Rolling Stones: Rolling In It

COSMO GODFREE argues that the Rolling Stones have become nothing but rock ‘n’ roll rip-off merchants.

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1962. The year of Marilyn Monroe’s suicide. Cold War tensions and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sean Connery appears on our screens as James Bond. The Rolling Stones play their first ever gig at London’s Marquee Club.

If you somehow managed to successfully negotiate Ticketmaster’s booking page ahead of the tens of thousands of other fans, you could be celebrating the band’s 50th anniversary at their two O2 Arena gigs later this month. That is, of course, if you didn’t balk at the absurd prices.

VIP tickets were £950, and the most expensive general tickets cost £375 (excluding booking fees). That’s all well and good – silly money, but marketed at those who can afford it. What I have a massive problem with is that the cheapest tickets were priced at a whopping £95. Such are the economics of the rock ‘n’ roll rebels.

Now, I’m aware that this point has been made countless times before, but it needs to be reiterated. Recession or otherwise, surely £95 is not an acceptable amount to be charging for a concert?

While preparations for these gigs may indeed have cost millions of pounds, this raises the question of whether such ridiculous production budgets are worth the extra ticket price. Does anyone really want to see a giant pair of lips descending from the lighting rig while Mick Jagger straddles an inflatable cock? Or something to that effect.

No amount of pyrotechnics is going to blind us to the fact that, while in miraculously good shape, Keith Richards has seen far, far better days. No, give me the Stones back at the Marquee Club any day of the week.

What’s more offensive than the ticket prices themselves is the Stones’ appallingly entitled and unashamedly frank defense of them over the last few days. Ronnie Wood came out with this gem in the Telegraph: “We’ve got to make something.” Spare me, you spoilt little child.

Anyway, exactly how much money does ‘something’ refer to? Let’s ask Keith: “£16 million sounds about right to us.” Of course it does.

Jagger makes his fans out to be just simple consumers. He argued that because the O2 tickets are getting sold on at even higher prices by touts and internet resale sites, the demand completely justifies their pricing strategy. It makes him sound like an A-level economics teacher rather than the snake-hipped sex icon of the sixties. It’s capitalism, innit? Fuck off.

Of course the demand is there, you’re the Rolling Stones. You have lifelong fans, as well as many younger ones dying to see you for the first and possibly only time. Of course you’re going to sell all the tickets. But you don’t have to take advantage of people’s devotion in this way.

My favourite response to the ticket price controversy came from John Bon Jovi (funnily enough, born in 1962). For their upcoming tour, Bon Jovi are offering the standard expensive backstage and VIP packages, except the cheapest tickets are on sale at a cut-price rate of just £12.50. Of course, they aren’t as big of a draw as the Stones, but they’re still playing huge stadium gigs.

Bon Jovi’s tour promoter put it best in The Mirror: “We need to move away from the elitist image of high prices. Rock ‘n’ roll always was and always should be the music of the people, and that means everyone.” Publicity stunt in the wake of the Stones’ fiasco? Possibly. But at least they’ve put their money where their mouth is.

Madonna was guilty of airing even more callous and out-of-touch views earlier this year: “Start saving your pennies now. People spend [£190] on crazy things all the time, things like handbags. So work all year, scrape the money together and come to my show. I’m worth it.”

£225 million, to be precise, Madge. But I doubt many of your fans are worth that much, especially not in your eyes.

The same goes for the Stones – how much are your fans really worth to you? Perhaps, as bands often complain, you don’t owe them anything special – but you do owe them the same basic level of respect as you owe your taxi driver, or the woman you buy your coffee from, or the man at the newsagents. And that means not charging eye-watering amounts in the knowledge that some people will gladly bankrupt themselves to see you play.