Concert prices: What's driving rising costs & how to score affordable seats

Posted at 12:08 PM, Mar 21, 2023

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Terrell Johnson can still remember his first concert like it was yesterday.

"My first show I think I saw, at Joe Louis which no longer exists, 112 and Brandy. And I think it was Silk too. My sister took me," Johnson said as he sat in his living room Monday.

Johnson says he's been going to concerts ever since. The ardent music fan even keeps a photobook with tickets and wristbands from previous shows and music festivals. Every page is filled with names like Drake, John Legend, The Weeknd and more.

"I just love live music. I love music festivals, concerts, hip hop, R&B. I saw Ari Lennox last Thursday. I’m actually going to Coachella next month," said Johnson.

Johnson says his hobby has cost him a lot more in the last year as the cost of tickets has gone up exponentially.

"This is Jay Z and Beyoncé when they were here before. This ticket was $180 and we were like lower bowl, row 5," said Johnson as he referenced an On The Run II tour ticket from 2018. "The price we paid, probably almost three times that, for this show in July (2023)."

Alexis Okafor says she experienced the same sticker shock when she tried to purchase tickets to see rap superstar Drake on his upcoming tour.

"The floor seats and seats that are a little bit closer to the stage are going upwards of $1,000 per ticket which is crazy to me. Just the fact that a concert ticket can even cost that much, I couldn’t wrap my mind around that," said Okafor.

She says the high cost of the tickets meant she and her friends had to settle for seats further away from the stage than they'd anticipated.

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"I think for everyone it’s going to make it less likely that people are going to concerts just because the process of getting tickets has been pretty difficult recently," said Okafor.

Fans say bots buying and reselling tickets have also made finding tickets at an affordable price challenging, an issue companies have tried to safeguard fans from recently.

"You have fans that really want to go and see people. It’s already enough paying $100 or $50 for a ticket but now you have robots buying a $100 and selling it for $400-$500," said Johnson.

Ticket-selling companies say the rise in prices is a result of supply and demand. After COVID-19 lockdowns were eased, companies say there was a higher demand for live entertainment with fewer shows/tickets available.

Why Did Concert Tickets Get So Expensive?

By the third quarter of 2022, Live Nation reported a 37%increase in ticket sales compared to 2019. The ticket seller says they grew in overall attendance in 2022 by 24% when compared to 2019. Live Nation says this drove up revenue by 43%. That demand shows no signs of slowing down with more than 50 million tickets sold as of February 2023 as reported by CNBC.

Venue owners say fans also have to consider that there are many factors that impact the price of a ticket.

"There’s a lot of different moving parts. We have a cleaning crew to make sure the space stays clean throughout the night. We have a full staff which ranges from bars, bar backs, ticketing, coat check and then on top of that you have the entertainer," said Maher Hachem who is the co-owner of Big Pink.

Big Pink, which is located on Wight St. in the Rivertown Warehouse district in Detroit, recently opened in November of 2022. The concert venue offers shows three nights a week.

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"Our goal is to create a community space where we all can appreciate live music together," said Hachem. "We’ve had GRiZ play here, Chromeo. We’ve had a bunch of different house musicians."

Hachem and his business partner, Toby Murray, say as music lovers who still attend shows all over they've also noticed the skyrocketing cost of tickets and fees.

"We have the Big Pink's and then the LiveNation's and a million places in between," said Murray. "I think a big differentiator is something like LiveNation is a public company. They have shareholders to respond to. When you have a public company, it needs to grow no matter what and we're not in that space. We're playing the long game and I think that's why we don't have to milk every single dollar out of every person that comes in."

Experienced concertgoers say there are ways to cut costs when attending a concert like signing up to buy a ticket during presales. Credit card companies and some artists' fan clubs offer codes to give fans early access to buy tickets at face value. People can also try to physically visit the box office when tickets go on sale to avoid online fees.

Hachem and Murray with Big Pink also recommend supporting local artists.

"At the top level, it gets crazy. It’s so complicated with dynamic tickets and the presales with all their sponsors. I went to try to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers when they were at Comerica park and it was the craziest experience I’ve ever been through trying to buy a ticket and I spent so much money," said Murray." One thing people can do is support local places. It’s nice to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers but they started at a local club in LA."