Coachella sells out in a week? A rapper threatens to shoot up a crowd? Linkin Park is using fans to test out new marketing channels? Parrot Heads go from ecstasy to horror in a matter of seconds? Foursquare expanding its concert experiments? A Live Nation lawsuit?
Last week we explored our Best of 2010 concert experiences. And during those explorations we discovered how live music continues to be a place of profound self-discovery, escape and an environment were live music fans find emotional comfort and community.
But did the concert industry’s bottom line reflect the same awe and wonder? Did we have better concert experiences while going to less shows in 2010? Let’s find answers to those questions and wonder some more and see if the concert industry did survive an unfortunate down year in 2010.
We’ve done a lot of exploring and experimenting this year with social media and live music. And it’s no surprise that social media communities and platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and virtual concerts have all changed how we experience live music. But what do the experts and innovators have to say about current trends and the future?
Higher ticket prices.
Less innovative concert experiences.
Those are just two of the things facing live music fans as we get closer to the pending decision on the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger.
Last week, The National Association of Ticket Brokers & The National Consumers League along with a legion of 50 U.S. representatives announced the launch of Ticketdisaster.org, a new conveniently streamlined site designed specifically to educate concert fans on the consequences of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger.
Ticketdisaster.org does a nice job of breaking down the key issues into 5 points explaining how the merger impacts fans, artists and promoters.
Here’s a quote from the site below. I highly encourage you to visit it. The site’s very straightforward and a quick read. It’s one of the best breakdowns of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster Merger that I’ve seen so far.
If you need reasons to check out the site and educate yourself about the merger, you should check it out for two reasons:
1) If this merger gets approved it will forever change your live music experience. Think of how much you spent (or didn’t) this year on concerts. Like a lot of live music fans you probably had to reduce the amount of shows you went to because of high ticket prices. Or maybe you were forced to buy concessions that were ridiculously high. Either way, the amount of concerts you go to or the price you pay for a beer will be impacted by the merger decision.
2) This will be one of the biggest events/decisions in live concert history, which is the reason why I’ve been doing so many updates this year on Live Fix. So if you love live music and this country, you’ll want to see how our government does or doesn’t protect live music fans.
Here’s how Ticketdisaster.org puts it:
“As the Department of Justice reaches the final round of reviewing this merger, only one question must be answered: will the merger lead to increased prices, poorer service, or less innovation? In this case, the answer is all of the above, which is why this merger needs to be blocked.”
On the same day Ticketdisaster.org was launched, along with other representatives and consumer advocacy groups, Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) who spoke out in July to the DOJ, went before the DOJ on Capitol Hill to speak out against the merger again saying:
“It continues to be my view that this merger represents the greatest and most urgent threat to music fans across this country, and, if approved, will have far reaching and long lasting negative consequences for concert goers and nearly everyone involved in the live music business.”
British regulators approved Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger for UK market.
What to expect next via Billboard.
So fellow concert fans…
Do you think Pascrell’s right?
Are there any positive things that can come out of the merger?
I’m not a big numbers guy but when I read the year-end numbers issued by Live Nation, AEG Live and other promoters, I thought it’d be a good idea for us to take a stroll through them just to make sure that the live music industry didn’t die and everyone made it through 2009 alive.
We’ll also lay to rest a few fan-centric issues and see why consumer protection groups are digging a grave for the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger.
What do concert promoters year-end numbers reveal?
First, according to Billboard, here are the 2009 Year-End Numbers for the North American Market, two top concert promoters and independent promoters.
North American Market
$2.8 billion in box office
down 2% and the 50 million in paid attendance is down less 1.7%
“numbers were generated from a 9% decrease in the number of shows reported”
The Billboard reports mentions that “a more positive indicator is a show-by-show analysis of the year.” I’m not exactly sure what “show-by-show” means.
But they seem to be trying to put a positive spin on things by saying that “worldwide, average gross and attendance per show are up 11.3% and 11.8%, respectively. In North America, average per-show gross and attendance are up 7.6% and 8%, respectively.”
And what about the world’s two biggest concert promoters?
Well, it’s jarring how big a gap there is between the two’s 2009 numbers, which makes the merger all the more an important decision pending for 2010 ( All $ numbers are gross).
