Is a Harry Styles concert ticket now a luxury beyond most Britons? – HeraldScotland

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On Friday, as Harry Styles fans queued online to pay three figures for tickets to gigs still a year away, the English Premiership congratulated itself on a record-breaking £1.9 billion spend in the football transfer window and I wondered if I really could solve all my energy bill problems by heeding Boris Johnson’s advice and buying a new kettle, poverty research charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report. It’s called A Minimum Income Standard For The UK In 2022 and it aims to measure quality of life in the nation as viewed against the background of the cost-of-living crisis.
As you know by now, this is ongoing and worsening with every day that passes. In fact, between me writing this and you lining the hamster’s cage with it, the supermarkets have likely stuck 5p on a pint of milk, and a Black Bull, Queen’s Arms, Royal Oak or Nag’s Head somewhere near you has closed its doors for good. I’d like to think the sozzled Rip Van Winkle snoring unnoticed in the corner will wake in 18 months’ time to a re-opened and re-populated boozer, and notice nothing at all amiss. But it’s a vain hope. Few businesses which stutter in the teeth of gargantuan gas bills and rising prices will emerge unscathed. Many will not emerge at all.
The elite football clubs underwritten by billionaire conglomerates and sovereign wealth funds who spent all those millions on new players will be alright. Of course, they will. The obscene splurge is doubtless even seen in some quarters as proof of the game’s rude health. But in the context of plummeting living standards, it’s nothing short of an embarrassment. And don’t think some of that spend will be passed on to the fans in the form of higher ticket prices.
Back to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Specifically, the report offers an update on what it calls its Minimum Income Standard, the amount it thinks a single person or a family need “to reach a minimum acceptable standard of living.” For the record, the Foundation calculates this to be an annual salary of £25,500 for a singleton or £43,400 for a couple. The report adds: “The budgets reflect changes in society and emphasise the crucial importance – across all age groups – of activities outside the home for social participation, which cost more than before.”
Some commentators call this a “dignity index” and what’s interesting is that while the activities and items required for that “minimum acceptable standard of living” aren’t luxuries, they are more than just the necessities of food, heating, shelter and clothes. They include those things, of course, but also other ones. Like Netflix.
“I think it is a necessity in this day and age to have a Netflix subscription as a minimum,” one focus group member who works in an office told researchers. “Pretty much all that is talked about is: ‘What are you watching on Netflix? I have finished this, what do you think to this?’”
Other items on the “dignity index” include cheap, “entry-level” smartphones with 3GB of data monthly, laptops, smart televisions, and smart speakers.
“If you’re lonely it is someone to talk to,” said one respondent of their Alexa. Another, whose mother has Alzheimer’s, uses his smart speaker to play her tracks from The Sound Of Music. “I think it makes her feel a little bit more comfortable, [puts] a little smile on her face.”
Kirstie Allsopp, daughter of a peer and presenter of a popular Channel 4 property programme, drew fire earlier this year when she suggested young people who spend money on gym memberships, takeaway coffees, easyJet flights and, yes, Netflix subscriptions should stop complaining about not being able to afford a house. Excising all those things from their lives is still not going to save them enough to buy a home, of course. But in a way that isn’t the point. As the Foundation report would say if it was a person and could talk, why should young people give up those things at all? Why should anyone dispense with their Alexa smart speaker if it stops them feeling lonely? Why should they not take a cheap overseas holiday once or even twice a year?
I’d like to think that attendance at concerts and football matches falls into the same category. That it counts as a worthwhile activity outside the home, one which emphasises social participation. That a ticket to see Harry Styles should not be an expensive luxury affordable to a few but a treat, albeit a rare one, which is available to the many. Likewise, the ability to buy that ticket should be a measure of the same sort of pecuniary “dignity” the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is talking about.
As prices rise and living standards falls that is too often not the case. The top price for a single ticket to Styles’ May 2023 shows at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh is £247, which is steep enough. But I found them on a resale site for an eye-watering £4661, well beyond the reach of most people. Moreover, the ticket agent’s so-called “dynamic pricing” regime means that (according to Ticketmaster, the company in question) “tickets vary in price driven by demand from fans, similar to airline tickets and hotel rooms.” This “dynamic pricing” is supposed to “give fans an opportunity to safely buy official tickets for the events they love right up to the date of the show.”
Aye, right.
The trouble is the prices only seem to “vary” in one direction: upwards. The other, associated trouble is that fans sometimes find themselves paying way more than they expected as a result. One 25-year-old woman who shared her story with the Birmingham Mail bought two tickets at £155 only to find the price had jumped to £697 by the time she paid. “I can’t afford it,” she said. “At this price, I’m now going to struggle with basic things like grocery shopping and covering my rent. The prices are absolutely not fair in the current cost of living crisis.”
The game of football and Harry Styles have both had near flawless summers. The UEFA European Women’s Championship was a triumph for inclusivity in every sense with ticket prices starting at £5 and going no higher than £50. Styles, meanwhile, thrilled Glasgow in June with a gig at Ibrox, was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize in July for his album Harry’s House, and scooped the Album Of The Year Grammy for the same record last weekend (he couldn’t attend the ceremony because he was playing the legendary Madison Square Garden on the same night). Now comes a bum note, one which will resonate with many.
“Come on Harry,” tweeted one fan outraged by the whole thing and in particular the dynamic pricing wheeze. “Didn’t think you were THAT guy … There’s a cost-of-living crisis going on in the real non-popstar world. You are literally allowing your fans to be scalped at the source … Absolutely OUTRAGEOUS way to treat your loyal fans.”
Harry Styles’ latest film, Don’t Worry Darling, premieres at the prestigious Venice Film Festival tomorrow, the same day we get a new Prime Minister. Another film in which he stars, My Policeman, will have its European premiere at the London Film Festival next month. As prices rise and living standards drop – as Britons cancel their Netflix subscriptions in their droves and quiz Alexa on the best money-saving tips or where Boris Johnson should shove his kettle – it looks the only chance many fans will have to see their hero is on the big screen at a multiplex. That’s if there are any are still open.
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