Popstars could be powering inflation as concert prices surge
LOS ANGELES/GLASTONBURY - Call it Beyflation. Or maybe Swiftflation.
The cost of certain goods is retreating in some places, but that doesn’t include live music. Concert tickets have surged in price, to the point where economists are noticing.
Fans are shelling out a fortune for tickets to see the world’s biggest music acts, including names like Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen who haven’t toured for years. And while few doubt the star power of Beyoncé live, until now people weren’t factoring her into national inflation figures.
“People are willing to splurge because they know they will get quality content, plus who knows when or if she’ll do another tour after this one,” said London-based Beyoncé fan Mario Ihieme.
The UK’s recreation and culture prices rose 6.8 per cent in the year to May 2023, their fastest in 30 years, with the largest effect from cultural services, “particularly admission fees to live music events”.
Event prices in UK inflation data are based on when shows take place, not when tickets are bought. But with different artists performing every month, it’s hard to compare one to the other, an Office for National Statistics spokesperson said.
“The (subjective) quality of music artists emphasises how difficult it is to calculate a ‘clean’ price increase,” said UBS Global Wealth Management chief economist Paul Donovan. “And for UK inflation, the pressures may persist,” he added, noting a string of UK gigs by singer Harry Styles in June.
A perusal of ticket-purchasing sites makes the sticker shock clear. On reseller Stubhub, the cheapest seat for a July Taylor Swift show in Seattle is US$1,200 (S$1,625); tickets for an August Mexico City show cost US$500 each.
But with live music just a subset of overall entertainment costs, which account for a smaller part of consumer spending than housing or food, some questioned the idea that concert prices could have an appreciable effect on inflation.
Andy Gensler, executive editor of Pollstar, a publication that tracks the global concert industry, called it a “ridiculous assertion” that Beyoncé‘s shows would affect inflation. While ticket prices have increased, he said, mid-year figures haven’t shown an appreciable rise since May 2022, when US inflation was 8.6 per cent.
With demand far exceeding supply, TD Cowen vice president of equity research Stephen Glagola said prices for tickets on the secondary market had soared to an average 75 per cent to 100 per cent above face value.
The US Labor Department does not specifically measure inflation for concert prices, but the inflation rate for live performing admission events is currently 2.6 percentage points more than US headline inflation. That gap has increased this year as headline figures have declined.
Across Asia, crowds are flocking to see marquee names like Bruno Mars, Coldplay and the Backstreet Boys.
“Had it not been for the gig, I wouldn’t have travelled,” said Fairuz Zahari, 36, from Malaysia, who has visited numerous countries for concerts, most recently Ed Sheeran in Australia.
In India, fans are happy to pay a premium for quality entertainment, according to Owen Roncon, chief of business for Live Entertainment at BookMyShow.
“The average ticket price for Backstreet Boys DNA World Tour - India, was between 7,000-8,000 rupees (S$116-S$132) - which is a very healthy growth,” he said, referring to the concert in May.
A recent survey from US event management company Eventbrite showed 80 per cent of consumers want to go out as much or more this year, even as fans endure the cost and difficulty of securing tickets to big events.
Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino said last month that ticket sales had risen 41 per cent in the first quarter, with prices up by double digits.
In Britain, about 150,000 music fans paid 340 pounds (S$585)for a ticket to June’s Glastonbury festival to see Elton John and hundreds of other acts.
Beth Cook, a social media director from Leeds in northern England, said she expected to spend 100 pounds a day at the five-day festival.
It’s worth the expense, she said.
“When the pandemic was in full swing, I think everyone was in a really low mood, and we missed out on events like this, where people all come together.
“Now I think with things up and running, the people who can afford to are saving up to come to things like this because they are amazing.” - REUTERS