Consumer spending remains major challenge for Australian live market

A new detailed survey of Australasia’s live music sector has found surging demand but flaky consumer spending amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The Big Ticket Items — Ticketing State of Play report was compiled by Tixel and culture marketing agency Bolster Group. Information was garnered from event data, industry experts and more than 4,000 event goers in Australia and New Zealand. The report seeks to unearth how consumers are spending their money on entertainment and how attendee behaviour is contributing to a “challenging and sometimes confusing” environment for those working in the business of live.

Key insights include attendances surging to their highest since 2019. Some 53% of event goers are going to more events than they did last year, while comparative figures show Melbourne and Olympic Parks’ crowd numbers more than doubled when compared against 2020-22.

However, consumer spending doesn’t match attendance and not all events are feeling this recovery evenly. Arts festivals and theatre are facing significant uphill battles, with Melbourne Fringe among those that have not experienced the return of pre-Covid numbers. While ticket price remains the primary barrier to purchase, this year 51% of event goers consider the associated costs of a ticket as a major barrier, compared to 27% last year.

Interestingly, just one in 10 of those surveyed said they are concerned about catching Covid at a live event.

Jason Webb, co-founder of Tixel, said the business decided to compile this year’s report after last year’s inaugural publication became a go-to across the industry.

“This research is a huge undertaking,” he said. “It helps us more deeply understand ticket buyers and is a much-needed resource as we continuously redefine and recreate how to get more people to live events in sustainable ways, and how we can continue to fuel a thriving live experiences industry.”

Ticket price rises and tight margins

The industry leaders who took part in the survey included Mushroom Group CEO Matt Gudinski and Oztix commercial director Seth Clancy.

Gudinski noted particular difficulties for less well-known artists rather than those international stars who can sell out major arenas.

He said: “The landscape across the board is very challenging for emerging or new artists, especially on a domestic level. The leap from playing at venues like The Forum to larger stages like Margaret Court is a growing challenge.”

Untitled Group’s Mike Christidis acknowledged that rising costs means both higher ticket prices and reduced margins.

He said: “The cost it takes to produce the events is up by 20-30% or more. I can’t pass that directly onto the ticket price; it would just make it nonfeasible. So we had to kind of split the middle. We’re taking a cut in our margins, but then also realising the consumers have got a threshold that they can pay.”

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