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 ÃÂ£47.50 and ÃÂ£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 ÃÂ£52 and ÃÂ£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 ÃÂ£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 ÃÂ£50 to ÃÂ£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 ÃÂ£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 ÃÂ£15 for an album then choosing what they want to pay for tickets…