Friday, 20 November 2015

Marilyn Got Me A Thinking About Some Things

Today my good friend Marilyn was moaning about the price of tickets for Busted's reunion tour being a costly £52! Yes Marilyn likes Busted but she's lovely so we won't judge her. This got me thinking about the costs of gigs and I worked out that by the time we finish the year I willhave gone to five festivals for around £60 and seen well over 100 bands in the process. Why on earth should Busted tickets for just one gig cost so much? 

This got me wondering how much tickets are for other big acts. To get an answer, I took to Facebook and asked my friends what the most amount of money they've spent on a gig is. The average price appeared to be between £60 and £100, which is staggering to me. One person even paid £180 to see Bon Jovi! I like Bon Jovi but to pay that much I'd want them to come and play in my living room, with wind machine, dancing girls and whatever else happens at a Bon Jovi concert. What I found most staggering about the responses I got was how the high costs didn't seem to bother anyone. As far as I'm aware not a single person who answered my question is a millionaire so how can they be happy to pay so much?! Also, what do you actually get for an expensive gig that you can't find at a reasonably priced gig?

I'm pretty sure that the majority of people reading this will be used to going to little punk shows where tickets rarely cost more than £15. The most I've paid for a gig tickets this year was £30 for NOFX, Alkaline Trio, Lagwagon and Capdown at the Brixton Academy. For me that seemed incredibly steep but I reasoned that for £30 I was getting three of the most legendary bands to come out of the American punk rock scene in the past thirty years and Capdown - a legendary band from the UK's own fantastic scene. That works out at less than £10 for a band, which is very, very good. That's cheaper than all but two of the gigs that people mentioned when I originally asked my question about ticket prices. I have to imagine that at those gigs it was all about the headliners and the other acts were people the majority of the crowd had never heard of. Now let's go back to the cheaper gigs I was talking about. In September I attended the Camden Underworld for Random Hands final ever gig. That ticket cost me £14. Perfectly reasonable for one of the most popular bands in the ska-punk genre but then you had Sonic Booms Six, who are legends in their own right, and Faintest Idea and River Jumpers, two of the brightest up and coming acts in the country. Combine that with the fact it was Random Hand’s last ever gig so it was guaranteed to be one of the best gigs of the year. That night was filled with four fantastic live acts, plenty of singing, dancing and a lot of emotion. Also the Camden Underworld is not the biggest place in the world so you can actually see the bands you are watching. A few years back I went to Frank Turner’s Wembley Arena show and as much as I enjoyed it, it could have been anyone on stage playing as we were so far away it was hard to tell. I spent most of the gig watching the screens rather than the stage, if I wanted to watch a screen I would have waited for the DVD to come out. I love a cheap and small, intimate gig. Who has ever said intimate gigs are rubbish? Nobody, that's who! I like being able to see the emotion on a performers face during a gig and I like being able to see that without paying a days wage, spending my whole day queuing to be at the front of a packed crowd and getting pinned against a barrier by a few thousand people behind you who also want to get as close as possible. So, for lots of money you can waste your day and get squashed or get a really terrible view from far away. Doesn't seem worth it to me.

There is always the argument that you get a lot more of a show at a big expensive concert. You get whole dance troupes, lightshows, fireworks, flying drummers, circus performers, balloons, costume changes, lap dances, choreography and mixed in with all of that people performing songs. I'll admit I've never been to any shows that have any of the things listed but I can't help but feel like they take something away from the actual music part. Isn't that what the main point of a music show is, the music? I want to come away from a gig remembering the feeling I got from a certain song rather than seeing Miley Cyrus take her clothes off or seeing Muse play music along with a huge light show. I'd prefer to come away after tearing up at Wrecking Ball or doing my best air guitar to Plug In Baby. Sure all the extra bits are cool but it sometimes feels a bit unnecessary. I'm sure that a big part of ticket price goes towards the production part of a gig. All of those extra bits must cost a lot of money but surely it's better to scale back the production and have cheaper shows for your fans? After all it is because of the fans artists keep getting to live such amazing lives.

Something I always find quite ironic is that the concerts that cost the most money are for the artists that need it the least? Whereas the smaller acts, who still have jobs that pay for touring and recording records and making merchandise and other costs that come with being in a band are cheaper. How does that make any sense? I was at Manchfester in October and the band Bangers headlined. Bangers are from Cornwall and drove all the way up to Manchester to play for half an hour. I obviously have no idea what they got paid/if they got paid but I imagine a lot of the money went towards fuel costs so I really can't imagine it was an especially profitable gig for them. But that didn't stop them putting everything into their performance. The same can be said for every band that played that day and pretty much every band I ever see. They can't be making a lot of money from touring but they put everything into their shows regardless. They don't do it for the money, they do it because it's what they love doing! How many times do you hear or read about the big megastar multi-millionaire pop stars kicking off because they're tired, or the crowd aren't reacting how they want, or they don't have the correct nuts backstage, or their dressing room has the wrong door handle (that might be me exaggerating to make a point) and then putting on half a show because of this but happily taking the money of the very willing and loving fans. That just wouldn't happen at a cheap punk show, if something goes wrong (which if often does) you just get on with things and make the best of it. Sometimes these mistakes make for the most memorable of shows. I can't help but think if you're earning more money you should put more work into the show.

This post is turning into a bit of a rant but I think I've made a valid argument against expensive ticket prices. Next time you're thinking of shelling out a day's wage for a gig maybe check out some gigs at some of the smaller venues all other the country. They'll be a lot cheaper and you'll come away just as entertained, plus you will be putting money in the pockets of folk who need it a lot more.

After I finished writing this column I sent it of to Avon for editing and she returned it making a very good point. She said that punk shows are too cheap and that is why bands also have to work to make a living. That's is a really really good point, one that I quite naively overlooked. I know I would happily pay a bit more to see my favourite bands, obviously not the stupidly high prices that some bands/promoters ask for but definitely more so these incredibly talented and dedicated people can make a living doing the thing that they love and that I love.