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On UEA Gig Ticket Price

Please don't take any of the findings too seriously!


By analysing The Gig List 1), I discovered that the average ticket price ticket to a UEA SU's gig has been increasing on average 7.57% every year, since sterling decimalisation 2) This is higher than the inflation rate in most years. I also compared the price inflation of the gig ticket against FTSE 100. I discovered that between 1985-01-01 and 2017-01-01, FTSE 100 on average has grown by 309%, while average UEA gig ticket price has grown by 936%. However based on Companies House filings, it appears that UEA SU does not actually make money from the gigs themselves, they make money from the sales bar. However it should be noted that the top two earners from UEA SU earn as much as UEA professors.


On Friday evening, when I was at UEA SU shop to get some snacks. I discovered a book named The Gig List, which contains the list of gigs played in UEA venue between 1966-02-22 to 2018-07-20. It cost £6. I immediate realised the historical significance of this book. It is a good tool for economics research I came up with the idea of investigating how the price of gigs changed over time.


  1. Convert The Gig List from the paper format to Excel spreadsheet
  2. Analyse the spreadsheet.
  3. Disseminate findings from the analysis.

Converting The Gig List from paper format to Excel spreadsheet

From paper to image

Initially I planned to sacrifice my copy of the Gig List. I started by cutting off the spine of the book using a pair of scissors, and scan the pages using the departmental scanner, which has a document autofeeder. However, after 20% in, I realised that this task was too painful for my delicate hands. I then discovered that there is a digital version of the book. However the downloading of that document had been disabled. I had to use a third party tool. The downloaded PDF file does not include any of the textual information. Only images were downloaded. This meant that I still had to perform OCR on the resulting image. I suppose the good thing is that the quality of the input image for OCR is guaranteed, the bad thing is that I wasted my £6.

From image to text

To convert the downloaded images to text, I ran the following command:

pdfimages Gig_list.pdf -all ./Gig_list
for i in {000..088}; do tesseract Gig_list-$i.jpg Gig_list-$i -l eng -c preserve_interword_spaces=1 ; done
cat jpg/*.txt | grep ^[[:digit:]]?*[[:alnum:]]?*  | grep -E 'p$'\|£ > Gig_list_semi_valid.txt
cat Gig_list_semi_valid.txt|sed -r -e 's/^.{2}/&£/'|sed -r -e 's/^.{7}/&£/'|sed -r -e 's/^.{10}/&£/' > Gig_list_delimited.txt


I tried various OCR engines, including Ocrad, Cuneiform, GOCR and Tesseract. Tesseract produced the best result, probably because it is made by Google. Note that preserve_interword_spaces was required to preserve the formatting of the table.

grep and sed

I agree that the way I used grep was particularly ugly. One regular expression search for strings started with number, then alphabets, the next regular expression searches for the letter p and the £ sign. It can definitely be constructed more elegantly, for a starter, these two regular expressions can be combined as one. I agree that I don't fully understand how regular expression works with grep. If someone can properly teach me how it works in person, that would be much appreciated. I don't use it enough to spend time learning about it. I know one day this will come back and bite me, but whatever.

And, no I do not understand how to use sed at all. I basically copied and pasted the code from Stackoverflow. I basically decided to use £ sign as the delimiter, and I decided to use sed to insert those delimiters.

From text format to Excel spreadsheet

Now a bit of manual processing is required - invalid lines needed to be removed. There weren't that many of them. Then open up the text file using Excel, set the delimiter to £ sign.

Excel is pretty much GUI, it is pretty easy to use. So it needs no further explanation. However it should be noted that when plotting the chart, exponential trendline is required, as inflation is an exponential growth.

Calculation in Excel

Initially I wasn't sure which model should be fit onto the ticket price. It certainly showed a curve. I then realised that exponential growth curve should be fitted, because inflation is an exponential growth.

After obtaining the equation for the best fit line, I thought about converting that into annual inflation rate by changing the base of log. However I realised that would be too complicated. So I opted to just substitute timestamp back into the equation of the best fit line.

The equation for the best fit line happened to be:
$$ y= 0.0048e^{0.0002x}, $$
where $x$ is the number of day has passed since 1900-01-01. (This is the way Excel's calendar system works.)

It turns out that the average ticket price ticket to a UEA SU's gig has been increasing on average 7.57% every year.


It is clear that the inflation on UEA SU's average gig price is higher than the CPI inflation rate for most years 3). This means that UEA SU's gig division has a steady increase in revenue in real terms over the years. There are multiple potential explanation for the high growth rate:

  1. UEA's social standing has increased over the years. Higher profile bands are willing to travel to Norwich to perform.
  2. UEA SU has decided to picked more expensive bands to play at UEA.
  3. There is a demographic shift amongst UEA students, they are becoming more affluent.
  4. The cost of making music has increased over the years.

Personally I believe the reason behind the price increase is 1, 2 and 3. To ascertain the reason, we can either look at the financial health of the music industry as a whole, or look into UEA SU's financial account over the years.

I don't have the time, resource and interest to look at the financial health of the musical industry, however I had a look at UEA SU's Companies House filings 4). Based on the Group of Companies' Accounts from 2018 and 2016 (which contains the income and spending breakdown between 2015-2018), it appears that UEA SU does not actually make money from the gigs themselves, they make money from the alcohol sold at the bar.

However, it should be noted that since 1985, the average ticket price has gone up by 936%, while FTSE 100 has only gone up by 309% 5). The average price of a UEA gig grows faster than London stock market!

Analysis on the profitability of the Gigs

From the Companies House figure, it seems that UEA SU's gig are not that profitable by themselves. It appears that they earn more money by the sales at the bar.

Source 2015 2016 2017 2018
SUS Bars 321 745 873 732
SUS Entertainments -6 -41 -51 0
Waterfront Bars 381 481 539 589
Waterfront Entertainments -132 -219 -75 -112

Analysis on UEA SU's spending

I calculated the percentage of profit that goes to the salary of UEA SU 's top two earners.

2015: £140k/£1165k = 12.0%
2016: £140k/£1416k = 9.89%
2017: £140k/£1777k = 7.88%
2018: £180k/£1500k = 12.0%

So the average in the last 4 years was about 10.4%. So basically, remember that for every £1 profit they make off the students, 10p goes to the salary of the top two earners.

The profit they make from commercial operation for 2017 and 2018 are from page 39 of Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31st July 2018. For 2015 and 2016, they are from page 37 of Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31st July 2016. These documents are publicly available from Companies House for free.

Profit from commercial operations:

Year Campus Waterfront Total
2015 £916k £249k £1,165k
2016 £1,154k £262k £1,416k
2017 £1,313k £464k £1,777k
2018 £1,023k £477k £1,500k

These Annual Report and Accounts have the top earners' income range. For example, in 2018, there is one person who earned between £60,001 - £70k, and one person who earned between £11,001 - £120k. Since we do not know exactly how much these two people are paid, we will assume that they are getting paid £65k and £115k respectively. By making this assumption, we can safely assume that they are paid about £180k in total.

These two top SU earners are paid as much as entry level UEA professors.


The Excel spreadsheet in question can be found at uea_gig_ticket_price_analysis.xlsx.

public/on_uea_gig_ticket_price.txt · Last modified: 2019/11/24 00:27 by fangfufu