Fleetwood Mac & The Cost of Experience.

Months ago Dina @eye4style F. invited me to go see Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden. Having never seen the legendary group, I thought it would be a good idea to get that under my belt, so I said yes.

Last week I was reminded that the concert was coming up on October 7th, 2014 so I listened to a few of the classic albums (Rumours & Tusk to be specific) in preparation. We met friends before the show at a local bar & fried food emporium where I was handed my ticket and was a bit surprised to see that they were $199 each. With the ticketmaster surcharge, the total cost came to $226.65. Seemed pretty steep, but since I had not asked earlier, I figured I would just roll with it, I have certainly spent more money on less in my life.

While we were prepping for the show to begin, as Cupcake was drinking her wine sippy cup and before Janessa was getting in fights with septuagenarians, I was sitting there wondering if the concert could ever live up to the ticket price from an economic perspective and thought about recent articles I had read on how people are spending less on stuff and more on experiences and figured I could measure this investment accordingly. The marketer in me was intrigued. What is the true value of experience?

First I thought it would be good to think about the fact that this band has been around since the 60s, so perhaps back in the day, the ticket cost would have been the same before inflation. A quick check of the Inflation Calculator showed me the following comparison of seeing Fleetwood Mac when Rumours was released(1977) as compared to now:

$226.65 (2014) = 57.75 (1977)

It seemed expensive for a concert back in those days and a quick search showed that when FM played in 1977 in Providence, RI that even the most expensive ticket was only $9.50. This means that this moment, even with inflation, was costing me about 600% more than an equitable experience 37 years ago.

As I was thinking I may have overpaid for this, the lights went down. During the next 150 minutes ($1.51 per minute) they played and gave their all.

Over the course of the night, they played virtually every song one would want them to play. Here is the setlist:

Via http://www.setlist.fm/

24 songs / $226.65 = $9.44 per song

I questioned if there were many artists I would pay $10 per song to hear and if the live experience of seeing them play it was worth 10x the price of buying them on iTunes or even more considering the copies I had purchased or ripped from CD in previous times (Napster, no comment). But then I thought that that assumes I like each song equally and all have the same auditory happiness value to me.

I decided to re-rate the song cost based on how much I liked each in relation to the price of the overall ticket. I ended up with the following calculation (adjusted for performance, arrangement and personal enjoyment).

The Chain — $14.00
You Make Loving Fun — $8.00
Dreams — $9.00
Second Hand News — $11.00
Rhiannon — $12.00
Everywhere — $6.00
I Know I’m Not Wrong — $5.00
Tusk — $8.00
Sisters of the Moon — $6.00
Say You Love Me — $11.00
Seven Wonders — $9.00
Big Love — $10.00
Landslide — $14.00
Never Going Back Again — $12.00
Over My Head — $7.00
Gypsy — $8.00
Little Lies — $12.00
Gold Dust Woman — $14.00
I’m So Afraid — $7.00
Go Your Own Way — $14.00

Encore:
World Turning — $4.00
Don’t Stop — $13.65
Silver Springs — $6.00

Encore 2:
Songbird — $6.00 (I think they should have ended on a high note, not a slow song)

Total = $226.65

With this in mind, I then had to consider if $14 I paid to hear Gold Dust Woman (certainly worth it, although not sure about additional 3-minute jambandish conclusion) justified the $4 paid to hear World Turning (just don’t like the song), but also then had to figure, can you have one without the other, not everyone will like every song, right?

Yet here is the problem with all of these calculations, you can’t really put a cost on the emotional value that these experiences feed us. During the concert I eventually stopped thinking about whether I was liking it or if it was worth the money and just allowed myself to be in the moment and it was fantastic. That moment when everyone is singing along to “Don’t Stop” or crying to “Landslide” is simply not measurable in monetary value. Fleetwood Mac like many other artists who defined & crafted modern music will not be around to play that much longer, so I figured in some way I am paying for the work they put in to get to play this show, yes probably at a premium price. I was also paying to tell future grandchildren what FM were like after I hear them humming “Go Your Own Way” (probably after hearing it in the latest 3D Oculus car commercial) just as I used to love hearing the stories about when my parents saw Jimi Hendrix or took me to see Bob Marley when I was 7 (don’t remember it but I was there!).

If someone told me now that I could pay $1000 to see The Clash play Bonds in 1981 (I did see them twice in 1982 thankfully) or offered to transport me back to see Daft Punk during the 2007 Alive tour for $500, you better believe I would gladly hand over the cash. Why? Because to be there and have that experience in my memory bank would be well worth it and that is the intrinsic value of being there in the moment and at the event, it is the communal experience that adds so much to it.

In conclusion, I am still on the fence as to whether all of the current expensive destination events (Governors Ball, hello?) are worth it, but I do think spending the money for the right experience (whether as an individual or a as a brand for your audience) is money well spent, regardless of whether the math always adds up.