Live Nation (world’s largest concert promoter)
- $2.5 billion
- 41 million in attendance from 9,085 shows
- 25% increase in gross and a 19% increase in attendance
- 1.6% decrease in shows from 2008
AEG Live (2nd largest promoter)
- $888 million
- 12.8 million attendance from 2,531 shows
- 12% decrease in gross and a 9% increase in shows
- $1 billion gross, 14.5 million attendance 2,324 shows in 2008
Chicago’s Jam Productions
2009: $78 million
2008: $53 million
Austin’s C3 Presents
2009: $60 million
2008: $50 million
Consumer Protection Groups Chime In
Earlier this month consumer protection groups spoke about the issue of secondary markets (or ticket scalpers) as it related to the pending Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger:
Then again, ticket prices have steadily increased with the competition that currently exists in the marketplace. Primary tickets cost more for many reasons, but the fact is today’s ticket prices better reflect how consumers value the concerts. Companies should not be stopped from extracting existing value. On the other hand, the rise of the secondary market has caused the final prices paid by actual attendees to increase, too. Consumer protection groups were fairly quiet as states relaxed laws prohibiting scalping. Those changes paved the way for today’s secondary market and higher prices for consumers. So, one has to wonder if these groups are truly against higher prices for consumers or if they would oppose any merger regardless of its benefits or drawbacks.
As Billboard reporter Ray Waddle points out, we all want to end on a positive note in 2009, right?
Despite an extremely challenging economy, the global concert business managed to put solid numbers in 2009, a testament to both the resiliency of the business and the enduring popularity of live music.
Yes, considering the year that we had economically, I’d say the concert industry did as good as it could. Live Nation still came out on top even though they offered a year-long discounted pricing option. And AEG Live seems to be holding a strong but distant second, even though they took a significant hit with Michael Jackson’s canceled concerts. We’ll have to wait and see if AEG Live’s 3D theatrical concerts will give them an edge in 2010.
Like I said before, I’m not a big numbers guy and I know it’s easy for fans to glaze over the numbers and only focus on the escapism of live music.
But, as a fellow fan, I share these numbers so you can at least have a better idea of what’s going on at the top level, so we can all make more informed decisions with our wallets.
What are your year-end numbers and 2010 forecasts?
Did you go to less shows than you did in 2008?
Did you think the summer music festival layaway programs helped the concert industry and fans?
Will the U.S. Department of Justice approve the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger?
Photo by Colleen Catania
According to Mashable, last week Live Nation and iTunes beat EMI to the digital download punch and unveiled their new live concert recordings service “Live Nation Presents.”
From a fan standpoint being able to download your favorite concerts seems like a good option to have, that is, of course, once Live Nation starts filling up their iTunes catalogue. Because, currently, the pickings are pretty slim. I imagine it’ll get more beefy in time for the holiday shopping season.
But ever since I read this story all types of questions have been popping up about the pros and cons of this Live Nation iTunes partnership.
Here’s what I’ll be digging deeper into as this story develops:
1. Since these concerts will be available in video and audio, to what extent will they be edited, or even censored in real-time?
2. Will fans be getting the recorded concert experience they’ve paid for? Meaning, since these shows are recordings that have taken place at Live Nation venues, what sort of enhancements will Live Nation and iTunes make to the recordings?
3. Will Live Nation and iTunes start offering ticket bundling packages where you could buy the ticket and the recording together all at once and once the concert is over you can go download it?
4. Is this a good thing for live music fans and bands long-term? Live concert bootlegging has a pretty storied history (good and bad), so what impact will this have on that legacy and relationship between bands, fans and record labels? What sort of recording rights are venue and bands signing up for?
5. The biggest quesitons for me on this story was wondering if this is yet another move that puts us one step closer to a monolithic live music industry. What will happen if the Live Nation Ticketmaster mergergoes through? Then will we have the largest promoter, ticket seller and music retailer all working together? Is that what we really want?
As soon as they have some more concerts to download, I’ll follow up with you on the quality and content. I’ll work on getting answers to some of those questions, too.
How about you? Have you bought any yet? Will you buy any?
Are you a hungry live music fan?
I hope so.
Because I have 3 succulent and satifying live music news stories that’ll get you primed for the big feast later this week.
You can start the face-stuffing early as I dish out a meaty live music meal that’s simmering with stories that made my mouth water over the last couple weeks.
In other words, consider this a warm-up to get your belly ready for Turkey Day.
What’s on the menu?
First, for appetizers, I have updates to both the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger and the back story to Michael Jackson’s This is It.
And then for the main course we’ll jab our fork and knife and cut into the wonderful world of fan/user-generated content as LiveNation.com overhauls its site to continue their interactive and social media efforts.
