your pedestal!

  13. Still relevant Fergal. I am a huge fan of the band and even have their logo tattooed on my arm for my sins but this tour (’16-’17) will be the first year I have not been able to afford to go. It is not just Radiohead that are guilty here though. The whole industry is in a mess. This new standard of announcing dates then giving fans only five days to find the money stinks and when they go on sale at 9am (when most people are in work) this only feeds the touts. I adore this band and am still hoping to go next year but for now I will have to part ways when it comes to their live shows. it will be the first tour I’ve missed in over a decade if I don’t go and that does sadden me but however much I love a band, as someone with a young child to support £80+ for tickets is not justifiable. Finally, it was also brought to my attention that the pre-sale via the W.A.S.T.E. website was actually more expensive for fans in Dublin than the general sale. This can’t be right surely??

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