I met up with a group of music industry professionals this afternoon, and as we were chatting, we got on the topic of the problems that exist in the area of live shows. I’m not talking about soft-seater or stadium shows, I’m talking about gigs in small, local venues.
It’s clear that there are lots of different opinions on what works and what doesn’t, but right as we were wrapping up, I made a comment that I think warrants publishing, and it’s this:
There’s nothing that bothers me more than shows that cost $5 to get into.
Five bucks, in my mind, is WAY too low. When I played in bands in my early twenties (about 10 years ago), shows cost five bucks THEN. You know what else cost five bucks? A pack of cigarettes. Try finding a store that sells you smokes for under $10 now. (Note: I’m in Toronto, Canada, so your prices may vary depending on where you live).
The live music scene – and again, I’m talking about club shows, here – has sort of backed itself into a corner. How often do you hear this:
“You’ve got a show on Friday? Cool! What is it, like, $5 to get in or something?”
People have gotten so used to charging $5 at the door, simply by default, that if you charge more, patrons tend to be surprised. But the cost of guitars, amps, strings, gas to get to the venue, food, and virtually everything else has gone up. Why hasn’t the price of seeing bands?
No business in the world can survive without raising their prices at some point. Nobody likes doing it, but imagine if a can of Coke still cost a nickel, or hotels (nice ones) were still $10 a night. They would have gone out of business ages ago.
Of course, just doubling the price to $10 to get in (where it should probably be by now) isn’t the solution. Like one of the artists I was talking with pointed out, they’d rather have 40 people at $5 than 20 people at $10, because it’s the head count, not the dollar amount taken at the door, that the bar cares about when deciding to have you back. Fair enough.
If we had been raising this incrementally all along the way, however, maybe today $10 would be second nature – the ‘going rate’ if you will – and younger bands would be in much, much better shape.
So my solution? We can start now. Surely, raising your prices to $6 or $7 probably wouldn’t cause that much of a dip, if any, in your attendance. More importantly, however, is that the price continues to go up in line with the cost of doing business (and we all agree that running your band like a business is vital). It’s not a price gouge, it’s smart business, and it’ll help keep you afloat for longer.
Everyone – bands, promoters, venue owners, and supporters – need to be open to change in order to find the right price for a night of live music.