Live Nation-Ticketmaster Merger
I’ve been keeping a close eye on the Live Nation Ticketmaster merger ever since it was announced. And since the last update this summer, it’s been pretty quiet on the merger front. It’s not a huge announcement but earlier this month Live Nation and Ticketmaster announced they will have a shareholders meeting January 8th to vote on the merger.
That’s nice that they’ve picked a day to vote internally for the shareholders, but what really matters is what the U.S. Department of Justice says when they finally weigh on the merger of the “world’s largest concert promoter and ticket seller by volume.” I don’t expect any big news to come out in December but it’ll be a top story that I’ll continue to follow and keep you updated on as we roll into 2010.
Go behind This Is It:
I always love getting the back story. And at the Billboard Touring Conference AEG executives shared some of the “behind-the-scenes” info on the production of Michael Jackson’s This Is It.
Here are my favorite parts of the story that show Jackson’s commitment to remain the true concert King of Pop, the dedication of fans and how AEG Live always makes sure distance themselves from any responsibility for Jackson’s death. It’s also interesting how the number of shows mystery continues to grow with each report.
- The Jackson/AEG partnership resulted in a contract that initially included 31 dates, a number chosen by Jackson because it would be 10 more concerts than Prince performed. The number planned shows at the 02 Arena in London later grew to 50.
- After deciding to go forward with a film, and with major studios lining up to bid on the rights, “the biggest concern was that something would leak on the Internet and destroy the value of the intellectual property,” Phillips says. “That’s why I’ve never seen security like this in my life. It was like working in the Pentagon.”
- Phillips says that 14% of ticket holders held on to their tickets, which were designed by Jackson himself.
New User-Generated LiveNation.com: Good for business and fans?
From music to hard news sites, user-generated content has been trending as the way to go for bands, brands and concert promoters.
And with the growing popularity of social media and the advance of mobile technology, it’s never been easier for concert fans to capture and document their live concert experiences.
As I mentioned before I’ve been checking out SPINearth’s and Verizon‘s approach and I’ve enjoyed being able to see a wide range of emotional insights from fans that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to see.
Yes, the quality of the videos or the storytelling might not be the best, but I’ll tell you that I’ve learned a lot about what fans focus on during the concert, which in some cases, helps me write better reviews and understand why we love live music so much.
As I’ve studied these user-generated content sites more this year, I’ve wondered about the true motives of the creators and developers. I wonder if it’s a crafty guise for promotion and market research. When I say this I’m thinking about Live Nation’s recently overhauled site as Billboard reports.
Artists will be able to upload details of their own concerts, for instance, which will appear with the artists LiveNation is promoting. Fans will be able to submit entries to artist-specific wiki pages, ratings and reviews, moderate Q&As and integrate their Twitter feed to the LiveNation site.
That all sounds great.
But I have my doubts, too.
Are they really creating a community where fans have more power and expressive freedom?
Or is Live Nation only interested in creating a slick market/research model that’s designed to find out more about their customers buying habits than their love for live music?
I’ll give Live Nation the benefit of the doubt for now and say that it’s probably a mix of both because many of those working on Live Nation’s new fan section are not just savvy business people but are dedicated music fans themselves.
For the most part, I’m all for fans having a way to share their experiences on these user-generated content site because it does give fans a voice. I just want to make sure all the voices are heard and their not being filtered or censored in a way that hurts fans.
That said, as savvy concert fans, we should always be on the lookout and not get wooed into a completely mindless and relaxed state of entertainment. We should always be asking ourselves, are we being taken advantage of and does Live Nation really care about our life-changing concert experiences?
I consider it a huge honor and a privilege to hear and share your concert stories. I just hope that Live Nation feels the same way.
That’s all the live music news for now.
Did I miss anything?
Tell me all about it in the comments.
Have you ever had an idea that you knew was crazy, but you still wanted to share it?
And did you ever try to communicate your crazy idea with an image or photo-shopped picture, but were afraid to share your “idea art” because it look like a 3rd grader made it instead of a brilliant and mature adult mind?
Well, I have.
My picture is above (it’s suppose to be a ticket stub with car wheels in case you’re wondering). And it’ll make more sense once you hear what my crazy idea is.
My Crazy CARS Idea
If our government is going to let us trade in our clunker cars for cash/credit, then why shouldn’t the concert industry find a way to trade in bad shows for credit towards better, more efficient future shows?
