Headbangers Brawl: How much is too much to spend on concert tickets?

Posted by on February 28, 2018

Photo: Heavymetalmediastudies

The Smashing Pumpkins (semi) reunion tour might be adding dates in L.A. and Chicago, but ticket sales for the rest of the shows seem to be sluggish. Many are quick to point to bassist D’arcy Wretzky’s absence as a key reason for the initial low sales. However it’s safe to assume that another (and possibly even bigger) reason is the extravagant ticket prices, with “VIP” tickets in some markets reportedly going as high as $500 each.

But let’s be honest, Smashing Pumpkins are far from the only band to charge an arm and a leg for tickets. In fact, it feels like prices for most arena and amphitheater have gotten even more unbearable lately, even before adding those pesky little “convenient” fees.

So here’s the question: where do we each draw the line when it comes to paying for concert tickets? How much is too much to spend on seeing a band live?


Zach S: I won’t lie, I’ve dropped over a hundred dollars on a single ticket quite a few times to see bands. The most I’ve ever spent on a single ticket was $300 for floor seats at one of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Madison Square Garden show last year (say what you want about them, but I do love them and they put on an incredible show). Am I glad I went? Absolutely. Will I shell out that sort of money for any band? Hellllll no! In fact, the only reason I even spent that much (other than because my wife and I really wanted to go) was because all three shows were (somehow) sold out and I had to resort to Stub Hub.

I mention that example because the very few times I ever spent $200 or more on a single ticket was because literally nothing was left on Ticketmaster, and I was desperate. And even when I did spend more than $100 via the proper channels, it had to damn well be decent seats. However lately I feel like it’s a miracle find nosebleed seats on Ticketmaster that cost below $200 each at arenas, or maybe below $70 each for amphitheater seats that are so far away they might as well just be called “lawn seats with an actual chair.” And that’s all before convenient fees… also, at the expense of sounding like a ranting old man, does anyone else think convenient fees have gotten even MORE expensive?

If you had asked me even five years ago, I probably would’ve named you at least a dozen bands that I HAD to see live no matter the cost, if they were missing a few key members, or even if I’d already seen them before. Yet just this past October, Guns N’ Roses (a band who definitely would’ve been on that list) rolled through the tristate area, and I found myself say “Eh, I’m gonna pass,” all because I thought it was bogus to spend more than $200 for nosebleed seats. Admittedly I had seen the (also semi) reunited band just the year prior, but it was such a great show I would have totally considered buying tickets if they were just a little cheaper. Now I face the same dilemma with Ozzy Osbourne’s “farewell” tour…

Maybe I’m just spoiled because I’ve been to so many concerts, and am no longer “desperate” to see my favorite bands. But it’s getting harder and harder for me to justify shelling out tons of money to see even my idols live. Especially when there’s a good chance cheaper tickets will be available on Groupon once venues realize the show isn’t selling so well (or even before then, because let’s be honest: they just want us inside the venue to buy overpriced beer anyways). 


Jeff: I’m certainly guilty of paying in excess of $200 to see U2 live in Ireland, but that U2 live… in Ireland… in front of a castle… and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Coldplay were opening.  Other than that I can’t imagine spending more than $200 for a concert no matter who it was unless it came with some sort of incredible experience that was particularly unique or it came with some sort of highly desirable merchandise.  For example, would I pay $150 to see Behemoth if the ticket came with one of those really cool winter parkas they’ve been selling on their website?  Probably.  These days there are few bands that really put on a show that I think is worth ticket prices in excess of $200 for one or two bands.  Festivals are a different story.

In terms of the Smashing Pumpkins… $500 and there’s no D’arcy?  Not even close.  I saw the original pumpkins back in the day for $35.  They were good, but not incredible.  To see this current reunion I think $75 is reasonable. I’d be willing to pay much more if it was material from just the first four records.

