They didn’t turn up at my door chauffeur-driven.
And that’s not even the worst example of the exorbitant booking fees that punters have to put up with, not by a long way.
If you want to order one ticket to see Paul McCartney at Hampden on June 20, your £85 pitch seat transforms into a £98.45 one by the time you’ve been asked to type in your credit card number on the Ticket Soup website run by the SECC. Of course, you can sympathise with Macca’s plight, seeing as he lost £60m of his £500 fortune last year. The poor man’s got to recoup his money somewhere.
So who is to blame for not just the ever-increasing cost of concert tickets, but the booking fees? The gig promoter? The ticket agency? The venue? The artist? The answer is probably all of the above.
Here’s how it tends to work. The promoter can either choose to pay the ticket agency/box office commission on each ticket sold or, more commonly, keep 100% of the ticket money and let the ticket agency charge a booking fee to make their profit.
However, with certain larger gigs, it’s the promoter who charges the ticket agencies a fee (anything up to 10% of the face value) to secure the tickets to sell, which is why you end up with sky-high booking fees – the ticket agency needs to cover the promoter’s fee as well as their own costs (call centre staff/credit card commission, etc).
In some cases, the promoters actually dictate the booking fee, particularly when they want the on-sale price to be uniform throughout all the ticket agencies they are using. Music festivals are one of the most common examples of this practice.
But it’s worth remembering that ticket agencies enjoy a virtually risk-free arrangement. If the gig doesn’t sell well, it’s the promoter and the artist’s management who are going to be hit in the pocket – somebody still has to pay for hiring the venue, sound/lighting staff, road crew, transport, hotels, etc. And if ticket sales are so bad that it makes far more financial sense to scrap a gig or an entire tour, that’s when the record company dreams up an alternative, face-saving bullshit explanation to feed the fans.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that the humble performer, being transported from town to town by bus, never has anything to do with this complex and often murky business. Not only do many of the biggest touring artists have a major say in the cost of their tickets, ticket agencies often have to pay a proportion of the booking fee to the artist’s management company, in some cases in addition to the fees being paid to the promoter.
The end result? High priced tickets and high booking fees. The harsh reality is that everyone is out to make money and it’s always the punter who pays for it.
So say you want to purchase a pair of tickets to see Idlewild at Glasgow’s ABC on April 30. Here’s how much would that cost…
- £32 from ABC box office
- £36 from Ripping Records, Edinburgh (will deliver if you send a cheque and SAE)
- £36.50 from Tickets Scotland, Glasgow
- £37.50 from Ticketweb (collected at ABC box office)
- £38.25 from Ticketweb (delivered)
- £40 from Ticketmaster (delivered)
As you can see, it certainly pays to shop around. This Idlewild gig is being put on by DF Concerts, Scotland’s largest promoters, so we asked Geoff Ellis, head of the organisation, what his take on the issue is.
Ellis said: “Everyone in the industry prefers to sell gig tickets in advance of a show for obvious reasons. We believe the option should always be available for gig-goers to buy in person, at face value, for cash (at the venue) in advance of a show. For convenience, the majority of music fans these days opt to purchase tickets by phone or online by credit card and are therefore prepared to pay a service fee for this enhanced service. There is no longer a high demand for buying in person, however we as a promoter continue to monitor our customers’ needs and allocate tickets to various outlets accordingly.”
Here are The Pop Cop’s top 10 tips for getting the best deal for gig tickets
1. Purchase tickets in person at the venue in advance and pay with cash.
2. Most gigs won’t sell out on the first day of sale so don’t assume you have to buy online at 9am on a Friday to secure a ticket.
3. For links to pre-sale tickets, check Beat The Touts and Get To The Front, or sign up with your favourite artists’ mailing lists
4. If the venue doesn’t sell tickets, buy them from an independent ticket agency (OneUp in Aberdeen; Groucho’s in Dundee; Ripping, Tickets Scotland and Avalanche in Edinburgh; Tickets Scotland, Avalanche and Monorail in Glasgow). The fees will almost certainly be less than Ticketmaster.
5. If Ticketmaster is the only option available to you then dial 0161 385 1135 to get straight through to one of their operators (Ticketmaster only advertise non-mobile friendly 0844 numbers).
6. To avoid postage fees, you can buy tickets for Ticketmaster shows in very unusual places, such as Barrhead Travel, VisitScotland and the Hearts FC shop. See here for the full list of Scottish outlets.
7. If a gig is sold out, before heading to eBay, check Gumtree and Scarlet Mist as tickets are more likely to be found there at face value.
8. Where possible, avoid leaving it to the night of the gig before buying a ticket as that’s when the promoters often add as much as £2 to the face value. If you’re going to a King Tut’s gig, for example, buy before 6pm to avoid paying £1 more per ticket.
9. UK law dictates that ticket agencies must state the mark-up on ticket prices, so blame the government for the fact that the final cost varies from the initial price displayed on websites.
10. Read our red-amber-green guide below to find out which Scottish venues give you the opportunity to pay the price it actually says on the ticket. Yes, it really is possible.
Music Hall – venue charges 10% booking fee per ticket
AECC, Cafe Drummonds, Lemon Tree, Tunnels, Warehouse – no tickets on sale in advance from venue
Caird Hall – venue charges booking fee, amount varies
Fat Sams – no tickets on sale in advance from venue
Doghouse – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from venue in advance
Corn Exchange – venue charges £1 booking fee per ticket
Cabaret Voltaire, Caves, Liquid Room, Sneaky Pete’s, Studio 24, Voodoo Rooms – no tickets on sale in advance from venue
Bongo Club – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from venue in advance
Picture House – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from venue in advance
Arches – venue charges £1 booking fee per ticket
QMU – venue charges £1.50 booking fee per ticket
Barrowland, Captain’s Rest, Cathouse, Classic Grand, Oran Mor, Stereo – no tickets on sale in advance from venue
ABC – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from venue in advance
Academy – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from ABC box office in advance
Clyde Auditorium – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from SECC box office in advance
King Tut’s – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from venue in advance
Old Fruitmarket – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from Royal Concert Hall box office in advance
Royal Concert Hall – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from venue in advance
SECC – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from venue in advance
Ironworks – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from venue in advance
Tolbooth – no booking fee for tickets purchased in cash from venue in advance
Note: any smaller venues not listed here tend to be pay-at-the-door only