A Quick History of Prices of Live Entertainment

A quick history of the last 20 years or so of prices for live entertainment:

At first, prices were relatively low. In my opinion, we had just turned the corner into what many think of as an Experience Economy, and so the value that people placed on live experiences began to rise.

Shortly thereafter, consumers’ expectations of what a live experience could be followed the new prices upward, which also drove costs upward, which drove ticket prices upward.

In concerts and sports, in particular, things got hot pretty fast. The music business began to lose its ability to monetize recorded music, accelerating the same cycle. Sports teams innovated, made the in-stadium experience better, fancier and new. Theater and performing arts, including new standard-setters like Cirque du Soleil and shows like Wicked, drove everything up. Also, the secondary market came into being in a big way, exposing what people really felt like paying for things.

The economic crisis of 2008 jolted most prices downward, though they recovered. Since then, the rise has gone back to a more gradual state of increase.

You see instances of resistance to price increases frequently if you pay attention and other instances where the market is still super enthusiastic.

So we’ve reached an interesting phase, where prices for live entertainment are probably more rational than they’ve been in a while. Rational doesn’t mean low or  high, good or bad, but it does mean that the price is closer to matching what consumers are really willing to pay at a given point.

Where does it go from here? I would say even more of the same for now, though I think a counter-trend is in the works. I think there will be a breed of event producer who deliberately works to produce low-price content and has an alternative business model to make the ticket revenue less important to them.

Beyond the next few years, growth in the value of live entertainment overall should continue to grow. Maybe I’ll talk more about that another time.

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