Concerts don’t keep us alive, though sometimes it may feel that way. Live entertainment is a luxury, and like so many luxury experiences it’s changed over time. Consider some of the starriest billings of the last 70 years:
1965 was the peak of Beatlemania, and tickets to The Beatles concert in San Diego started at $3.50. Adjusting for inflation, that would come out to about $33 in 2023, which might not get you into the parking lot of a modern Paul McCartney show.
Back in 1977, fans could see Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours Tour” with the Kenny Loggins Band at the Coliseum in Cleveland for $9 — the equivalent of about $45 today. This August, when Stevie Nicks performs at Ohio Stadium with Billy Joel, $45 won’t cover half the sticker price of the cheapest seats.
Minnesota tickets to Prince and the Revolution’s “Purple Rain” trek in 1984 started as low as $10.50, or in the ballpark of $31 today. Now, unless you’re a pin collector, $31 will have you leaving the merch table empty-handed.
The inflation-adjusted price of events has exploded over the last few decades. It’s happening across all types of live entertainment but especially in music and sports. The most expensive ticket ever purchased may have been sold this past January, when a Saudi real estate magnate paid about $2.6 million for a VIP seat at a soccer match. Musharraf bin Ahmed Al-Ghamdi’s wealth has not been widely reported, but he is likely one of the over 2,600 billionaires on the planet, of which more than 700 live in the United States.
Wealth inequality has been rising sharply since the 1980s, and the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated that trend. Promoters have noticed, adding ever-more-gaudy VIP packages with meet-and-greets, photos, food, drinks, valet parking, personal concierges, and, perhaps if you spend enough money, the illusion that the band thinks you’re cool. Artists have caught on, too, and as the bottom has fallen out on physical album sales, they’ve attempted to regain ground on the road. The result is that concerts have entered a totally different tier of luxury, from student entertainment to high-end experience, pizza and some beers to a Gucci clutch.