Ticket prices vs your wallet. The cost of live music in Australia

Let me ask you a few simple questions:

How much do you spend on live music monthly?

Do you go to more than one gig a week?

Is the money you spend on concert tickets a big portion of your budget?

Part 3 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE

If you’re reading this blog, then you take the above questions pretty seriously, like I do. I’ve been taking them even more seriously since I came to Australia. Music is a big part of your cultural life here. And if you live in Melbourne, where music events of some sort happen every night, you’ll start noticing your wallet gradually becoming thinner and lighter. But do you really ever translate it into numbers? I, for instance, dread anything economy-related (hence, I don’t work in any industry related to it). But to illustrate the topic in this post, I’ll make the sacrifice and talk money.

Firstly, to understand my point better, it’s good for you to know the value of the Aussie currency. As of today (19 April 2019) AUD 1 is worth approximately USD 0.72, EUR 0.64, GBP 0.55, CHF 0.73 or JPY 80. In other words, if you want to exchange 100 Aussie Dollars for those foreign currencies, you’ll get 72 American Dollars, 64 Euro, 55 British Pounds, 73 Swiss Francs or 8000 Japanese Yen. This is real-time data taken from an independent international currencies calculator.

Let’s also establish some price benchmarks for an average concert goer (not a VIP – after all, we, the common people, mostly go for the down-to-earth experiences). Tickets to festivals lasting a few days cost between AUD 250-400 in Oz, depending on (amongst other things) how star-packed the line-up is. When big names – whether local or international – tour Australia, they charge anything from AUD 120 to AUD 200 for a show; but most likely towards the higher end of that scale. Acts whose names are already recognisable but who aren’t exactly royalty yet will ask for AUD 50-90 for a live performance. Local rising artists will sell tickets to their gigs for humble AUD 15-40. In Melbourne, and Australia in general, there are also heaps of completely free music events with killer line-ups. Considering those 5 price categories and keeping in mind that festivals and mega stars’ performances happen less often throughout the year than casual gigs, let’s make a brave assumption that your average spend on a concert ticket is around AUD 75-100*. Sounds about right?

The question pops up here automatically: is that a lot? Let’s not forget that touring is part of musicians’ jobs and concert ticket sales make up a part of their salary (which they also pay taxes for). On top of that, as any other form of service or goods, concert tickets are subject to government tax. And if you have any idea how the profit is split amongst everyone involved in putting a show together (i.e. tour manager, roadies, booking agent, venue, tech staff, security, catering etc.), then you’ll see that actual performers are not left with much. So, it’s definitely not up to me to judge or criticise anybody for setting their prices at a certain level to make a living. But that’s only part of the equation.

Assumption three: if you’re a diehard music fan (and not afraid to show it), you’ll probably find something interesting to check out more than once a month. Especially in the spring/summer season, when there are more artists playing festival side shows than days of the month. That’s why, to stay in the musical loop, you might want to pencil in a few hundred bucks more than the rest of the non-music-loving population. In which case your live music budget is probably close to a two-digit percentage of your income. (And you thought you were spending heaps on smokes). I’m not very far from the truth, am I?

Now, it’s worth mentioning that salaries Down Under are not too bad, to say the least. So, at first glance, it doesn’t seem so extreme. But, as a friend of mine who purchased general entry tickets (!) to two upcoming legendary international acts within a week put it, “I accidentally spent my weekly rent allowance in two clicks online”. That does sound scary. And I’m sure you never thought of it that way. Me neither. I am a live music fan, too. I go to a looooot of gigs and pay the same prices as everyone else. As a result, my wallet currently has a (super) massive (black) hole. On top of that, music and going to gigs are considered a luxury and not a necessity. That’s why your married friends paying off home loans and saving up for their kids’ college tuition are kind of entitled to think that you’ve lost your mind.

I’ve got some more news for you as well: live music ticket prices are on the rise Down Under. Check out this pretty thorough analysis done by The New Daily to see where it all comes from. It looks like Aussies are partially to blame for that, too. There seems to be a real hunger for live music Down Under and there are never enough tickets for all punters. A popular saying becomes true in this case: desperate times call for desperate measures. In order to see their favourite acts, many of the super fans and groupies fall victims of ticket scalping, unintentionally driving up average ticket prices.

Moreover, performers themselves seem to have noticed that Aussies are willing to pay more for “special” experiences, like VIP tickets, meet&greet’s, official afterparties etc. Funnily enough, VIP tickets are sometimes snatched much quicker than general entry ones. The conclusion is obvious: like everything else in economy, it’s a simple relation of supply and demand. When prices go up but gig goers are still willing to pay them, a new threshold is automatically set. Until the next revision, so to speak.

When you truly love live music events, you’ll do anything to get that ticket. But it shouldn’t really mean getting behind in payments that are inevitable in life, like rent and bills or reducing that credit card debt once in a while. So, I’m happy to see there are different trends on the music horizon in Australia indicating genuine efforts on the industry’s side to ensure that it’s a win-win situation for both musos and audiences.

Following the lead of big events in other parts of the world, Splendour In The Grass festival, in cooperation with their ticketing platform – Moshtix, this year allows punters to pay for tickets in three month-apart instalments, fondly called “paytime”. Whilst the move doesn’t reduce the overall damage done to one’s bank account, the spread-out payments make life much easier for the lucky ticket holders than forking out the whole amount in one go. Being one of the favourite Aussie festivals whose tickets sell out nearly every year (sometimes in a matter of less than an hour), it’s very generous and considerate of the organisers to finally acknowledge countless petitions for a payment plan.

GiggedIn** is another awesome way to make live music more accessible to Aussie population. I’m sure there are similar concepts in other parts of the world but what these guys are doing is a huge favour to music fans Down Under. As weird as it seems, GiggedIn is really all about a flat rate for attending gigs. A Sydney-based start-up, they expanded to Melbourne as well and are working on including more cities in Oz. Whilst their business model (I can’t believe I’m using such fancy economic vocab) is still evolving, they are now offering 3 different tiers of monthly subscriptions, dependent on your level of live music fixation.

From 15 bucks a month you can sign up for the most affordable plan – that means RSVPing to an event once a month. If you absolutely can’t live without live music, then you’ll be after a 6-pass monthly commitment for 70 bucks. The best thing about it is that the unused passes do roll over to the next month. So, even if you’ve been busy with your grown-up life in March, you can go full-on live music groupie in April. Now, let’s be realistic: the highest subscription level won’t get you a pass to a Metallica concert. But you gotta start somewhere. Most acts are up-and-coming local and international bands.

Occasionally, though, a true gem (like Gang of Youths or Leon Bridges) pops up and the pass allocation is exhausted in 5 seconds. I tested their system myself and got to see some pretty cool shows, like Kira Puru or TKay Maidza. Kudos to GiggedIn for helping out artists on the rise and doing our wallets a huge favour!

As to the original questions. Having read my little rant above and (hopefully) drawing some conclusions, go back and do your own maths. I bet you’ll be surprised. And even if it turns out your love for live music made you officially broke, know that she’ll be right***.

* If you’re wondering where I took the figures from, I haven’t made them up. Feel free to google different artists who are either touring Australia currently or have just released tickets for their upcoming shows. Or do a retrospective search and see how the prices have been shaping up in the last couple of years.

** Before you write me off for promoting businesses, I don’t get a dime from any of the listed companies and businesses for mentioning their name – they don’t even know I’m writing about them here.

*** Aussie slang for “everything will be fine”.

References (if not already hyperlinked in the text):

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