life gets real for arena artists

image borrowed under Creative Commons from The Concept of “Resource”

Traveling down the road this morning, tuned in to "Morning Edition" on the local National Public Radio station KCUR, a brief story unfolded about failing concert ticket sales across the nation.  It seems that just in the last few days The Black Keys and Jennifer Lopez have cancelled tours citing other reasons, in spite of data indicating pre-sales for their concerts were not living up to expectations.

It is an interesting little tale that identifies the cause at a high level.  The cost of tickets to some of our favorite shows has become completely unrealistic.  Fans are backing away from the extreme expense of enjoying their favorite artists. 


In 2023, an article in People magazine marked the average price of concert ticket at $252.  Add to that parking, dinner, drinks, memorabilia, and all the other things that fans associate with attendance and the price of night out could easily hit $500 or more.

Not many can afford that sort of luxury on a consistent basis.  Not many want to afford that sort of luxury when it turns out to be little more than the privilege of watching an event on multiple screens.

Informal polling of a handful of people found the same basic attitude.  Folks are losing interest in attending massive arena concerts with 50,000 or more like-minded fans.  They have no interest in paying hundreds of dollars just to watch the show on a screen.

One fan summed it up, stating "What's the point anymore?  I can stay home and watch a concert video for free.  I don't have to wait in line to be charged $20 for a beer or to slog through a restroom that smells of urine, vomit, with an array of illegal activities in progress."

The same fan went on to explain that they now preferred small intimate events with their favorite artists and emerging artists.  Shows can sometimes be a little more difficult to find and occasionally require traveling, but often cost little more than nominal cover charge.  All of their friends can afford to go and more often, enjoying what would be front row seating at any of the more massive shows. 

borrowed from WorldsofFun.org

Way back in the day, this opinion was first fostered, then fully embraced by this writer. A weird little venue near home hosted local bands every Friday and Saturday night for a buck or two.  The building might have held about 100 people, but it was the place to be and was packed every night it was open.  A short trip out to Worlds of Fun on a summer night could offer up the Commodores, Gloria Gaynor, Hall & Oates, Willie Nelson, or any number of top artists, costing nothing in addition to the cost of admission. Locations like the Grand Emporium were infamous for brining top talent to a tiny venue all the way through until it closed in 2003. Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club had the same reputation.  A trip to The Uptown Theater or out to The Granada in Lawrence often offered the same.

This type of concert attendance has not disappeared.  It still waits for anyone with interest, and much to the dismay of arena concert promoters and names like Jennifer Lopez. More fans are discovering how much more interesting and rewarding small or mid-sized venue can be, both in experience and financially.  

As an artist, if you are unable to come down from your pedestal and perform in a little club every so often, what use are you really, except a financial drain on society.  It is past time to start giving back to your fans.  Those that do, over the next handful of years, will be the survivors.  Everyone else will be has-beens.

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