Big Summer Concerts: Worth the Splurge or Wildly Overpriced?

Ticket prices for concerts are higher than they've ever been, yet people can't wait to get back into stadiums. Here's why it's worth spending money on a concert ticket.
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It has been a long while since we’ve been able to think about attending music festivals and concerts. However, as musicians drop summer tour dates left and right, it looks like we’re finally going to be able to see our favorite performers live again.

If you’ve been looking at the prices of upcoming concert and festival tickets as obsessively as I have, you might feel like they’ve gone up in price. Were we paying this much before?

You’re not mistaken–concert ticket prices have been on the rise for years, and they’re not showing any sign of slowing down. Committing to a music festival usually means you’re going to be dropping a few hundred dollars at least. Even solo tours could run you a hundred dollars for a standard seat. So, is it worth it to spend that kind of cash for the concert experience of a lifetime?

Each person’s individual financial circumstances should be taken into consideration when asking themselves this question. If you have extra cash to spend, seeing one of your favorite artists live is a fantastic way to treat yourself. Luckily, there are countless smaller live music experiences you can attend that will nourish your spirit without breaking the bank. In fact, we’ve put together some tips on saving money while seeing live music this summer!

The Weeknd
The Weeknd / Shutterstock

While you can see local acts for under fifteen dollars–and even score cheap seats to big-name shows–there’s nothing quite like seeing your favorite band up close. But is it worth spending a hundred dollars or more to see them? We’ve been searching for a definitive answer, and here’s what we think.

Why Concert Ticket Prices Are Soaring

There are a few reasons why the price of concert tickets have risen so dramatically over time.

According to Pollstar, the average price of admission to the 100 most popular tours in North America is almost four times what it was twenty years ago. Statista research shows that in 2011, the average cost of a ticket to a concert in the U.S. was about $78.33. By 2017, that number was $85.67. In 2019, it was $96.17.

This is not simple inflation that’s causing the cost of goods to rise; this is a rapid increase in cost that demonstrates where the real money is made in the music world these days.

One reason for this is that big acts make more money from concerts than they do from streaming music rights or album sales. A single night performing for thousands of audience members who each paid hundreds for a ticket is, as you can imagine, quite lucrative. Tickets and merchandise sales far exceed the money from actual album sales the artist will rake in.

Now that streaming services make music so accessible, musicians have to go out and perform in order to make decent money off their music. And make decent money, they do. In fact, the biggest stars out there are making unbelievable amounts of money through ticket sales. Concerts are big business, and many name-brand acts make most of their money from tours.

The Highest-Grossing Tours of 2019

Pink on stage
Pink / Shutterstock

2019 was the last year that concerts were in full swing, so let’s take a look back at those statistics to see what kind of money our favorite artists were making. These are the top-grossing tours of 2019, according to Pollstar. Each of these top recording artists embarked on a global tour. While the costs of producing such a tour are high, so are the ticket sales.

10. Fleetwood Mac, $112.2 million

9. Michael Bublé, $115.8 million

8. Ariana Grande, $118.3 million

7. Bon Jovi, $134.2 million

6. BTS, $170.3 million

5. The Rolling Stones, $177.8 million

4. Metallica, $179 million

3. Ed Sheeran, $211.7 million

2. Elton John, $212 million

1. Pink, $215.2 million

Ariana Grande / Shutterstock

If we just focus on North American tours in 2019, sales were similarly impressive. Every artist in the top ten earned at least $75 million in concert revenue throughout the year.

10. Justin Timberlake, $75.6 million

9. Garth Brooks, $76.1 million

8. Fleetwood Mac, $77.5 million

7. KISS, $81.6 million

6. The Jonas Brothers, $81.7 million

5. Ariana Grande, $82.6 million

4. Pink, $87.9 million

3. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, $97 million

2. Elton John, $157.4 million

1. The Rolling Stones, $177.8 million

Playing It Smart

“We all undervalued tickets for many, many years,” Joe Killian, a media consultant and concert producer, said to Bloomberg of rising ticket prices for concerts. “Big acts led the way. They understood there were always people willing and wanting to pay more.”

