A ticket to a Rolling Stones concert cost about $8 in 1969. Today, it can cost you up to $350 to get into a Stones show.
Prices of concert tickets are rising faster and higher than those for movies, theater — even sporting events. But rock 'n' roll is supposed to be the anti-establishment art form, and maybe that's why so many fans feel aggravated that rock — once for the masses — is now often for only the rich.
"I'm like an old rock 'n' roller and I can't go see them," said 47-year-old Steve Rex.
Outside a recent Rolling Stones concert in New York City, devoted Stones fan named Avi was desperate to get into the show. But he was shocked at the $350 price tag. "It's ridiculous; it's insane — $350 to see anybody, I don't know, I wouldn't pay it."
Even if he could afford it, he says he wouldn't want to give his money to what he imagines is some corporate pickpocket standing between the box office and the Stones. "I assume there's some guy standing on top of the buildings here on a big leather chair that's getting all the money," Avi said.
Who’s to Blame?
So who is getting all the money? Why are ticket prices so high? Some people say it's the rock stars just being greedy. Others blame a massive media conglomerate called Clear Channel Communications.
Even huge stars like Grammy Award winner Dave Matthews say they're troubled by what Clear Channel is doing to the music business.
"A big company like Clear Channel has every opportunity to sort of take over every edge of the business," Matthews said.
And that's exactly what some people say Clear Channel is doing.
Clear Channel is No. 1 in radio station ownership, the concert promotion industry, and ownership of concert arenas.
Since Clear Channel started buying up the industry, the average concert ticket price has risen by one-third. The sharp increase was so alarming, it triggered a Senate investigation last month.
Rocker Don Henley testified about Clear Channel before the Senate committee.
"I come at my own peril … This unprecedented control by the conglomerates is hurting the music business and the culture," Henley told Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Just days after the hearings and the bad press that came with them, Clear Channel canceled a planned interview with 20/20. Instead, the company issued a statement, in which it points a finger right back at the rock moguls.
"It is high attendance, not high ticket prices that benefit Clear Channel … More than 100 percent of the ticket price increase in 2002 went to the artists," the company said in its statement.
Is Online Downloading the Culprit?
So who's telling the truth?
Miles Copeland, owner of Ark 21 Records and former manager of Sting, admits that Sting and other artists have a lot of control over ticket prices. If they seem greedy, Copeland says, it's because they're being ripped off every day — not by Clear Channel, but by their fans.
"Five years, 10 years, 15 years ago … every time you wanted music, you'd go to a record store and you'd have to fork out money to buy records. Well nowadays they say it's just OK to steal," Copeland said.
Steal online, that is. Apparently, many of us simply cannot resist the temptation of downloading music from the Internet. But all that free music is not without a price.
"The public ought to realize as they're complaining about ticket prices, that they're forcing ticket prices up because stealing music from the artists eliminates that source of income.