Europe can save us- a magic solution for overpriced gigs and impossible-to-get tickets

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Sziget Festival, Hungary (Credit: Rockstar Photography)

Sziget Festival, Hungary (Credit: Rockstar Photography)

As prices for UK gigs skyrocket and tickets become increasingly difficult to get Getintothis’ Amy Farnworth comes up with a unique solution for avid gig goers.

Whether you prefer the Princesses of pop, or the Godfathers of rock n roll, getting your hands on reasonably priced gig tickets in the UK is becoming a farce.

How many times have you waited, anxious, adrenalin pumping through your veins, poised at the computer in anticipation, ready for the clock to strike 9am so you can jump online and purchase gig tickets for your favourite artist who’s just announced a 20-date stadium tour, only to be left pissed-off, disappointed and in unprecedented denial when said tickets sell out in less than four minutes; you didn’t even get a sniff at a loading page, and you’re faced with a black screen telling you there’s no more available and a small part of you dies, crumbles and rots inside?

How many times have you hastily rang round all your mates (who were simultaneously trying to get the same tickets) to ask if you should now try for the Leeds leg?

“It’s only two hours away, shall we try? “

“Yeah, ok.”

Only to be faced with certain disappointment again. The screen says: sold out.

“Let’s go with Glasgow,” someone pipes up, “We’ll make a weekend of it.”

Sold out.

“Belfast?”

Sold out.

Last try.

“London then???”

Sold out.

It’s something we avid gig goers and dedicated music fans are faced with month in, month out whenever a major selling recording artist announces a new tour.

Tickets for Liam Gallagher’s UK tour sold out in one minute in September 2017, and that was just the presale. His Finsbury Park gig sold out in 40 seconds and within minutes they were on StubHub for £100 a pop.

Foo Fighters tickets sold out in a few hours, a little longer for fans to get their hands on the coveted prizes but still a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things. Tickets are now being touted on Getmein for as much as £236.50.

Prodigy fans faced a similar experience, as did avid supporters of The Streets, whose tickets had sold out before 9:02 on the day of going on sale.

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Ed Sheeran fans suffered the same fate early in 2017 with The Independent in Ireland reporting that tickets for his two stadium gigs sold out in under five minutes. Sure enough, they were soon being touted on ticketing websites for over ten times the original price, which was around €800,

It was the same when The Stone Roses announced their comeback gigs in 2011, and Prince in 2015.

And just last Friday, Eminem sold out his Twickenham dates in minutes, leaving unlucky fans with the prospect of having to pay prices in excess of £160 for a single ticket.

Too often this is happening. Too many times are loyal fans reduced to trawling Viagogo or Seatwave to be faced with tickets at four, five, six, times the face value; most of which appear online almost immediately after the general sale has closed.

Inevitably this leads to a backlash from angry followers, who launch into Twitter rampages, slagging off the likes of Ticketmaster and See Tickets and demanding artists do something to combat these cash hungry touts milking the system.

We’ve spoken about this on Getintothis before with an investigation into the unrelenting saga of ticket touting. But still, nothing has really been resolved.

And it’s not just tickets for individual gigs that are becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of either. Festivals lovers are feeling the brunt too.

Glastonbury sells out almost immediately, every single year. I managed to get tickets back in 2013 (don’t ask how, it must’ve been some kind of huge fluke) but the umpteen times I’ve tried before? Sold out. Sold out. Sold out. Despite gallant efforts and early rises on hungover Sunday mornings in attempts to get my hands on the coveted golden tickets, the internet failed me, and demand won. I even tried for coach tickets one year – not a chance!

Even tickets for Neighbourhood 2018 in Warrington sold out in unexpected, unprecedented time.

With no clear solution on the immediate horizon, and with fans faced with the option of either missing out or resorting to selling a kidney for a touted ticket, what other options do we, loyal and dedicated music lovers have?

One solution is Europe.

Bear with me.

Many major artists tour Europe, especially if they have a new record to sell, are coming back after a hiatus, or are just short on money and need to embark on a thousand-date tour to cash-in so they can avoid certain bankruptcy…or so we believe.

Arcade Fire are doing it, Liam Gallagher is doing it, Foo Fighters have done it; The Prodigy, Fleetwood Mac, Stone Roses; Metallica are doing it, The Rolling Stones…the list goes on.

And what’s more…these tickets are relatively easy to come by. No stress; no panic when the credit card details page stalls and the time-wheel of death appears on the screen; no fury when a site kicks you out at the final stage, no waiting on holding pages for what seems like a stretch on death row; and no getting up at daft o’clock to wait by the laptop for imminent disappointment.

Tickets remain the same price as they are in the UK and often don’t sell out on the first day of general release (at the time of writing, Metallica still had tickets available for their shows in Bologna, Italy, and Herning, Denmark).

Then there’s the European festivals – Primavera Sound, Benicassim, Melt, Unknown etc etc. All come with cheaper weekend camping tickets than festivals in the UK, and all are relatively easy to purchase.

Benicassim tickets sell for around $155 for a weekend compared to Leeds tickets which sell at almost twice the price at around £205.

