A friend of mine, Cillian, sent me on a photo yesterday of something his mother found while she was rummaging around. It was a ticket to a Queen concert from 1978, which means, assuming the ticket was hers, she has very good taste. In addition to finding this out, seeing the ticket also provided me with an idea for a blog post. As can be seen below the price of the ticket was just £3.75 which seems like extraordinary value.
I used the Bank of England inflation calculator to get the current day value of the ticket, but for some reason the calculator only allows you to put in whole numbers so I just rounded the price up to £4. The calculator can also only quantify inflation adjusted prices for years that have passed so it calculated what the value of £4 in 1978 would have been last year in 2019. But even adjusting for inflation the price still seemed too good to be true; just £23.12.
Which converted into euro terms would be roughly €26.45. That still seems like an incredible bargain to see arguably the best live performers of all time. Particularly when by 1978 Queen were a very well established act. They wouldn’t play their famous Live Aid gig for another seven years, but still by this stage the band had already released albums like A Night at the Opera and News of the World, and were currently touring for their album Jazz. So, it isn’t the case that they weren’t that big of an act yet.
Then it hit me. The ticket price doesn’t just illustrate how inflation changes prices, it also shows how market forces change prices. In 1978 bands made a lot of money from selling their music because if people wanted to listen to it they had to buy it. Consequently, this means bands didn’t need to charge as much money for their concerts. Nowadays however, artists make very little money from streaming their music, so they charge higher prices for concerts to make up for this.
It’s important to keep these two factors in mind when comparing the prices of commodities from different eras. If the price of a concert ticket for Queen today was only €26.45 then the price increase is attributable to the devaluing of money (inflation), but if the price has increased to say €60 – €80 then the price increase is more likely attributable to some kind of market change. In this case, it’s that musicians now make most of their money from playing gigs rather than selling their music. If you are interested in keeping up with more analysis of the Irish music industry, please give Music Economics a like on Facebook.