How Newer Artists Should Price Their Concerts
by Denisha Kuhlor
Touring is back and bigger than ever. Live Nation shared that Q2’22 sales on Ticketmaster had the highest gross transaction volume in the company’s history. But as fans flock to see their favorite artists, many customers now pay higher ticket prices.
Sometimes, the artists themselves have set higher prices to make up for lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, these performers often want to capture more of the value that would otherwise go to the resellers. New pricing tactics like Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing are intended to limit the markup on the secondary market. But even if the artist wants to keep tickets affordable, the resellers will charge more to meet consumer demand.
In either case, the end result leads to higher prices for the consumer. This leads to increased expectations, especially for newer artists who have yet to prove themselves on the big stage.
There’s more pressure than ever on an artist’s first tour
Thanks to social media, fans have more perspectives on an artist’s show before ever seeing them live. Concert attendees share everything from how interactive an artist’s show is, whether the artist arrived on time, and if the show was a good value for the cost to attend.
But all this info is a double-edged sword for newer artists. A really great live show or festival appearance can drive demand for tickets if the word spreads well. However, a bad performance at a festival, or a few early tour stops that don’t live up to the hype, can hurt sales for future shows.
For new artists, it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver. On the Trapital podcast, Cheryl Paglierani, Post Malone’s touring agent, described how they initially wanted to get Post in front of an audience that was as wide and diverse as possible. He opened for other artists of all genres before he went on his own tour. Post now sells out arenas and headlines major music festivals.
In recent years, festivals have become a great way for an artist to perfect their live shows and iterate quickly in a lower-pressure environment given the other acts in the lineup. Relying on festivals solely is a risk, but the right balance can be effective. I bet that we will see this happen when Cardi B decides to go on tour. After successfully performing all around the world and heavily investing in her show’s production, her fans will feel confident when buying tickets. They have seen the product evolve over the years.
Newer artists should focus on growing the fanbase
Consequently, when a newer artist hasn’t refined their shows yet, they may struggle to justify the high price, which frustrates their fans.
One of this year’s biggest breakout stars is Asake, a Nigerian artist based in Lagos. With hits like “Sungba”, “Peace Be Unto You”, and “Palazzo,” many fans eagerly anticipated the opportunity to see his upcoming tour. But Asake set his ticket prices over $100. His fans took to social media to debate whether the price was justified, especially since he did not have a new album out and his catalog was relatively small. For comparison, Burna Boy’s first show in New York in 2017 was at a similar-sized ~2,000-capacity venue and tickets were less than $50.
New artists with fewer performances under their belt should be more focused on building a wider and stronger fanbase in the early days. Although consumers may be willing to reluctantly pay for a ticket they feel is overvalued, that purchase is also met with greater expectations. Whether it’s a bigger production, longer set time, or increased crowd interaction, failure to live up to a fan’s expectations can leave the fans unwilling to pay for those artists’ shows in the future.
On the corollary, an artist who is thoughtful about pricing will have different challenges as their demand increases. The artist and their team are faced with ensuring that there is a fair way for people to purchase and experience their shows.
There’s risk when artists try to compete with resellers
Even if an artist wants to set their ticket price at an affordable rate, the secondary market often has other thoughts.
Relatively speaking, fans may be more forgiving if tickets are priced higher by resellers than by the artist themself. If the “bots on StubHub” made Bad Bunny tickets more expensive than the initial price, then fans are less likely to be frustrated by Bad Bunny than they would have been if the Puerto Rican star had set the prices himself.
Even though new features like dynamic pricing are meant to help artists capture more of their true value, those options are better left to the established artists. A Bruce Springsteen fan may complain about the expensive ticket price, but Springsteen has been touring for decades. He’s proven himself, unlike the handful of younger artists who have tried these tactics.
Increased prices aren’t changing any time soon. Customers value experiences, and the market has priced to capture that. Plus, if an artist puts on a great show, then they should be rewarded. But newer artists should feel confident that they may make more money in the long run if they prioritize building their fanbase, and ensuring that as many true fans as possible get to see their early strengths. This will pay dividends for them in the long run.
Denisha Kuhlor is the founder of Stan, where artists learn how to find, grow, and engage a global fanbase.