Prices for everything have gone up and have continued to go up for years. Tickets to shows have gone up dramatically, or so it seems in recent years. Places like Ticketmaster have a strong hold on the music industry if you do want to go to a concert, but are they to blame or did artists choose this fate?
In 1998, you could get a Pearl Jam ticket for $23. It sounds like a decent deal, but when you take inflation into consideration – that’s $42.50 now. This ticket I saw was also a non-Ticketmaster ticket. Which, in many respects, is the typical price for a concert ticket now for a band that I would say are similar in pull to what Pearl Jam was in 1998. So, in this example, ticket prices haven’t really gone up – they just look like they have. Now, yes, other factors for sure make the price more expensive. Gas is higher now, even inflation aside. So, if you have to drive, you will be spending more on gas.
In March 1994 Pearl Jam sent a letter to promoters asking to perform at venues that would only charge $18 for a ticket and no more than $1.80 for service or handling fees, to keep tickets under $20 for their fans. The Justice Department opened an investigation and Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament testified before Congress on May 30, 1994.
Gossard said about this: “All the members of Pearl Jam remember what it’s like to be young and not have a lot of money. Many Pearl Jam fans are teenagers who do not have the money to pay $30 or more that is often charged for tickets today.”
They were not alone here because a lot of other bands backed Pearl Jam, including, Garth Brooks, The Grateful Dead, R.E.M., Neil Young and Aerosmith.
Side note to today and we see a similar situation going on with The Cure and Robert Smith. Robert Smith has been, for years, against the cost of ticket prices and with a new Cure tour coming up, he still stands firm on hating ticket gouging.
Back to 1995 – A few days before the hearing before Congress, Ticketmaster was cleared of monopoly charges in New York, in one of several class-action lawsuits filed by consumers around the country. The investigation was closed without action.
Taylor Swift went up against Ticketmaster as well and lost, so it’s not like Pearl Jam just couldn’t get it done. Ticketmaster made an example out of the way that the top of the food chain works. No matter how big an band or artist is – they won’t win when it comes to money.
Was this all a choice though? This is a loaded question. When an artist signs a deal to a record label, they are locked in for X amount of years to X amount of terms. This is what Pearl Jam, Robert Smith, and Taylor Swift signed up for on day 1. They relinquished control on day 1 and ever since. No judgement at all, I would do the exact same thing. That said, contracts come up for renewal after X amount of years.
Multiple times, through the years, an artist can drop from a label. Any band talking about ticket prices could have dropped from a major label and went independent and chose to play bars and dives for $15 if that’s truly what they wanted to do.
Of course, I’m not bashing anyone here. I’m just stating that the option was there to give fans $15 shows if that could have worked for the band. Now, I would imagine that most rich bands work themselves into a position of not being able to afford doing that, so I do have to give some pause there and understand that, as Dave Grohl says, “The mansion isn’t gonna run itself”, but still, for the sake of an argument – a band can go independent after serving their terms, however, many do not.
So, yes, the service fees and the prices for tickets today is and seems outlandish, but understand that there is still a lot that an artist can do to remedy this. Is it ideal for the artist? Absolutely not. Does it make sense for the artist? Also, probably not.
No, this does not make an artist a liar or any of the sort, but if Michael Jackson wanted to perform outside of a Pizza Hut on a Tuesday afternoon for $3 and a few slices – I think it could have been possible.