Rob Hallett’s contention that a ticket costing as much as £300 to see the Rolling Stones at a venue where they played a free concert in 1969 was too cheap is nothing new.
Back in 1994, Barbra Streisand’s publicist claimed: “Everyone I’ve talked to thinks she’s under-priced the show”, as the singer charged her fans $350 (£225). That was also the year the Eagles broke the $100 barrier for a US arena show. When dates sold out, it opened the floodgates.
Matters were made worse when record sales began their collapse in the late 1990s, making touring the cash-cow to be milked. And thanks to the growing power of tour-related multinationals such as TicketMaster and AEG, America’s problem became ours too.
In 1976, the late Mick Farren’s punk-presaging NME polemic “The Titanic Sails At Dawn” described rock fans’ rising disgust at “paying three quid to be bent mutilated, crushed or seated behind a pillar” at early arena and stadium shows by the Stones, The Who and Rod Stewart. Now, the aristocratic disdain that Farren sensed in such stars has become naked, with supposed outlaw Keith Richards expressing airy disinterest in the Stones’ prices, just as Madonna dismissed outrage at her £125 gigs last year. “Start saving your pennies,” she said. “I’m worth it.”
The experience of buying tickets for major concerts also cages the fan in effectively monopolistic mark-ups (about £20 for ticketing “costs” to Madonna in 2012). But another growing trend – the gap in UK society between rich and poor – means sufficient punters won’t blink at any price from promoters or touts, while the majority are excluded.
Hallett expresses satisfaction at pricing which sells out, without asking to whom. If, as seems increasingly the case, Farren’s Titanic is sailing again in today’s horrifically bland music industry, a lot of us are stuck down in steerage.