The cost of concert tickets is a constant gripe for regular gig-goers in Singapore, and our shows are widely acknowledged for costing punters significantly more than shows held in our regional counterparts including KL, Manila, and Australia.
Are the high ticket prices warranted, and can they be justified by a breakdown of costs? Have certain concert promoters earned themselves well-appointed reputations as “cash cows” without thought or conscience enough to consider the long-term sustainability of our live music industry in Asia? Or are the industry’s small fish (…or even the big ones) just unable to fully understand the implications of their actions?
Back in June, our China correspondent Xiao Zhong from Slink Rat sat down for an in-depth discussion with Chinese promoter Archie Hamilton about to the Asian concert promotion industry. In light of this, Other Sounds has dug deeper, to learn how local promoters price their tickets, why costs can’t be lowered any further, and why some things that work overseas just can’t be implemented in Singapore.
Chief Executive Officer, Chugg Entertainment (AU)
There are many factors that are taken into consideration when pricing tickets. We have to question whether it is a one-off event, or if the concert is part of a tour; this will greatly impact the costs for the artist. Also, we must know what else is going on in the market before coming to a conclusion on how to price tickets.
The ticket prices in Singapore cannot really be compared to that of Australia. As most deals are done in US dollars, so often, we are working on prices back from the artist cost.
It is great that Singapore is seen to be a music destination for increasing amounts of overseas artists as well as music-goers. This would have benefits to the music industry. However, the challenge is not to oversupply, as everyone has a limit to their disposable income.
Promoters should have the responsibility of self-regulation in the interests of not spoiling the market. As it is a commercial business; there isn’t any need for government regulation. Promoters, venues and ticketing companies need to instead work harder and more closely together to continue to create value and grow this business further.
Director, Symmetry Entertainment
Generally, I feel that ticket prices for concerts in Singapore are slightly pricey, but it’s generally well within the range of affordability. As a kid, I used to rue the ticket prices that routinely burnt a hole in my pockets but as I eased into the business, I learnt the mechanics and dynamics of the industry and better understood the necessity of relatively higher ticket prices.
Most ask why countries like the US or Australia, and even SEA cities like Manila and Jakarta, are able to charge so much less for concerts. But using these places as a benchmark for concert ticket prices is unfair: for countries like the US and Australia, touring parties can travel from city to city by cheaper means of transportation (e.g. tour buses, coaches, or internal flights) whilst in the case of our tiny island, touring parties have to fly in and out, internationally, just for the one show. That’s one hefty aspect of cost right there. As for other countries in SEA like Manila and Jakarta, costs (such as venue hire, hotels, etc.) are much lower than those in Singapore.
I think it’s more of a question of why our ticket prices are high, rather than why our ticket prices are not low?
As a promoter, there are several factors that we consider in pricing. There are obviously high costs involved, and promoters would also like a decent crowd at the show to make it successful. Finding a balance between not losing money/making some, and keeping it affordable, is the biggest challenge.
The harsh reality is that, despite how passionate about music a concert promoter is, or how much they want to aid growth in this budding industry of ours, the concert promotion industry is still, after all, a business, and will operate as such in the free market. If a promoter prices a ticket at a certain price and demand is still forthcoming, there really is no incentive for the promoter to reduce prices for further shows.
Seah Seng Choon
Executive Director, Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE)
As we do not have the industry knowledge on the costs incurred by concert organizers locally or overseas, CASE is not in the position to comment on the discrepancy in pricing across countries.
What we do know is that prices are set by supply and demand, at a level the market can bear. I.e. consumers will only purchase tickets if the price is at a level they are willing to pay. Price is also a function of various factors such as rental, freight charges, transportation, manpower, etc., and our cost level may be different from other countries.
If concert organizers intend to draw an international crowd, then price comparison with other countries would make sense to ensure that our pricing is not way above the international market level. International events held locally may be less popular with tourists if our tickets are priced way above the level they can get back home, or elsewhere, given the same show. Having said that, tourists may be enticed by other factors such as safety, cleanliness, service quality or other attractions in our country. Price of concerts may be just one of the many considerations when tourists travel.
Higher pricing could be advantageous for Singapore and the music industry, but is really dependent on the ability of the concert organizers to attract patronage at that given price — pricing the tickets above what the market can bear may result in low turnout; pricing the tickets appropriately will generate greater number of patrons for the show to run viably. Such pricing decisions are for the business to make.
I believe that support from organizations, be it from private or public institutions, to promote the arts may help to lower costs and encourage participation. Would I attend more concerts, even of artists that I do not know, if prices were lower? The short answer is – yes, I would.
By Jared Rezel