Spendonomics: Live Music

Festival time is nearly here, and with the Glastonbury ticket resale this week, it’s a good time to talk about music and gigs.

When I needed to save money for a big trip to South America, I had a look at my outgoings. I used to go to a lot of gigs. At least two a month, plus a couple of festivals. I was easily seeing over 100 bands a year. I was always aware of the cost, but I could afford it and I enjoyed it.

But I decided I’d get better value from that money if I spent it on my trip. And that’s the point of this Spendonomics, looking at the costs so you can choose if you want to see more or less on live music.

To do this, we’ve estimated the real cost of going to live music, and the Cost Per Band (CPB). Of course with seeing a band live, a lot of value isn’t based on money. It’s the atmosphere, the exclusivity, time with friends. But this blog should help you see just how much and where you are spending it.

How do you get value from live music

The Real Cost

The ticket might say it’s £40, but that’s not the real cost. There’s more.

Unexplainable and unwanted fees are a constant cause of complaint when trying to see live music and impossible to predict (see our Running Up That Bill blog).

Once at the event, you’re bound to spend more. The cost of booze is usually higher once you’re in the venue than outside. There’s the lure of merchandise. At a festival these costs go up. Longer days means eating, and more drinking. You’ve probably got your tent and wellies already, but you’ve still got the cost of getting there.

With all this in mind, there are less extras for a gig, and adding an extra £20-25 to the face value should get you near your true cost. Festivals seem different. Though a ticket to Glastonbury costs more than for one to V Festival, the real cost is not only cheaper overall, you’d have more time and see more bands for your money.

It’s worth bearing in mind how much extra you could end up paying when going to live music. If you can afford it, it’s not a problem, but it can all add up quickly.

Cost Per Band

We’ve worked out the CPB for three venue types – stadium, large venue, and a small/mid level place – and three festivals with different amount of music.

With gigs, there’s obviously a premium for the bigger the band you see, but the Justin Timberlake prices are crazily high. £32 to see Arcade Fire seems great, but of course you probably wouldn’t value the support act at the same amount. If you went to all three of the gigs, you’d spend £240, and see 5 acts.

Let’s say you go to twelve gigs a year. You see one megastar, four bands similar to Arcade Fire and seven of the mid/small acts in a year. You’d spend £660 (with a CPB of £27.50).

The CPB is more useful on festivals. Tickets obviously cost a lot more than a gig but you do see so many more bands. Glasto comes in at a bargain £13 per band.

A good rule of thumb is that festivals give you the best value for money, and the longer you’re there, the better it gets.

What’s The Best Value?

The cost of six big gigs of the same type as Arcade Fire is roughly the same as a weekend at Glasto, but you’d see 18 more bands at the festival. Of course, you do have to camp and be fine with not showering, and it’s one weekend rather than once every two months. You might be keener on the latter. Or both.

Then again you might want to put that £387 towards something else. If an average new album costs £7.99, it gets you 48 to listen to anytime you want, or 387 MP3 tracks at 99p a go.

An iPad Air 16GB costs £399. So does a return flight to New York in September with Air France.

If you want to keep going to gigs (and why shouldn’t you!), read my 6 Ways To Save At Gigs guide for ways to pay less for live music, including tips to get a ticket before the touts!


The Numbers

Here’s a full breakdown of how we reached the numbers in the infographic:

– We assume you don’t buy anything at gigs other than drink and at festivals just food and drink. At Glastonbury you’d probably bring your own drink.
– We’ve not added costs for clothes and camping gear, nor buying merchandise.
– We assume you are in London, so there are no travel costs for events there. For Glastonbury and V Festival, we’ve gone for the coach price.
– We assume you see one support band at the gigs. Justin Timberlake has no support but actually plays two full sets, so we’ve counted it as two bands.
– All prices are from See Tickets


4 thoughts on “Spendonomics: Live Music

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