I have been going to concerts since I was around 14 or 15 and things have changed a lot during the years. The first major concert I attended was at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, AZ where I saw KISS with Cheap Trick opening. I still vividly remember parts of that concert after all this time. I thought I would write an article about how just how much things have changed, for myself, when I attended them.
I still remember that first concert due to a few things. First, I had seats in the upper level and being an impressionable teenager, when Gene Simmons pointed in my direction, I thought for sure that he saw me and pointed directly at me since I was such a big KISS fan. I use to wear Kiss t-shirts to class most days of the week and even at one school, my nickname was “KISS”.
Secondly, Cheap Trick really made an impression on me. Until the show, I don’t remember ever hearing about them. When the show started, out walked two guys that looked like musicians (Robin Zander, lead singer and Tom Petersson, bass) and two guys that looked like nerds (Rick Nielsen, lead guitar and Bun E. Carlos, drums). I didn’t think they were would be very good since not all the members looked like rockers (yeah, I was young). But they ended up making such a big impression that they are still one of my favorite bands to see live. The thing I remember most about their opening set was at one point, Rick Nielson went over to his three-step riser, complete with lighting, and kept dropping his guitar down the steps. I thought that was so cool! Couple that with Ace Frehley’s smoking, flying guitar later in the show… I was in heaven!
When I was younger and much into my adulthood, I remember that I would start thinking about the upcoming concert, sometimes weeks in advance that was much stronger in the days leading up to the concert. I thought about the show, the group and even what songs the band might play in anticipation. I’m sure my mood improved since I would get more and more excited about the show.
I use to, somewhat to this day, get anxiety about getting all the way to the venue and not have my ticket. In most cases, this would mean I would have to miss the show which only happened once when I was married and took my wife to see the Doobie Brothers here in San Diego. We did have to miss the show and I have never seen that band. For most concerts, I would put the ticket in my wallet, sometimes weeks before the show so I would not forget. I guess it worked since it only happened once.
Now that I am older, except for worrying about forgetting my ticket, I don’t get so worked up before a show anymore. Once in a while, I might search for set lists online to see what songs the band might play, but usually, I like the surprise.
Going To The Show
When I was younger, going to the show was also part of the event. The first groups I saw like Kiss, Cheap Trick, Styx, Van Halen, and more weren’t held in the small towns I lived in Arizona, so I had to find transportation to Phoenix, but that’s not what I am talking about. I’m talking about getting to the venue for many hours in advance (early afternoon) with my friends. Most of the time we would drink (tailgate), sometimes play Frisbee, meet other concert-goers and more. I also loved people watching as fans would arrive at the venue. The photo at the top of this article was taken by my best friend before an AC/DC concert at the Los Angeles Forum when I was in the US Navy. When I got older, we usually just did this at the closest bar to the venue.
Going to the show early, was for me, was part of the show. Now that I am older, unless I’m trying to avoid traffic, I try to arrive right when the show starts. If I know that I’m not that interested in the opening bands, then I try to arrive right before the band I came to see. The only exception to this rule is when it’s one of my favorite bands and I want to make sure to be standing at the barricade so I can seem them up close. Since I am a guitarist, I do this for guitarists who inspire me like Billy Duffy from The Cult. But the older I get, the less I do this, mostly due to it being more difficult for me to stand for that length of time.
When I started going to concerts, tickets were around $9 to $12. Taking inflation into account, those tickets in 2020 would cost $20 to $27. It sounds totally affordable to me. But, the reality in 2020 is that most large concerts are not affordable anymore.
In 2020, floor seats for the band Tool ran around $425, Kiss tickets are around $250, Rage Against The Machine tickets are around $415 and Motely Crue tickets are a whopping $1,250! Taking inflation into account, these tickets would be between $110 to $548 when I was a teenager, far out of the range I could afford since I was making only around $800 a month when I was a manager at a restaurant at the age of 19.
Why the huge jump in ticket prices in the past 20 years or so? Well, to me, the biggest reason is iTunes and streaming. When I started going to concerts, bands and record companies made their money off of album and CD sales. Concerts were merely a way to promote those sales, so the price was pretty low, around the same cost as a concert ticket. That all changed when people started sharing music for free (Napster) and got worse when iTunes changed how we purchase music and got much worse with streaming. I even asked John Connolly, guitarist for the band Sevendust, if he makes more money off of iTunes or CD sales and he told me CD sales. Ever since that day I have only purchased CD’s because I know how hard it is for bands these days.
So now things have flipped. Sure you can purchase a song for $1.99 or listen to it for free on a streaming service, but the bands need to make an income, so they do that now from concert ticket sales and merchandising. That’s why bands that I saw when I was a teenager, like Styx, seem to never stop touring.
Come back soon to read part 2 where I will discuss being at the concert, merchandising and post concert. Did this article stir up your own memories? Please make a comment below.