Look, what you’re about to read isn’t even a particularly original argument anymore. Thinkers like Thomas Frank have already contended persuasively that the ’60s posture of rebellion, rather than challenging the moneyed establishment, actually echoed what corporate America’s top marketers were already thinking. In other words, the Clash were wrong: You can’t turn rebellion into money. Rebellion already is money; it’s called capitalism (“creative destruction”!). Add to that how the Rolling Stones, led by a once-promising London School of Economics student, did pretty much what British imperialists had done for centuries, taking artistic influences that once had been communal and then stamping their copyright on them. Lewis Hyde wrote the book on that shit.
What we’re saying is, if you’re surprised the Stones are unashamed about charging almost as much for their second-cheapest concert tickets as the typical American household earns in a week, life may continue to be hard for you. And yet, unashamed they are, and consistently so. Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood might’ve come the closest to a “47 percent” comment this week when he protested to the Telegraph, “We’ve got to make something.” But Mick Jagger told Billboard basically the same thing, citing the cost of producing the shows. And last month Keith Richards, asked whether the band will indeed make not only something, but £16 million ($25.5 million) for their services, told the Guardian, “£16 million sounds about right to us.”
Just how expensive are tickets to the Stones’ planned four 50th-anniversary shows? As Buzzfeed explains, the cheapest seats at the band’s two New Jersey shows were going for a mere $114.80, service fees included. The next tier of prices, though, brings you all the way up to $813. Ouch. Premium seating options range from $1,353.50 for a “Silver Hot Seat Package” to $2,453.50 for a “Gold VIP Package.” And we aren’t even talking about what scalpers might be charging for these things.
Jagger, in the Billboard interview, suggested part of the reason these particular ticket prices are so high is because the Stones aren’t benefiting from economies of scale. “You might say, ‘The tickets are too expensive’ — well, it’s a very expensive show to put on, just to do four shows, because normally you do a hundred shows and you’d have the same expenses,” he’s quoted as saying. But Richards has suggested that the Stones don’t plan just to do four shows. Wood recently told the AP, “We won’t be able to stop.”
So if and when the Stones announce a full tour after justifying their ticket prices based on the fact they were only playing four shows, don’t be surprised. They’ll definitely have plenty to play. Career-spanning compilation GRRR!, including new songs “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot,” arrives on November 13, just before the Stones’ HBO documentary, Crossfire Hurricane.
After all, there are consumers to satiate. Here’s Jagger talking to Billboard about ticket prices again: “So, yes, it’s expensive. But most of the tickets go for a higher price than we’ve sold them for, so you can see the market is there.” See how he totally stuck it to The Man by rationalizing his actions through free-market economics? If not, we have a Who-endorsed Hummer we’d like to sell you.