This year we’ve spent £3,661.17 travelling nearly 6,500 miles to attend 65 gigs and festivals at which we've seen 324 different live performances.
We’ve always known that the vast majority of our spare cash goes on live music, but we’ve never known exactly how much. So throughout the course of 2014 we’ve recorded every gig, concert and festival we’ve attended, every ticket we’ve brought, every mile we’ve travelled, every drink we’ve drank at the venues and every bit of merchandise we’ve purchased. Each month we’ve reported back via the blog on our gig expenditure and now just a few days after our final show of the year (The Cure at Hammersmith Apollo - a show that certainly offered value for money with over 40 songs played in a set that lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes) we can bring you the full results of our survey.
What we included:
Ticket costs: All booking and postage fees as well as the cost of the ticket itself.
Transport: Costs of petrol (if driving) but not wear and tear on the car. Parking charges. The cost of using public transport - wherever possible we tried to find the cheapest option eg: £1 megatrain to London from Portsmouth.
Accommodation: Costs of any hotel accommodation where staying overnight away from home due to longer travel distances. This was generally budget style Travelodge / Ibis Budget / Easy Hotel style hotels.
Drinks: Any drinks purchased within the venue itself or at the festival. We discounted drinks purchased before the gig in other places, such as a 'pre-gig' drink in a nearby pub or bar and drinks we brought to festivals ourselves. Food was not included.
Merchandise: All merchandise purchased at the venue (t-shirts, CD’s, etc). We didn’t include albums purchased by the artist before or after the gig from other retailers away from the venue.
The full breakdown:
Average cost of a gig taking into account all of the above £ 56.32
Average cost of watching a band perform at a gig or festival £11.29
Average price paid for a ticket for any gig or festival , including fees £16.13
Ticket purchases = 29% of total expenditure.
Cities visited to attend gigs (from home city of Portsmouth)
London 23 visits (36%)
Brighton 18 visits (28%)
Portsmouth 12 visits (18%)
Southampton 2 visits (3%)
Guildford 2 visits (3%)
Pilton 2 vists (3%)
Others (1 visit each) (9%)
Note : 1 Gig was in San Francisco but we deducted all travel and hotel costs as our primary reason for being there was a holiday. We only included travel costs from the hotel to the venue and normal drink / merchandise costs.
So what have we learnt from all of this?
Essentially what we’ve learnt is that we spend a huge amount of money on gigs. If we reduced our gig going expenditure by half or only went to gigs that were within a 20 mile radius of where we live for a year we’d be able to afford a very expensive holiday or a luxury piece of kit like an Apple Mac, or iPads for every member of our household. Instead we continue to create this blog on an old battered laptop so that we can experience the thrill of live music as often as possible.
Yet, the ‘thrill of live music’ isn’t always that. Of the 65 gigs and festivals we’ve attended this year probably a handful or so were genuinely incredible. Most were good or average. A few were terrible. The incredible ones included Kate Bush, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, La Roux, Todd Terje, The Cure, James, Arcade Fire, Jungle and MØ. But our huge amount of spending on gigs is like an addiction – even if the drug isn’t always the greatest we can’t stop.
Back to expenditure; if we halved our gig going we’d be able to buy around 180 additional albums a year to listen to. Far more than we could actually ever manage. But would we do this? Almost certainly not. For a start we’d soon run out of space to store them, and these days when we can pay £9.99 a month and have unrestricted access to pretty much every album we’d want to listen to on Spotify, why would we do that? It’s a question we’ll be looking at in a new project next year as we keep records of our total spend on recorded music be it physical, downloaded or streamed forms.
We’ve also realised that we ‘waste’ a fair amount of money buying drinks at gigs. We don’t drink excessively and often we don’t drink alcohol (due to being the driver 98% of the time), but we still managed to spend over £700 on drinks at venues and festivals. Part of this is because we feel somewhat obligated to buy a drink or two, after all its this that helps keeps some of the smaller venues that we love alive as much as the ticket that we buy. So maybe it isn’t a waste after all?
And its small and medium sized venues that we fear for. We all know these places are vitally important to the music industry. Yet we continue to hear stories of them shutting down whilst enormodomes like the O2 in London continue to rake in the cash. This article (here) on Echoes and Dust discusses the issues in detail and is very much worth a read.
One thing we've noticed over the last few years of going to gigs is that more and more medium to large sized acts are choosing to play 3 or 4 bigger shows in key towns such as London, Manchester and Glasgow rather than playing a longer tour of say 10-20 shows in regional cities using smaller venues. We can understand why bands choose to do this - it's easier and they can make a bigger profit as there's less expenditure. However, in the long term this model might backfire. Because whilst bands save on expenditure, punters end up paying more, with increased transport costs for those living outside the immediate locailty. The net result is that they will attend less gigs and slowly but surely gig going could stop becoming a habit and go out of fashion. If more quality bands played closer to our home town rather than London (a three to four hour round trip) our yearly transport costs would be halved. It's likely that some of that money would be spent going to more gigs locally.
One further hope in carrying out this analysis was to gain a better perspective of which represented better value - single gigs or festivals. Unfortunately we've been unable to really make any conclusion. This is partly because the festivals we attended were so variable. For example a number of them we didn't have to pay for a ticket due to getting a press pass. The accommodation was also widely different for each type of festival - some it was included in the ticket (camping), others we traveled daily from home, whilst some were located in urban areas with no camping and we stayed in hotels. Also as part of this survey we didn't include the cost of food, which is one factor which would need to be taken into account if comparing against standard gigs. Also this survey took 'value' as being represented by the number of bands seen. But often festivals have a much broader ranger of experiences (theatre, comedy, literature etc etc) that add value and so the comparison would be unfair. However, based purely on the factors that we recorded, it would appear that both types of event offer about the same value for money.
So that concludes this project. As always if you want to share your thoughts or experiences about going to gigs, your spending, travel etc please do so in the comments below or via Twitter (you’ll find us @BMWavesBlog)