I have noticed a disturbing trend this year that involves aging rockers and the price they feel their fans should pay for the privilege of seeing them in concert or meeting them in person. Sadly, they really do believe that it is a fans privilege to meet them. They seem to have forgotten that without fans, they wouldn’t be millionaires and would most likely be struggling 9 to 5 workers like the rest of us. They also seem to believe that fans should pay an extraordinary amount of money just to breathe the same air as them. It’s getting ridiculous and out of control! And yet, more and more rockers are doing it. What’s going on with this trend and how can we curb it?
The disconnected divide grows larger and larger as the rocker ages every year. And I get it. Ticket prices for everything is up. Sporting events, concerts, Broadway shows…I understand that. And I am not saying that these guys shouldn’t make a living, because they should. But how much is enough? Some of these artists were pioneers of the low-ticket price years ago and now they are just cash grabbing. Some may argue that they are charging higher prices because there are no more lucrative advances from record companies that cover the expenses of the tour. Others will say if the artist didn’t charge that amount the scalpers would. Both of those comments may be true, but I still think that popular bands that have been around for a while and made a fortune could find a way to make an evening of musical entertainment affordable and scalper free. I just think they don’t care and want to cash out while they can.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest offenders and offenses that are out there these days.
Bruce Springsteen has always been considered the working man’s rocker. A friend to blue collar laborers all throughout the USA. And yet, he is now charging prices so exurbanite that his working-class fans can’t attend one of his shows. And I know that some people reading this right now are yelling that it’s better he gets the money than the scalpers. And I agree with that. If there is choice between the artist getting the money or a scalper getting the money, the artist should always get the money. But remember, for this Broadway performance, Springsteen used Ticketmaster verified fan service. A service that still no one understands, including Ticketmaster. Although the service did let a few people know that they weren’t the super fans they thought they were.
But in using this service, Springsteen truly believed that most people getting access to tickets for the Broadway shows were true fans. Which means that he made a conscious decision to charge his fans $850 to see this performance. Fans can choose to pay their mortgage for the month or see Springsteen on Broadway. That is as unsettling as it is insulting. Did he really need to charge $850 for this performance? And the lowest ticket available was $75, which after fees is still a decent chunk of money. Springsteen has always been one of my favorite performers, but this Broadway experience has soured me on him somewhat.
Gene Simmons has never been one to turn down a dollar. That’s part of his charm, I suppose. And now he is releasing a box set of unreleased demo tracks known as “the vault.” And for $2,000 this box set can be yours! Okay, so it does come with a meet and greet and a private concert, which is cool, but what if someone just want the songs? Well, unfortunately you are out of luck. There is no “music only” option. As of this writing, fans can’t even get a list of what songs will be included in the vault. That’s an expensive gamble that there are going to be songs on there they want. For all we know, there could be ten different versions of “Ring Ding Do” one of Simmons’ earliest songs that will find you laughing rather than singing along. Who is paying $2,000 for a box set of music? Does Gene not realize that most of his fans are not rich like him? I consider myself one of the biggest KISS fans in all the land, and there is no way that I would pay $2,000 for this. I would have a hard time shelling out $200! And yet, Gene believes that fans are going to fork over $2,000. The saddest part of this is that some fans will pay that money. I hope it’s the experience of a lifetime for them.
Meet and Greets
Meet and Greets are a relatively new way for aging rock stars to rip off their fans. Back in the day, rock stars used to meet their fans, sign autographs, pose for pictures, and do all of this as a way to say thank you to their fans. Thank you for making us rich beyond our wildest dreams. Now they charge you for the privilege of meeting them. What is this nonsense?! I’ve already paid you for your music, your performance, and your merchandise. Now I have to pay if I want two minutes with you before a show to take a selfie? And in most cases the charge for this is astronomical. The biggest rip offs that I could currently find are The Scorpions and, no surprise here, KISS. The Scorpions expect $450 to meet with them before a show and KISS wants $1,250. Groceries for the quarter or spend 2 minutes with KISS. Who is buying these packages?
High Ticket Prices
This really is nothing new. Older stars have been charging a lot of money to see them perform since I was a kid. I can remember wanting to see Frank Sinatra in concert when I was a teen and he was asking $125 a ticket. Back then the average ticket price was $20 and minimum wage (which is what I made) was $3.35/hour. So, paying $125 for anything was pretty much out of the question. I was extremely irritated that he wanted so much money to see him perform. Was he going to come out and hug each one of us for that price? Why was he asking for so much money? The simple answer then is the same as it is now…because he could.
Today’s aging artists are no different than the late great Sinatra was. America wants $250 to watch them perform. Look, I love me some “Sister Golden Hair,” ask any of my weekly card buddies, but I’m not shelling out $500 for my wife and I to hear it live. Paul McCartney expected that fans would pay that same price (and they did). Roger Waters wanted $250 as well to see him perform Pink Floyd songs without the rest of Pink Floyd. Take a hike Roger! And Bon Jovi, a band that used to cost me $75 for a pretty good seat, wants $350 for a good seat. Make a car payment or see Bon Jovi without Richie Sambora. Are you kidding me?!!!
What It All Means
The bottom line is that most aging rockers are really out of touch with their fans. Perhaps they think that since they’ve become successful over the years and have the money to afford expensive things (like million dollar homes and exotic sports cars) their fans have more money as well. And yes, I make more money today than I did 20 years ago, but I also have more adult expenses. Like a mortgage. Car payment. Utility bills. I don’t have the disposable income that I once did, and now if I want to see a show, I must choose between artists instead of taking in multiple summer acts.
Concerts used to be one of the affordable pleasures in life, an incredible form of escapism, that has now become a luxury if I want to see one of my favorite bands perform. Which is why I’m finding myself gravitating to newer bands more and more. Bands like Pop Evil, Shinedown, and The Strumbellas don’t charge me a week’s pay to see them in concert. They keep their prices reasonable. Part of that may be because they don’t have the notoriety to charge high prices, but I hope that’s not the only reason. I hope that they are a bit more understanding about the realism of the wages people make and want to keep their ticket prices low. Only time will tell.