The Sliding Scale Of Edmonton Concert Prices

by New Music Michael on December 28 2012

Sam Roberts at Edmonton's Jubilee Auditorium

For some unbenknownst reason, I have found myself embroiled in some heated debates recently about concert prices. I ranted and raved over Tegan And Sara demanding $75 for a performance at the Myer Horowitz Theatre in 2011. It came up again as T&S return to the city on March 3 with a new album under their wing. That show, at the Shaw, is commanding ticket prices half of the Horowitz show – $37.50.

Meanwhile, today’s debate on Facebook was about Hannah Georgas tickets. She’s playing the Starlite Room in mid-January. A dear friend of mine was irate at having to pay $30 to see Georgas at that venue. However, the base ticket price is actually $20 (Prime Box office adds $7.75 in service charges if you buy them through their website).

Another friend asked me whether I factor just the band, or the venue, into how much I think is appropriate for a concert. Both, of course – there’s also a number of other variables. But just for kicks, I started putting together a sliding scale of what I think is appropriate for concert prices for various bands.

Here then is that assessment. All exclude service charges.

Headliner Categorization

Arena Band. You’re going to pay a premium for shows at Rexall (and Commonwealth, though those happen pretty rarely nowadays). Your typical arena band base prices, for decent tickets, should be around $100 to $120. For uberbands (Paul McCartney, Coldplay), you’re looking at $175 and up.

Household Band. These are bands that tend to be household names, especially if there’s any music fans of any genre in said household. They’re not quite big enough to play arenas, but they’re one step away. Typically here in Edmonton these bands would play Shaw (and not sell out), or previously, Edmonton Event Centre (and likely sell out). Stone Temple Pilots at the Shaw would be a good example; Mother Mother at EEC is another. $40 to $60.

Tier One Band. Perhaps not a household name yet, but these bands are working towards it. They’ve had significant album sales in Canada, perhaps a Juno nomination or even award, and are usually critically acclaimed as well, or alternatively, are supported by solid radio airplay. Think Gotye’s one and only jaunt through the city. $30 to $40.

Tier Two Band. These bands are probably from Canada, or perhaps are a lesser buzz band from the United States. They’ve probably got a decent local following, though it may or may not be supported by radio. Hannah Georgas from above is a good example of this category – fairly popular pop-rocker from Vancouver, Juno nomination, her self-titled album got very good reviews. $15 to $25.

Regional Touring Band. These bands are typically from western Canada – perhaps Vancouver or Saskatchewan – and have a decent local following, but aren’t really well-known outside of those fans. Think Rah Rah from Regina – amazing live band, some great songs, just for some reason haven’t caught on yet. $10 to $20.

Local Draw. Edmonton band still starting out, may have a full-length album out, may have just a couple EP’s. $5 to $10.

Of course, where you put the band in terms of category could conceivably change your mind as to whether tickets are too high-priced. I’m not really convinced Fleetwood Mac is an arena band anymore. So their ticket prices ($130 for a decent seat) are beyond what I would consider paying.

Also, some bands could sort of slide between categories – so then you could take the low value of the upper category, and the higher value of the other category. Tegan And Sara fill this bill nicely in my opinion. They’re somewhere between a household band and a Tier One band. Therefore, around $40 would be an appropriate price to pay – and poof, that’s almost exactly what their tickets are going for (see above).

Venue Adjustments

Starlite Room: add $5. For no real reason; it just seems to be the case. Perhaps because they’re the only venue that fits into a certain size space. Perhaps it’s the storied history of the facility, as far back as The Rev. I don’t know. It just is.

Myer Horowitz / Royal Alberta Museum: add $5 to $10. A decent theatre venue, with nice acoustics.

Winspear / Jubilee: add $15 to $20. The city’s premium theatre venues.

Seasonality Adjustments

I haven’t proven this to myself with a statistical analysis, but there are times of the year when there’s a lot more touring acts coming through the city, and I tend to believe that during these times promoters ask for a little less on pricing in order to get a bigger draw. It’s not a lot, maybe $5. It’s a theory of mine anyways.

Service Charges

Good god, service charges. If you can, restrict your purchases to (yes they’re hated and vilified, but they’re the least of all the other evils); or if you can, head down to Blackbyrd or Permanent to get your tickets there. Buy some actual albums while you’re there too.


So there you have it; NMM’s discourse on concert ticket prices. This will be used to judge future concert prices and either support or vilify the artists in question. So be prepared.

< photo: Sam Roberts at Edmonton’s Jubilee Auditorium. By Michael Senchuk / NMM >

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  • Erinland816

    I wasn’t really “irate” about the $30 – but I think I’ve reached an age where I’m allowed to bitch about ticket prices ;) (also, I thought the service charges were not included!) good post!

  • Tyson Dueck

    I agree with the pricing tiers, and for the most part, it’s pretty accurate. However, although Gotye should have been a $30-$40 show, it was $78. $65 before service fees I do believe. Sometimes I find bands get lumped into the wrong price range. 

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