Zenae: There are very few bands I would pay a fortune to see. Sometimes I would travel across the country, such as seeing Gojira and Opeth in Colorado’s Red Rocks Ampitheater. Other events would involve a massive festival or 70000tons of metal. Now, I am far from rich but sometimes, you gotta do what you have to do to live your life to the fullest. And for me, that involves concerts. Now, I do have a lot of friends and family members who think I am crazy for spending so much on certain bands. When it comes to seeing a major show, there is one band who manages to consecutively take all of my money and that band is, Metallica. Between concert tickets and merchandise, I must have spent over $1000 from their tour last year. And with their recent second leg announcement, I am debating on making a few trips to upstate NY this fall. However, would I spend over $100 for Slayer’s farewell tour or even Def Leppard and Journey? I am not so sure. I have spent over $100 on Iron Maiden and of course, Black Sabbath’s final run. I did shell out a bit to travel out of NYC to Nashville, TN to see Guns N’ Roses in 2016. So yes, depending on the band and how much credit card debt I have left, I would spend a fortune. Maybe ask me again in five years when I am living on the streets with a box full of ticket stubs.

I don’t think I would spend $150+ on The Smashing Pumpkins reunion and unfortunately, I don’t see this expensive trend ending anytime soon since touring is one of the few profitable solutions for bands these days.


Matt: Like everyone else who’s commented so far, I’ve dropped my share of money on concert tickets. I’ve seen Maiden four times and couldn’t have cared less about how much I was shelling out. But, as it’s been said, I certainly wouldn’t do that for just any band. It’s a case by case basis, really. Have I seen the band before and do I feel the need to see them again? Is it a band that doesn’t come around very often? Are they touring with other bands I’m interested in? There’s so many variables. 

Let’s take Ghost for example seeing as how they’ve just announced a tour. I love Ghost and I’ve seen them twice before (as openers for the record). This time they’ll be flying solo, meaning I’m getting a nice long set from the band, and they’ll likely be playing some new material. Now, I don’t know what ticket prices are yet, but I’m guessing they’ll be something between $40-$60, which is fair to me. Would I drop $100 a pop? I dunno, it’d be a toss up depending on what seats look like. However, I’d sooner throw down $100 for a two hour concert from a favorite band rather than $300 for a festival where I see my favorite bands play for 15-45 minutes sandwiched between bands I either dislike or just don’t care about. And that’s not even factoring in all the other shit that makes festivals expensive and exhausting. By the way Zach, you’re not wrong about those damn conveniences fees. Those things are the definition of nickel and diming. I should not have to pay an extra $13 bucks per ticket 
I’m only a casual Smashing Pumpking fan, so I don’t really care about the tour, but I’ll imagine for a sec that I’m a superfan. $150 would be pushing it and $500 is certainly out of the question. 
Bram: U2 and the Chili Peppers, eh? I mean, it just goes to show, there’s something for everyone. I honestly don’t remember paying more than $100 for a show. That’s definitely one of the perks of being in the music industry, though. It really comes down to this for me. If it’s a band doing their final tour, or something really special, it’s totally worthy doing. Black Sabbath’s last run, for example. Or a band like Rammstein, who put on a phenomenal live show. And also, like Zenae said, if the show is part of a bigger experience, a road trip, a cruise, or something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, it’s hard to put a price on something like that. 

As far as the Pumpkins are concerned, I think it’s a combination of the band/management/booking agent being overzealous when choosing venues, D’arcy not being part of the whole thing, or maybe ’90s nostalgia not catching up to ’80s nostalgia just yet. There are a lot of kids that wore “Zero” shirts that now have a “4” in front of that zero and can afford to shell out, but maybe not as many as the band initially anticipated. I’d personally pay maybe $30 or so to see three fourths of the Pumpkins play their early stuff. But as we’ve seen with Rush, Sabbath and are seeing with Slayer and Skynyrd, there’s a lot of music we all grew up with that we’re not going to be able to see live again, and if some of those bands are on your bucket list, then it’s totally worth shelling out for. 


Categorised in: Columns, Headbangers Brawl