Before you start thinking I’m nuts (just like some of these guys who presented some pretty crazy ideas in their day), let me say that, on one level, I’m sharing this idea with you for fun.
But there’s also a part of me that would like to seriously explore the idea–even if it’s got a few gaping holes in it right now.
And this one does. But that’s why I’m seeking your help and advice. And I hope you hang with me as I start to develop the idea. I can’t do this without you.
If we tried, I think we could really come up with something. Or we could at least get the conversation started. And have a little fun in the process by tossing around ideas.
What really made me think about this crazy idea?
Well, first, I was sick and tired of hearing about the Cash for Clunkers program on the news and I was growing weary hearing Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs tell me how I could trade in my clunker for a new Ford.
My other reasons were more related to live music.
And then, as I went through some of my last several shows and thought about the ratio of good shows vs. bad shows, I started to think…
What if we had a system in place that allowed fans and the live music industry to put on better shows? Would such a plan increase the amount of good and give us more great shows?
And would it benefit the live music industry?
It certainly couldn’t hurt.
Uncle Sam Loves Live Music Too!
If our government is going to create a plan to accomplish three goals at once–help car dealers increase business, get inefficient clunkers off the street and help put Americans behind the wheel of newer more efficent vehicles–then why can’t we use The CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System)program to create a similar concept for the live music industry? I know I saw President Obama receive tons of support at concerts in 2007 and 2008, so I know Uncle Sam loves live music too.
As fans, we all know that live music can always be more economically efficient and if we were to create a CARS program for live music I think it would also be emotionally benefical for fans, artists and promoters. How so? Well, if there was a way to give fans rebates for bad shows, I think there are a few all-around benefits that would justify figuring out a CARS program for the live music industry.
Raise Promoters Standards
I respect the hard job that promoters have and understand it’s extremely difficult to put on a live show. I don’t want to make it harder on promoters by creating new handcuffing ordinances. I’m hoping to make live music better for everyone. So what if promoters had to put on shows knowing that if the whole concert experience didn’t meet a certain set of emotional or performance criteria, then fans could ask for a credit to a future show? Would this empower promoters to put on the best show possible? I think so.
Help Musicians Improve Their Live Show Chops Faster
Hey, I know perfecting the live show is one of the hardest things for an artist. And I’ve reviewed and sat through my share of bad shows. But I’ve also felt the pain of the artist who hasn’t quite mastered live performance, which can be equally painful for fans. So what if there were certain regulations and requirements that an artist had to meet to qualify as a bad, good or great show? Would this force them to work on their live show and shorten the learning curve to become a great live act? I think so.
Reduce the Frustrations of Fans
Without fans the live concert industry is nothing but a bunch of empty venues with bands playing for no one. Just like their physical bodies, the emotions of fans are equally the bread and butter of the live concert experience. Happy fans sing along during climaxing choruses while angry and upset fans riot and rush the gates like those at Rock the Bells 2004. Watching footage of rioting fans, or reading about a bad concert experiences like the Smashing Pumpkins fans confirms for me that having a set of rules and regulations in place to lower a fan’s level of negative emotional baggage after a show will benefit the future of live music.
But would a live music CARS program guarantee a fan to have a beneficial and positive emotional live concert experience?
And if we were to create a CARS program for the live music industry, where should we start?
Well, for starters, we need three things: 1) a name, 2) program criteria and 3) the agreement of all parties involved.
What would we call such a program?
Say we called it: F.A.N.S. (Future Allowance for No Shows). I think this will work to start the discussion. It’s a nice acronym because it puts the focus on the right group of people: THE FANS.
What would be the program’s criteria?
Should we create criteria based onlyon the performance? Or should we also factor in the venue? Should we consider the artist and how many shows they have performed? For example, say if they’ve only performed 1 or 2 times. Then that show is not eliablge for a fan rebate even if the show sucks because the band is too inexperienced. Sort of like to how rookie baseball players can’t file for free agency until they’ve been in the league for 5 years. But if that’s the case, how many shows should we require a band to play before a fan can claim a No Show?
What is a No Show?
There’s so many criteria questions to consider, but I think a good place to start is to decide what a “No Show” is.
A “No Show” could be a show that doesn’t meet a certain set of criteria based on venue conditions, performance quality or fan post-show emotions.
Once you figure that out. Then one thing makes this whole FANS process really tricky: Subjectivity.
I’m not trying to unravel my own idea. I’m just cutting to the chance and pointing out a simple fact about live music.
