Rancid Show Poster, Art: Jermaine Rogers

Right now in our city, and across the country as well, there seems to be a disconnect about how much a show should cost. It’s unfortunate for those of us who love seeing bands, comics, and entertainers in a live setting, that everything has gone up in price while wages really haven’t. But, the fact is that the $5.00 show needs to become a distant memory, and fast. Think about it for a second, I saw Rancid in 1994 for $9.00, which under inflation rates would be $14.39 today. Yet many people balk at the idea of paying more than $5.00 to see anything today, and those people either need to fork over more money or stop going to shows, period.

This is being brought up because no less than five times a week hear someone say, “$10.00? I’m not paying $10.00 to see a show.” And, to me that’s a vulgar sentiment because I’m willing to bet that everyone who reads this knows at least one person who’s either a performer, entertainer, comic, or whatever, and they also want to see that person succeed at that endeavor. But, without a higher cover charge they will never have success in an already difficult industry. For an example we’ll use musicians for a simple model. I’m not going to break down the fact that musicians spend money on gear, or time practicing, or anything else you’ve seen on an internet meme before. What I will use is the show itself and the common everyday numbers to explain the value in paying $10.00 versus $5.00 to see a band.

In today’s music world, your friend’s band is more than likely playing with several other bands at a music venue, and the split on the door or off the tickets is usually just that, a split between the venue and the acts performing. The most common split is known as a door deal and the most common percentage is 70% for the bands, and 30% for the venue. The door deal is typically a fair cut because the venue has door personnel, professional sound personnel, and advertising costs associated with the production of the show. So, under this model, the bands will receive $7.00 from every $10.00 received. But, that’s not $7.00 per band, but rather $7.00 split between typically 3 bands. Which comes out to $2.33 per band, depending how things are split up at the end of the night. So, that means that when your favorite band plays at, let’s say a place where 250 people can attend; that they stand to make no more than about twenty dollars shy of $600.00 if the show actually sells out. The average band has four members, which comes out to $150.00 per member; again if it sells out. That set up seems like a pretty good way for your friend’s band to actually have a chance at being able to afford playing on a consistent basis and possibly even recording an album with proper personnel.

However at $5.00 for a show, all of those numbers are cut in half, which makes any form of success or ability to afford to actually come out and play for you nearly impossible. These numbers are just an example, but an actual real world example. They can be applied to pretty much every show and every medium of the entertainment spectrum. The other value in paying more than $5.00 to see any form of entertainment is humanity. I don’t know anyone who will work under minimum wage as I suspect you also don’t. It’s a little crappy to expect a band or an entertainer to do the same. The fact is that on a $10.00 ticket, an act can keep a little bit of their integrity while being rewarded, in a small way, for their craft. Bands, make very little to nothing off of album sales. The cost of recording, packaging, and promoting is much higher than you think, and I invite you to look up pressing and packaging here, here, and here as examples. If a band is signed to a label, then they have to repay said costs at a percentage of about $4.00 per unit, while giving up a percentage of their publishing which counts against them in licensing or use outside of the art’s intended purpose.

In a time where we devalue pretty much any form of art, this is your chance to actually show that you support art and want it to be here for generations to come. Without using the boring comparison to a cup of coffee, I’ll use the beer model instead. Beer typically costs no less than $3.00 at a venue, but closer to between $5.00 and $10.00. Is it right that a drink costs more than admission to get in? If you pay around $10.00 to see a show, the odds are greater that your friend the comic, your pal in a band, or your neighbor the performance artist can actually afford to keep entertaining you. While there are still plenty of shows for $5.00, and even many for less or FREE, we as a society need to start getting used to the fact that the days of shows being under $10.00 are numbered, and we also need to be okay with that.