I hate the O2 arena. I don’t want to go to Wembley. I resent spending more than £25 on a gig ticket.
In a conversation about secondary ticketing earlier this week (websites that were first created as the legitimate equivalent of a tout), a friend told me about how last year she spent £1,000 on 5 Beyoncé tickets that were worth £70 each. £200 for a ticket is a lot of money, but £70 still isn’t cheap. People don’t buy physical copies of music like they used to, choosing to stream instead. As a result, touring is what makes artists their money. It’s difficult in this scenario to know who’s to ‘blame’. Is it the fans for wanting to stream music instead of buying physical copies? The bands for wanting to earn money? The venues wanting to stay afloat, charging more for tickets so they can afford to pay the acts?
It doesn’t really matter who should be held to account. What matters is that gigs are becoming more expensive. As they become more expensive, people are choosing to spend more money on stadium gig tickets (I say this having spent £70-80 on tickets to see Stone Roses at the Ethiad Stadium in 2016. I won’t tell you how much I also spent on beer to make up for how little I could see…) or a festival tickets, where they can see all the acts they wanted to see, big and small, throughout the year for one fixed price. Psychologically, this decision can be explained using behavioural economics through anchoring and adjustment. It just means that if people are going to spend a load of money anyway, they might as well pay a little bit more and get the ‘best’ option (…and there endeth today’s economics lesson).
However, in 20 years, no one is going to be talking about how incredible it was when they saw Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars or even Craig David at the O2. The stories come from the small, local venues.
This week Independent Venue Week is celebrating these smaller venues. Supported using public funding from Arts Council England, 2017 marks IVW’s 4th consecutive year bringing together independent venues across the UK, recognising the hard work people put into making them a success all year round.
Independent Venue Week and inner city festivals like Tramlines (Sheffield) and The Great Escape (Brighton) are essential in combatting the stadium gigs and overpriced tickets. When you start thinking about your favourite, most memorable, gigs I can almost guarantee there is more to them than just who you saw.
Last year I was lucky enough to see Michael Kiwanuka in a church, Slaves at Green Door Store, Brighton, Kimya Dawson in a venue so small, she managed to get everyone to sit down and Wild Beasts at Maida Vale as part of 6 Music Live 2016. None of these acts are my Favourite Band Ever, but these gigs stick in my head because (respectively) the sound was incredible, the show felt personal, the band sweated on me when they came into the crowd and I was one of few people there. All of these factors? Solidly down to the venues. Even the best club nights I went to happened at Bassment Bar Chelmsford, my local venue.
So, if you haven’t already this week, check out what’s going on at your local venue using IVW17’s gig guide and appreciate whatever your town has to offer. Make the effort to see local bands and touring bands in smaller venues near you. If nothing else, you can be smug about it when they make it big and you were one of 200 people stood in a sweaty basement room before they were famous.