How Much?! A Breakdown of Concert Ticket Prices

by Paul Michael on 5 July 2011 3 comments
Photo: d.neuman

If you buy concert tickets on a regular basis, like me and many of my friends, then you know one topic of conversation that often rears its ugly head — what's the deal with the pricing?!

You start off with a ticket for $35, by the time you're done it's closer to $50. What's with all the service fees and other add-ons? Why does it cost more to print the ticket yourself than to have the online service print it for you? How much does the artist actually get after all's said and done? Why are some of these tickets more expensive than a new laptop?!

If these questions have been rattling around your brain, Wise Bread has the answers for you. And you may be quite surprised at the results. (See also: How to Watch Movies in the Theater for Free)

Here’s a chart that outlines where the money goes, with a further breakdown below.

  

The Biggest Shocker — Most of the Money Goes to the Artist!

I know, amazing. My cynical brain, coupled with the way artists often complain about vampire record labels, had me thinking that the artists walk away with one tenth of the take, if they're lucky. It turns out that assumption was dead wrong. Although artists get poorly compensated for music sales (roughly 10% of the retail price) they get a much bigger chunk of change when they tour. And good for them, because touring is no easy task (despite what you may have heard from Motley Crue).

On average, the artist takes 74% of the ticket price, although it can go as high as 90% in some cases. Now you know why more bands tour so much.

Next, the Dreaded Service Fees

Back in the eighties and nineties, it was usual to pay 10% or less in service fees. Those days are gone. Now, depending on the price of the ticket's face value, service fees can be as much, or sometimes more, than the cost of the actual ticket! If you buy a ticket to an unknown (or maybe unpopular) act, it may only set you back $15. But don't expect to pay just $1.50 in service fees. No, they will still be around the same price as those of a $50 ticket, and friends have shown me stubs from concerts that showed a $15 ticket fee and $12.50 in service fees.

So what are you paying for? Well, it's usually made up of the following:

Convenience Fee/Charge and Order Processing Fee

These vary by event, and retail outlet/box office purchases usually don't include an order processing fee. These fees are typically shared with the artist, venue, or promoter, but this is the main source of revenue for places like Ticketmaster and covers their costs plus substantial profits.

Delivery Price

If you choose standard delivery or print-at-home options, these should not apply. But you can add a lot to the final price of the ticket if you have them shipped two-day or overnight. 

Facility Charge

The venue of the concert/gig is responsible for adding any facility charges, and they receive 100% of the money collected from them.

Taxes

City, state, and local taxes are typically included in the face value of the ticket and are not considered service fees.

Why Did It Once Cost More to Print Your Own Ticket?

Ticketmaster used to charge you $2.50 for the option of printing your ticket at home, or you could get them delivered free. Wait, what? Well, it wasn't a question of the physical cost of printing the ticket; clearly it cost the company more to print them than to have you print them yourselves. This was simply one of those “because we can, that’s why” fees and it made a lot of financial sense to the company. People were willing to pay the small fee for the convenience of having instant access to tickets and a soft copy available that they could print at any time.

Physical tickets can get lost in the mail, damaged, or misplaced, and that’s just a headache. Plus, if you’re buying concert tickets last minute, the instant option is your only one unless you want your tickets to arrive after the event. The good news is, as you can see from the LiveNation PDF (or if you have recently purchased tickets via Ticketmaster), that these TicketFast fees have been abandoned. Increased scrutiny from watchdogs and complaints from consumers over the power of the Ticketmaster monopoly had a lot to do with it. So now instant gratification is even more gratifying.

So You Want the Best Price For Tickets...What Do You Do?

Well, in most instances you're going to get your tickets from a reputable online dealer like LiveNation, which includes Ticketmaster, TicketsNow, TicketWeb, and House of Blues. And yes, they've pretty much cornered the market. But you do have some options to save money.

First, see if you can buy tickets directly from the box office of the venue the gig is at. That may be a trip, but it saves you on a few of those service fees. You could also try buying through the artist's website, which may offer discounts to fan club members, better seats, CDs with purchase, or any other number of goodies. And if you do go through an online source, order them in plenty of time so you can choose better seats and avoid any rush delivery charges (if printing at home is not an option).

Oh, and please, don't give money to the scalpers, and that includes those insidious sites like StubHub. I wanted to get tickets to a concert recently that had completely snuck up on me. Face value of the ticket was $62, but the tickets had all gone. Lucky for me though, StubHub had a bunch at the bargain-basement price of $370! Yeah, no thanks. I went to Craigslist and found someone selling them last minute because they had to back out, and they only asked face value.

I personally think there should be a limit to how many tickets anyone can buy, and that includes corporations or other businesses. And I mean real limits, not the feeble ones they have now that aren't enforced and clearly don't work.

Any other ticket buying advice? Concert ticket horror stories? Ridiculous fees that you paid? Chime in.

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Meg Favreau's picture

Buying tickets from a box office whenever possible is a great tip. And I'm happy to learn that most of the money does go to the artist -- that makes me feel better about when I do indulge in a pricier ticket.

Guest's picture
LovingLife

Well, for bigger name, well established acts, they do get a bigger chunk of the ticket revenue. Newer acts are almost forced into what are known as 360 marketing contracts which means the management company takes a nice sized chunk of things. Not saying they are poor, but newer artists will not even see 50% of FV for most tickets. Think along the range of 35-45%, with the remainder going to their management company.

Guest's picture

The fee to print my own ticket always made me laugh. As a frugal ticket buyer, I always simply allowed my tickets to arrive in the mail, or if it was close to the date, arranged to pick it up at will call. Glad to see they finally got rid of this. It'd be like charging to use the u-scan at the grocery store.