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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Calm down, dear. They're only concert tickets.

Today's You and Yours on Radio Four was all about whether it should be against the law to sell a concert ticket at more than the face value. The lines were jammed with indignant members of the public who had been in one way or another stymied in their efforts to get a ticket for this or that musical, theatrical or sporting event. They blamed it on the touts, the secondary ticketing sites, the acts and their fellow concertgoers. To listen to some of them talk you would have thought they'd been denied their civil rights.

I don't know where this ticket-buying mania has come from but in the last ten years I've seen it turn into a national sickness. I meet people at dinner parties nowadays who are desperate to get tickets for festivals or big name gigs and they're the kind of people who would have had no interest twenty years ago. They don't go to small gigs. They only go to big ones and they're always amazed that millions of other people just like them are struggling for the same tickets as they are, with predictable consequences.

During the last ten years we've seen ticket prices more than double and it seems to have had no effect on demand at all. As soon as there's a prestige event in the offing people seem to be prepared to spend anything to make sure they can get in. A young person I know recently asked me if I could help her get tickets to see Dolly Parton at the O2. They're £75 each. That means that if she and her boyfriend went along they would be spending the best part of £200 to see an artist they don't own a single record by, have never seen before and may well be disappointed by. These are people in their twenties who can't afford to be splashing money around like this. I've known teenagers with no festival going experience who have spent a hundred pounds on festival tickets that didn't turn up. How did they get so desperate?

I paid £100 for me and the GLW to see Leonard Cohen at the same venue a couple of years ago. I only did that because I knew I was going to enjoy it. He was worth it but I wouldn't be queueing up to spend the same amount of money the following week to see anyone else and I'm probably not going to pay it to see him again. There was a time when I could get a press ticket to most musical events by picking up the phone. Those days are gone. Record companies are having to pay the same inflated sums that the public are paying and therefore they're not flinging tickets around. It doesn't bother me at all. If you can't get into the big gig, go to the small gig, go to the pub or stay at home and read a book. Calm down, for crying out loud.