Why Are Concert Tickets So Expensive?

It’s not your imagination – concerts are more expensive and selling out faster than ever. Here’s why.

It’s not your imagination: concert tickets are getting more expensive. If you’ve been frustrated over the rising prices and the challenge of grabbing a ticket before a show sells out, then you’re not alone.

Bruce Springsteen came under fire this summer when it was revealed that tickets skyrocketed to $4,000 because of Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing.” We’ll dig into what that means in this article – and share ways to save money on concert tickets in the future.

The Post-Lockdown Era

The simplest answer to why concert tickets are so expensive is supply and demand. With more than two years of canceled concerts to catch up on, both performers and fans alike are eager to see live music again. Maybe a little too eager. The demand for concert tickets is at a fever pitch, and as fans compete for increasingly hard-to-come-by tickets, they’re willing to pay more.

A lot more.

It makes sense that venues are selling more tickets these days, but they’re also selling more expensive ticket packages. In addition, fans are paying up to 20% more at the venue for alcohol, food, and merchandise.

New York, NY - February 26, 2020: Singer Harry Styles performs on stage during Citi Concert Series on NBC TODAY SHOW at Rockefeller Plaza

“More VIP, more platinum tickets, getting that money to the artist. And we’re seeing a relatively strong inelasticity on the demand for those best tickets,” Joe Berchtold, president of Live Nation, explained to CNBC. “People are going to a bit higher quality in terms of some of the alcohol, some of our product offerings are making more of a deal for people to take higher price point products.”

Luxury add-ons like valet parking have become increasingly popular, but there’s also a growing movement to turn even basic-seeming courtesies, such as access to a chair, into money-making opportunities. That’s great news for Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster, but it’s going to put a strain on the wallets of most concertgoers.

How much is too much? And where exactly is the money from all those fees and variable price hikes going?

Dynamic Pricing Infuriates Fans

Ticketmaster has been tweaking ticket prices based on demand since 2011. In theory, it’s a way to ensure that tickets go to the actual fans instead of second-hand sellers. However, dynamic pricing now resembles Uber’s surge pricing as a computer algorithm reacts instantly to spikes in demand.

In 2018, Taylor Swift fans rushed to get their tickets to see her in Chicago, bumping up the price to $995. Three months later, the same seat cost $595. That’s still a lot for a concert ticket, but the $400 discount reflects the lessened demand after the initial rush to get tickets.

Official Platinum Seats

It’s not clear exactly how many of the seats for that show were earmarked as “Official Platinum Seats,” which are tickets reserved by Ticketmaster and adjusted based on demand. However, it’s worth noting that Platinum tickets aren’t any better than regular tickets. They’re just more expensive. No VIP access. Not even a spot closer to the stage.

silhouettes of concert crowd in front of bright stage lights

As Time magazine revealed, “the biggest reason why it’s increasingly difficult to score tickets is that Ticketmaster holds back as many as 90% of the tickets for the secondary market—credit card companies, promoters, radio stations, or artists’ fan clubs. Meanwhile, others are bought in bulk by resellers, who use bots to resell them at a markup.”

It’s not uncommon for shows to sell out of all but the Official Platinum Seats before the general public gets a chance to buy tickets. Unfortunately, it seems that the only way around this is to make sure that you’re part of a group with access to a pre-sale. That’s not a guarantee, however, as Taylor Swift fans found out in November 2022. According to reporting by Vox, “The fans that got through — via a system of presale codes and designated purchase times — ran into numerous malfunctions, some being told to wait hours to be able to spend hundreds of dollars on seats.”

 And if you do manage to score a ticket through chance or strategy, you still can’t escape the fees.

Just How Bad Are Those Fees?

It’s an old joke at this point that the so-called convenience fees charged by Ticketmaster and other online box offices cost more than the tickets themselves.

man is shocked while using a smartphone

In addition to the face value price of the ticket, you can expect to pay the following fees through Ticketmaster:

  • Service fee – the dreaded and mysterious convenience charge
  • Order processing fee – covers shipping, handling, and support
  • Delivery fee – may be charged even when you are printing your tickets at home
  • Facility charge – an optional fee tacked on by the venue to cover operational costs

Ticketmaster claims that the fees they charge are set in collaboration with their clients (meaning venues, sports teams, and event promoters) and that those clients get a cut of the fees. They also admit that they may make a profit on those fees, but it’s not clear exactly how much of a profit that might be.

Are Things Ever Going to Change?

According to Ian Thomas, writing for CNBC, “This pricing environment shows no signs of waning, with demand for tickets very high even as fans are spending more money to go to concerts, making tickets not only expensive but even harder to get.”

18 November 2019. AFAS Live Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Concert of Lizzo

In other words, as long as the demand remains high, so will ticket prices. After all, there are only so many weekends in a year—the most popular days for concerts—and only so many venues to go around. It’s likely that performers will continue to try to make up for lost time over the next year or two, which means that there may be no end in sight for high-priced tickets.


In October 2022, President Joe Biden made remarks on his plan to take action against what he calls “junk fees.” He mentioned multiple industries in his remarks, including banking overdrafts, hidden booking fees at hotels, and early termination fees for cable contracts. Biden also called out the processing fees for concert tickets, which are unavoidable and often not disclosed until you’re about to make a purchase.

It’s not clear when any changes might go into effect as a result of this initiative. However, I think most consumers would be glad to see the end of hidden fees and predatory convenience charges.

How Can You Score Cheaper Tickets?

It’s not easy to avoid buying tickets from Live Nation or its subsidiary, Ticketmaster. In fact, there are increasing calls from Washington to label Live Nation as a monopoly, given the stranglehold that it has on the live entertainment industry. But for now, they’re the only game in town—and that means we have to play by their rules. Or do we?

There are a few ways to see live music, theater, and dance for a lot less.

First, start thinking local. While blockbuster arena tours are a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see your favorite artists, you might be surprised at how much your local music scene has to offer. Small, local venues that sell tickets directly to the public can sidestep all the Ticketmaster drama. In addition, you might be able to find free or cheap performances on college campuses, as well as municipal events. No, Bruce Springsteen isn’t going to be playing a set at your local coffee shop—but you might discover a new favorite artist by giving an unknown band a shot.

Saint Petersburg, Russia - November 24, 2018: God Is an Astronaut , Irish post-rock band from County Wicklow, formed 2002 by Niels Kinsella & Torsten Kinsella, concert show in club AURORA Concert Hall

For popular shows, your best bet is the pre-sale. It’s worthwhile signing up for fan clubs and email lists that can hook you up with artist pre-sale codes. You may also be able to get access to pre-sales if you hold certain credit cards – but don’t apply for a card just to buy a concert ticket, as that can negatively impact your credit score. Make sure that you’ve already created an account and saved your payment information long before the pre-sale starts. Click on the “buy tickets” button as soon as it pops up, and then – this is key – don’t refresh your browser or click on the button again. This can bump you out of your spot in the queue.

Although it’s risky, you can also try waiting until after the rush to get discounted tickets for bigger shows. Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing cuts both ways – when demand is down, the prices drop too. We saw that happen with Taylor Swift’s Chicago show. You might even be able to score tickets priced below face value at the last minute, as venues would rather fill seats at a discount rather than leave them empty. However, you’ll have to hope that the show you want to see doesn’t sell out.

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