Thursday, January 06, 2011

Swellers fella yells at labels

It's worth getting past the unlikely-sounding opening to The Sweller's Jonathan Diener's state-of-music blog because it's pretty sharp:

The idea for this rant all started when I was watching Weezer videos from 1996 during the “Pinkerton” album cycle. I started thinking how much magic the 90s had when it came to good music. I think of the bands that started in the 90s like Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, Weezer and how they still have very relevant careers
I said the opening sounds a bit unlikely; anything that kicks off proclaiming the relevance of Jimmy Eat World to the second decade of the 21st Century is on shaky ground.

But it gets better - much better - when he asks why the music industry is struggling. Basically, he reckons that the businesses are trying to cream off too much money. Greed has turned away the consumer:
Now look at current show/concert attendance. So many venues are struggling to stay open. My friends all over the country and world who promote shows, work at venues, etc. have told me how bad things have been. Several big arena tours are barely selling out. Ozzfest and tons of huge festivals were having problems and a lot of them had to cease to exist due to lack of attendance. Also, for a NON-festival show do people really want to pay $15 in charges in addition to their $25+ concert ticket? No. People nowadays would just rather not go. It’s showing. And bands selling $35 t-shirts isn’t exactly drawing a stampede of fans to the merch tables either.
Funnily enough, Jon's argument actually echoes quite neatly a piece in the Wall Street Journal from last week - that the grinding upwards of ticket prices has started to kill demand and if the music industry wants to grow, it needs many more people happy to pay lower prices than constantly gouging a smaller and smaller core audience.

Perhaps if the record industry ever gets a break from its meetings with lawyers, it might like to think on that.

[Thanks to @jamesthegill]


Francis said...

We had a similar discussion over christmas – when we went to try and buy tickets for Jerry Seinfeld at the O2 (OK so he’s a comedian not a band – but the principal is the same) - £100 a seat (£110 with booking fee etc). Now he’s one bloke in a 23,000 capacity venue, so that’s easy maths – £2.3m. You have to assume that the ticket price is set by the promoter, based on covering the artists fee and venue costs. Even if the venue costs a million quid to hire for the night – that’s still a good £1.3m to the artist and promoter.

But as a punter what you get is the WORST kind of gig experience in an arena , as the lion’s share of vantage points are a long way from the stage – you end up watching the big screen to the point that you may as well be watching a DVD (which will no doubt come out in time for xmas and cost you another £20)

We then compared this to prog-legends Caravan who did an intimate show for 140 people only at £175 a ticket, but for that you got to go to the after-show party, meet the band for photos and got your name on the credits of the free DVD of the show that they send you later.

So getting to the point – there IS a way to make money from a gig that exploits your core audience (in a good way). Live performance has to be about engaging with your audience – and I’d expect to be VERY engaged for £100, but that’s nigh-on impossible in an arena. The theory should hold that – the larger the venue/audience, then the lower the ticket price should be, as the experience is less personal and the cost is spread across more people. Never quite understood why we just accept that Arena gigs are twice/thrice the price of pub gigs.

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