However, younger concertgoers (who didn’t get to experience the glory days of yore when tickets were relatively reasonable) have been speaking up about affordability. For example, Billie Eilish fans recently took to the internet to criticize the 19-year-old singer’s concert prices.

Eilish is set to release her second album, Happier Than Ever, on July 30, 2021. Her team recently started selling tickets to her world tour that will take place in 2022, and fans were shocked at the prices when they rushed to secure their seats.

One reason the prices were so high might surprise you. Advanced technology allows ticketing sites to automatically hike up ticket prices if it seems like there are a lot of people clamoring to buy. However, this becomes a problem when these sites drop those same tickets to extremely low prices the closer it gets to showtime. Many artists have been called out for using sites like these, as they seem to somewhat manipulate the fans of the artist. Those who want to secure their spot at a concert might pay far more than a casual fan who happened to buy tickets a couple hours before showtime.

In addition, so-called convenience fees have been steadily rising for years. Anyone who has bought tickets online from Ticketmaster knows that you’ll end up paying far more than the listed price for your ticket once all the fees and taxes are collected. Unfortunately, unless you live close to the venue that offers in-person sales, buying online is often your only option. Make sure to take those factors into account when you’re budgeting for a concert experience.

Despite these downsides of the ticketing industry, it’s still totally worth it to spend money on a concert if you do it wisely. Here’s why it’s worth spending money on a concert ticket:

Reason 1: Experiences are more valuable than stuff.

Going to a concert or a music festival is an experience that can lead to things far more valuable than money. Not only will you be seeing one of your favorite artists in person, but you’ll be traveling, spending quality time with your tribe, and possibly even making new friends if you go solo. One night at a concert could change your life in a multitude of ways.

Compare this to, say, buying a $3 coffee every day. That’s around $90 spent on coffee each month – throw that into a ticket fund instead, and you’re putting your cash toward an experience that is far more memorable than a coffee. (Plus, it’s cheaper–and better–to brew your own, anyway.)

Reason 2: It’s a great way to support your favorite artists.

As mentioned before, streaming platforms are making it more difficult for musicians to earn money off their record sales. Instead, they must perform live to keep making music. Buying a ticket to a concert is a great way to support your favorite artists.

However, we also discussed how ticketing sites have been known to hike up prices in sketchy ways. You don’t have to feel obligated to support your favorite musician by purchasing a ticket that’s way out of your budget. There are many musicians–Ed Sheeran is one example–who try to keep their ticket prices low so that everyone, no matter their financial situation, can attend.

Reason 3: People usually think it’s worth the cost.

One of the best reasons you should say yes to that concert ticket is this: Despite the fact that ticket prices have been rising each year, folks across the globe attest that the money is well worth it.

Take, for example, this question posed on Reddit by u/lcooke92 just a few years ago: What’s the most expensive concert you have attended? Was it worth it?

The responses certainly speak volumes about the beauty of live music:

“U2’s 360 Tour. Definitely worth it.” – u/thepack93

“I saw Yeezus at Madison Square Garden for $150 in some OK seats, but it was 100% worth it.” – u/badcontrol

“Paul McCartney. I’ve seen him twice, zero regrets. My friend didn’t want to go, and it took forever to convince him, then halfway through the concert he turned to me and said something to the effect of, ‘I would have paid much more for this if I had had any idea.’” – u/ejurkovic93

“Prince. Worth every penny!” -u/_beyonce_padthai

“Both Muse and Arctic Monkeys were the most expensive concerts I’ve been to, and they were both 100% worth it! Amazing live acts!” – u/kateaphobia

If you need any further convincing that you’ll have a fantastic time at that concert you’re itching to go to, just ask friends and family about their experiences at live shows. Chances are, most people you talk to will rave about the memories they made when they went to see their favorite artists perform.

And if you need any inspiration for which upcoming concerts you want to take part in, check out our list of musicians launching tours this summer!