Green Day vs. American Idiot

There’s something magical about a rock concert. As an audience member you never know what’s going to happen. Heck, even the band probably doesn’t know what’s going to happen half the time. From the time that band steps onto the stage, until the moment they take their final bows, anything is possible. This limitless potential is part of what makes rock concerts so enthralling. At any given concert the crowd’s excitement is almost palpable as it anxiously waits to see what remarkable performance is in store for them on that particular night. The anticipation of the unknown is what whips crowds into a frenzy, and for good reason. Most of the greatest moments in live music history have been spontaneous explosions of musical tenacity, like Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire at the Montery Pop Festival, or Bob Dylangoing electric” at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Similar to sports tickets, whenever someone purchases a ticket to a live concert, he or she is purchasing a chance to witness history.

Broadway musicals on the other hand, offer a different type of experience. They can be equally, if not more entertaining than a concert, depending on the tastes of the ticket buyer. Involving a plot, and actors, rather than just a band, musicals are usually more intricate productions than straight up concerts. Traditionally, musicals have utilized show-tunes, melody and harmony driven musical numbers that are known more for memorable melodies than energizing instrumentation. However, in recent years more and more musicals have transitioned into using rock music, with electric guitars and pounding drums, rather than orchestras with piccolos and trombones. Beginning with Hair, and continuing with shows such as Rent, these rock musicals have promoted their high-octane shows, attempting to cater to a younger audience. However, having actors headbanging and playing guitar on stage does not necessarily make these musicals a more electrifying experience than a real rock-n’-roll concert. In order to shed a little more light on the concert vs. musical debate, we here at SeatGeek decided to focus in on Green Day‘s new Broadway Musical American Idiot, and compare ticket prices for the show, to prices of Green Day concerts over the past 2 years.

*Green Day concert ticket data is blue, American Idiot Ticket data is gray.

The data paints an interesting picture for us. One thing that is evident from these statistics is that American Idiot is not a flop. In fact tickets to the Tony-nominated musical are transacting at a higher average price ($140) than tickets to a live Green Day concert in 2010, ($127.31) and the show has already grossed over $11.5 million since its debut on April 20th. American Idiot is also outselling other top shows such as The Lion King and Billy Elliot on the secondary market.

Before we anoint American Idiot, “bigger than the band” however, we must first take a look at any other variables that could contribute to these results. The comparative ticket data may be slightly misleading due to the discrepancy in ticket supply. The St. James Theatre, in which American Idiot plays, has a capacity of only 1623 patrons, whereas Green Day’s tours have taken them through arenas with capacities over ten times the St. James’. As tickets for American Idiot are more scarce, the prices are correspondingly higher.

Changes in Green Day Tickets

While analyzing the data, we were also struck by interesting trends in Green Day concert tickets themselves. When looking at ticket purchases year over year, we noticed a significant increase in transacted ticket prices; prices jumped from an average of $62.41 in 2009 to over $127 in 2010, an increase of almost 104%! This increase is even more remarkable considering that Green Day’s 2009 summer tour was in support of a brand new album, 21st Century Breakdown, released on May 15th 2009, the long-awaited follow up to 2004’s Grammy winning American Idiot. Nevertheless, prices for concerts over a year later are more than twice what they were for the 21st Century Breakdown tour.

Green Day tickets have also increased relative to other high grossing tours of the past two years. As seen in the graph below, in 2009 tickets for Green Day were significantly cheaper than other big name acts, despite their new album.

Conversely in 2010, although still not comparable to the absolute highest grossing concerts of the year, Green Day concerts are clearly in the upper echelon of secondary market ticket prices.

We then decided to compare Green Day’s year by year prices to other bands. Out of five bands that toured in both 2009 and 2010, surprisingly all five of their average transacted ticket prices increased from 2009 to 2010. However, Green Day’s ticket prices increased year over year far more than any of the other artists.

Conclusion: It’s Good For the Show & Good for the Band

While it is unwise to assume causation from correlation, it appears that the successful production of American Idiot on the stage, has reinvigorated Green Day fans, and driven up demand for their concerts. There are very few alternate variables that could have affected ticket prices this dramatically. During the time between their 2009 and 2010 tours, they have released no new albums, won no new musical awards, and have been generally un-newsworthy in every way, except for the press surrounding American Idiot the musical. It appears that far from hurting Green Day’s punk image, or drawing fans away from the band’s performances themselves, the theatrical appearance of American Idiot has thrived, and helped Green Day enter the new decade as popular as ever.

For a comparison of the two experiences, here are three videos of American Idiot (the song): an excerpt from the Broadway presentation, the original music video, and a video of Green Day performing the song live in concert. Enjoy.

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