At the time of posting this it is Easter. A very special time for a lot of Christians and a very happy time for those of us who may be sinners and don`t believe, as we have some time off work for a few days. To celebrate I give you a very special article where we learn a bit about the economy behind touring in the early 70s. I have tried to make it as informative as possible by having the equivalent price in todays money value (2018) in brackets beside the prices given. I hope you find it interesting.
Where will it all end?
In this, Geoff Barton looks closely at the financial side of putting a band on the road.
Now that a crisp new copy of SOUNDS costs you 10p(£1,15), Mars bars set you back 6p and the price of petrol has risen to God knows how much per measly gallon, it`s hardly surprising to see ticket prices spiralling steadily upwards along with everything else.
These days 50p(£5,75) makes for a cheap gig, and if you`re lucky enough to get two good bands for that price, then it`s something of a bargain. I suppose it`s fair to quote £2(£23) as an average price to pay to see a reasonably big band – although many think that the advent of the £5(£57,50) ticket is not that far away.
Be that as it may, people were recently willing to pay £3.50(£34,50) for a super-cramped Wembley supergig – not even the most fervent CSN&Y fan could call that value for money. Or maybe he could – after all, the eternal inflationary black market ticket racket thrives on the poor fans who will pay just about any price to see their heroes, whoever they may be.
But don`t think I`m putting the 70,000-odd Wembley concert goers down. I remember I was equally willing to queue for seven hours, for the most part squashed up against a brick wall, to pay £4.40(£46) for two plots of carpet to see a rather duff Who gig at London`s Lyceum. Dreadful.
I guess we all reckon that we`ve been ripped off at one time or another and, theoretically, it should never happen. But, of course, it does – and all too frequently.
If you`ve ever felt particularly hard done by, your natural recourse is to blame the band in question. But touring is a complex venture all the way down the line, and a hell of a lot more people other than the bands are involved.
You`ve got promoters, roadies, stage managers, social secretaries or whatever. They`ve all got to come out on top, with their heads above water. Yeah… a complex venture. You pay the price, you see the band, but just where does all your money go?
If anything goes wrong during the process of setting up a gig, the promoter will feel the brunt of it first and foremost. He has to pay the rental costs for a hall, which naturally varies from place to place; he has to finance the printing of posters and maybe advertise in the papers; he has to pay any staff he employs, and so on and so on. Getting a concert together is a risky business and about a third of the price on your creased up ticket goes to the promoter. Hopefully he makes a profit somewhere.
Then there`s eight per cent VAT on the ticket, and some box office commission probably has to come out of it as well. The rest goes to the band.
Simple enough? Oh no, it doesn`t stop there.
Take Gallagher And Lyle, for example. They`ve just completed a nationwide tour with support act, comedian and 14 piece orchestra – a four hour show in all, which they financed themselves to the tune of a cool £15,000 (£172,500). “The costs were collossal” said an undaunted Berry Gallagher. “Out of an initial outlay of of £15,000 we got about £3,000 (£34,500) back. We`re quite pleased.”
Gallagher And Lyle insisted on a maximum price of £1 (£11.50) for all the dates. That`s a good gesture, but on the face of it they lost a lot of money. Why did you do it, Benny?
“It was just to promote our album. Sure, we lost a lot, but it was worthwhile because our album sales doubled.”
The cheapo-cheapo G&L roadshow was probably an exception to the traditional touring rule, if there is such a thing. The band`s fee varies from £750 (£8625) to £1,000 (£11,500) so they obviously couldn`t hope to break even, let alone show a profit. Just look at these figures: there were 29 people on the road, and hotel bills came to £3,500 (£40,250); wages for the orchestra alone came to £5,000 (£57,500); and the costs of hiring a three ton lorry and a 41 seater coach amounted to £1,500 (£17,250). It makes your £1 ticket stub seem rather insignificant, doesn`t it?
Benny: “The main thing is to give everyone a good quality concert. If it`s cheap too, all well and good. But I don`t see the value behind groups charging outrageous prices. It`s crazy. Naturally, the band must be very good to be able to charge a large sum – but I wouldn`t pay their price. They can`t be that good.”
Gallagher And Lyle plan to tour again in late December or the New Year, this time charging about £1.50 (£17,25) a gig. Benny: “It`s about time we made some money.”
So that`s where your money goes. Well, some of it at least. The Gallagher And Lyle tour was, admittedly, an extreme and hardly characteristic case. But at least it gives you some idea as to the vast amount of money wrapped up in a band on the road.
10cc currently have a more conventional stage show, and their manager Rick Dixon was at first a bit dubious about participating in a sort of band breakdown, for tax reasons. But eventually 10cc`s financial secrets were revealed.
10cc have been on the road for about a year now, and Rick thinks that when it comes round to assessing the band`s situation, money-wise, they`re going to be very much in the red. Still, during that year 10cc have risen in stature and popularity and can now command an, on the surface, substantial fee of £1,000 per gig. The band have six people in their road crew – a sound engineer, three equipment guys and two to deal with the lighting. They run three vehicles – two for equipment and lighting which they hire and one, a Mercedes limo, which they own themselves and travel in.
“We used to own a Mercedes van,” says Rick, “but as the band got bigger and the PA got bigger it became inadequate for our needs. We didn`t buy a new one but decided to start hiring. It worked out for us as a very good deal. Hiring is a better proposition. If we owned trucks they`d be written off within three years anyway. The hire company is responsible for their vehicle – if the engine falls out it`s their lookout, not ours.”
At the moment 10cc charge around £1,25 (£14.38) per ticket per gig, and through Rick`s own admittance they`re businessmen in part: “If we know we`re going to fill a place, we go for a higher price.”
Out of the band`s average fee of £1,000, £750 has been spent even before they get out on to the stage: “the £1,000 has to cover road crew wages; hotel bills; petrol for three vehicles; the purchase price of one vehicle; the depreciation of vehicles, equipment, etcetera; publicity; miscellaneous expenses…” The list is almost endless. Oh yeah – the band have to earn a living out of all that as well.
Rick: “I`m sure there are easier ways to live. If we weren`t slightly crazy and very dedicated we`d never be doing this at all. People think we lead an easy life, but I tell you it`s not much fun leaving home at 9 a.m. and getting back at 4 a.m. the next day.”
So, when you buy your ticket you`re not just paying to see a band, but you`re directly paying for many other things besides. The next time you pay to see a gig and complain about the price of the ticket, just think about it for a while. Is the price you`re paying all that much out of the way?
Rick: “It`s been the same for a long, long time – no-one has it as good as British concert-goers. In Holland you pay maybe £15 (£172.50) to see Shirley Bassey, and when 10cc played Copenhagen the tickets were £5 (£57.50) each.”
And will we eventually be paying these prices? “It`s a question of politics, a higher standard of living, world prices, what have you. If Britain is to attain a standard of living comparable to that of the rest of the EEC we must pay the price.
“Pop music is a business, like anything else. Petrol costs more, vehicles cost more, insurance costs more, electricity costs more, everything costs more. Someone somewhere has to pay for it all and, as always, it`s usually the consumer.”
A depressing picture, to be sure. Meanwhile, Bowie talks about charging £8 (£92) per seat for a British “theatour”, and I dare say we`ll willingly pay that much if he comes over. But it`s got to end somewhere. It can`t go on forever. Can it?
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ken Boothe, Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, Pete Brown, George Harrison, Roger Glover, David Puttnam, Mott The Hoople, Bad Company, Phil Spector, Thin Lizzy, Janis Ian, Elton John.
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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