The Costs Of Live Entertainment

How much does entertainment cost?  Most of us like to be entertained in some way every day.  And the flux in attendance at shows over the past few years scares venue owners for sure.  Some nights are amazing. Some nights are DOA.

It’s tough to get people off the couch and out of the house for a variety of reasons.  They have to get dressed.  They have to drive.  They have to find parking.  They have to walk.  They have to wait in lines.  They have to pay for food or drink.  And if you think some of those are ridiculous reasons (like dressing and walking), I assure you, they all go into the thought process.  It’s easier to sit on the couch and watch something on a tiny screen.  Of course, nobody stays home all the time, but many people do come close.

As performers, producers, and other industry types, we’re always trying to get regular people to leave the house.  Why?  Two reasons.  For an artist, there is nothing better than live performance.  There’s electricity when a large group of people get together that’s better than any drug.  The other reason?  Money.  With the rapid commoditization of media, we simply don’t make as much as we used to on selling music and movies.  So live performance is our bread and butter that pays the bills and keeps the significant others from throwing us out.

Let’s look at the prices for different entertainment mediums based on a once a month use.

Club Concert $5-10
Netflix $9
Movie Theater $11
Comedy Club $10-25
Internet Access $20-30
Cable TV $30-50
Major Concert $30-100
Live Theater $36-180

Keep in mind, these don’t take into account food, drink, or parking costs.  I’m a super cheapo when I go out, so it can be done for these prices.

Anyway, you can see that with the exception of major concerts and theater, live entertainment where you go out and be with other people is a good deal.  You can see a hot band for $5?  Yep, and regularly.

Ah, but who gets Netflix and only uses it once?  Or cable?  Or internet?  And that’s where they’ve got us.  Let’s see what these break down to if you used each one daily for a month.  Cost per day.

Netflix – $.30
Internet Access – $.66-1.00
Cable TV – $1.00-1.66
Club Concert $5-10
Comedy Club – $10-25
Major Concert – $30-100
Live Theater – $36-180

And therein lies the rub.  The subscription services spread their cost out over a month, while the live entertainment venues are a one shot deal.  Want to go again?  Pay again.  Your local comedy and music shows are still a good deal (and oftentimes better than a bigger show), but to see the names you’re going to have to shell out the bucks.  A single ticket I just bought for a live theater event costs more than 7 months of Netflix.

Now first off, why do people go out?  Because live entertainment is more exciting.  Do you laugh more at a half hour special on Comedy Central by yourself, or at a live comedy show with 200 other people.  The latter by far.  Experiencing the art live, with other people, and with the artist just feet from you is worth a boost in price.  Plus live shows are simply more expensive to produce and can’t be reproduced without more labor costs.

But is it worth that huge a boost?  Keep in mind, my own shows fall strictly into the middle realm here.  Between $5 and $20 a show.  If I were the Rolling Stones, I might have a different viewpoint. 🙂  And getting those high end shows to come down in price is happening slowly, but will never be the old “$2 to see BB King” like in the old posters.

But why aren’t smaller venues doing a subscription service?  For a certain price you can get into as many shows as they want?  More repeat traffic means more food and drink sales.  Regular price tix can still be sold to non-subscribers.  Sports teams and amusement parks do season tickets.  And countless sales programs work on a continuity basis.  Why don’t entertainment venues?

Clubs are in the business of selling food and drinks.  A well known fact.  So, if that’s the case, they should get the heck out of the ticket business!  Theater companies have it a little tougher.  They’re not going to make budget by selling Snickers at intermission.  You’re there for the show or you’re not there.  I don’t have a good solution for them yet.  If I did, I’d be a paid consultant. 🙂  But even they have season ticket plans.

Would you go out more if you could walk into the venue for any show and just flash them your VIP pass?  For maybe $20-30 a month?  Maybe $50 for a high end comedy club?  That’s less than your cell phone bill and you could have high quality entertainment any night you want.

Artists can’t do this.  We’re not in one town often enough to make a subscription plan worthwhile.  It’s got to be the venues that do it.

What do you think?  Would you go out more if you had a subscription plan for a certain venue?

Phil Johnson

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