But what about flights and accommodation? Yes, granted, this is something that is inevitably going to set you back a bit, but search on Ryanair or Easyjet and you can usually find some decent deals with most return flights costing the same price as a face value ticket – around £50-£60.

Just now, flights to Basel at the end of Feb are around £69. If booked well in advance these prices could potentially be a lot less.

And what’s more, going to gigs in Europe comes with the added bonus of a short holiday – a chance to broaden those cultural horizons while throwing yourself into a music gig in an alien city

There are some other glaringly obvious downsides to this though (and when I first began writing this, I wasn’t fooled into believing that the Europe option would be one that would suit everyone; it isn’t, for some it’s unrealistically out of reach). One of the palpable negatives is overall cost. Not everyone will be able to afford a two/three-day break to go see The Rolling Stones in Barcelona, I am aware of that.

Another negative is, will the artist even be touring Europe?

Ok, so the cost thing is a given. Of course it’s going to cost more to go and see your favourite band in Madrid than it is Manchester. There’s no doubting that. However, when you break it down and consider the semantics, it could just be worthwhile. And you don’t have to be super rich to have it all.

A group of friends and I recently tried in effort to get tickets for Liam Gallagher’s UK tour, in particular the Manchester leg in December last year. Zero success. As soon as the tickets had sold out they were up online for twelve times the face value price (ok, that’s an over exaggeration but you get my drift).

Being lucky enough to have a mate living in Lucerne, Switzerland, got us thinking. Would it be possible, less hassle, and better all-round value if we tried to get tickets for his Zurich show? We ummed and ahhed, and fannied around discussing whether it would be worth it, and then came to the conclusion – yes, yes it bloody well would.

Phoning up our Swiss-based mate, she agreed we could crash with her (that was the accommodation sorted), so we jumped online, found the date of his gig and booked tickets for £50 each (face value and same as UK price). It was that easy.

The flights were simple too. Returns from Manchester were £50; and a train from Lucerne to Zurich costs less than a train from Manchester to London.

So altogether we were getting a two-day holiday, a gig, and a bit of culture, all for less than a touted UK ticket.

My brother did the same with the Amsterdam leg of LG’s tour. No hassle with tickets, and flights were dirt cheap too.

But (and there’s always a but), what if you’re not lucky enough to have a mate in Europe?

Well, hostels in major European cities cost from as little as £13 a night for a dorm room using Hostelworld.com which is great if you’re going as a group as you can take over the entire room without having to share with strangers. There’s also the option of Airbnb, which is brilliant value and lets you experience a city in relative comfort and privacy.

Avid gig-goers and friends of mine, Chris and Claire, have both attended European festivals. Their experiences with the process? Easy, doable, and much more satisfying than the UK festival experience.

Chris said: “I’ve done Beni twice now. Once when Oasis headlined and once when Noel played there. Both far better than any English festival I’ve been to. Camped first time and stayed in a hotel the second.

“There’s less bands than at Glastonbury but it’s a better location and it doesn’t tend to rain. Bands start later in the day when it’s cooling down, so most people go to the water park across the road or to the beach during the day.

“Plenty of options for flights too. It’s easy to get to by coach or train from Barcelona or Madrid but Valencia is the nearest airport and the festival has its own coaches running from there (although you do need to pre-book a seat on them).”

Claire went to Unknown in Croatia: “The cost wasn’t much, I don’t recall the exact overall amount as we got it as a package with the ticket, tent hire and coach transfer.

“They were easy to come by and there was no rush to get tickets. The cheapest flights we found were to Venice, and then a four-hour coach from there…they must’ve been cheap for us to hack the longest ever coach journey, haha!”

Aussie mates travelling through Europe rocked up in Lisbon in early 2013 and bought tickets for the Black Keys that night! There were tickets still going for the Black Keys, ON THE NIGHT (which would be pretty much unheard of over here). And at face value too.

My youngest brother bought tickets for The Rolling Stones in Barcelona. Zero trouble. And flights were cheap too – less than £150 return (at the moment, one-way flights to Barcelona at the end of August are £30 with Ryanair.)

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In 2009 I paid £120 a pop for Oasis tickets for a Glasgow venue, from a touted website. Was it worth it? To be squashed-up at the front having piss thrown over me, about two metres away from Liam and Noel, and not remembering much due to excessive alcohol consumption? Meh, I guess.

Paying a little more to go see them in Europe for a more well-rounded experience? I know which one I’d choose given the option now.

I’m not saying here that gig-going in Europe is the only solution; I’m not saying it’s always going to be practical; and I’m certainly not expecting everyone to agree with my sentiments; as mentioned earlier, for some, it’s nigh on impossible.

I’m not made of money, far from it in fact, and skipping across to the continent for a jolly to watch Kasabian sing to a stadium full of Italians is not always going to be my preferred avenue; and for many, it’s not the overall resolution to the ongoing crisis we face here in the UK, but given a little thought, given a little liberal discussion and practical planning, it may just be a fun and very valid alternative.

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