How would you determine the show as “eligible” for a refund when the criteria is so subjective? If Bono didn’t play your favorite song during the 360 tour, or Kanye insulted your favorite artist (again) would you call it a “No Show.”
With CARS it’s easy. There’s a nasty old car. A tangible product that can be exchanged and agreed on as a “clunker.” Simple.
But with live music it’s not so easy.
The judging and selection for criteria is far more subjective. There’s tons of different individual impressions and every fan has their own set of emotional expectations. And you’d have to guard against fans who would exploit the system. For example, a fan could knowingly go to a great show, but try to work the system and ask for “a future allowance” and keep doing it with no limit. To stop this from happening, we could create a limit of “No Shows” a fan can declare for a certain time period, or a certain band?
And once you figure out the program’s criteria the biggest hurdle is getting everyone to agree on it. Which would probably take longer than agreeing on healthcare and immigration combined.
Would fans, artists and promoters all embrace F.A.N.S. ?
Looking back at live music industry history, I’m sure that pioneers of the live music business like Bill Graham didn’t have a CARS program for the concert industry in mind when he began making a template for the live music business. So I imagine it would be a huge upheaval in any promoters business model to all of a sudden offer refunds for terrible shows.
If you’ve read this far I thank you. And you probably think I’m totally crazy or completely brilliant. Or maybe a mix. (At least tell me that you enjoyed my photo art.)
Either way, like I said at the start, I’m doing this because I believe in the power of live music to change our lives. And I’m having fun and I think we should honestly explore this idea.
When I was writing this post, I thought back to all the shows where I’ve walked away wishing I could get my money back because the show was terrible. And I know I wasn’t the only one in the crowd thinking that. That said–and regardless of how silly it might seem–I think a FANS program is worthy of exploring, if nothing more than for the sole purpose of improving the live concert experience for the fan’s sake.
Would you be a fan of FANS?
Heading to see U2 at Soldier Field tonight in Chicago? Then you’ll want to check out this exclusive behind-the-scenes look from Chicago Tribune. The video takes a look at the “The Alien Space Ship/Claw” stage set up for U2’s 360 tour. The stage is designed to make the outside concert environment more intimate and make Solider Field smaller by bringing the show closer to the fans. And hopefully it will also add more intimacy and meaning to U2’s latest album No Line on the Horizon.
The album can use all the help it can get because watching these videos about the stage set up is almost more engaging than the album itself.
But I’m hoping that U2’s strong reputation for a transcendent live show filled with grandeur holds true for fans tonight. Let’s also hope the Claw’s intimate design pushes the songs in the direction they need to go and makes them come alive better than they did on the Horizon.
You’ll also want to check out this Chicago Tribune post for more info on the stage. It’s pretty impressive.
If you’re heading to the show let me know how it goes and drop a comment about your experience.
To complete the picture, here’s a time-lapse video (one of many on YouTube) showing the stage’s deconstruction from a show earlier this year.
Sometimes there are press conferences I wish I was at, so I could ask my own questions.
Like this one at Madison Square Garden during which Billboard reports Jay-Z announcing his plans for his “Answer The Call” charity concert set to take place at Madison Square Garden (MSG) on Sept. 11, with all tickets priced at $50, and 100% of the proceeds from ticket sales and concert merchandise going to Answer the Call, a New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund.
During the press conference Billboard also reports Jay-Z saying this about his inspiration for the concert:
“This all came about September 10, 2001. I was in Los Angeles shooting a video. The album was to come out the next day. On that day, I got a phone call and a friend of mine said, ‘turn the TV on.’ I turned the TV on and I saw the World Trade Center on fire,” Jay-Z said today before a room full of media at MSG.
“I turned the TV on September 12 and I saw footage of these heroic actions, people running to buildings and saving each other and I saw the strength of New York,” Jay-Z continued. “It made me proud. So, as I was embarking on putting out ‘Blueprint 3,’ it was only right that we revisit that day. This is my chance to do something to help out.”
Now, let me first say that Jay-Z is one of my favorite rappers and I’m excited to soak up the rest of his new album The Blue Print 3. I also applaud him for his involvement in this concert event. Donating the all the proceeds from ticket sales and concert merchandise to the Answer The Call Fund is a commendable action of charity.
But there’s a follow up question I’d like to ask regarding Jay-Z’s recent 360 deal with Live Nation.
I did some quick math on what the estimated donation might be. At a flat $50 per ticket price and the MSG’s estimated 20,000 seating capacity, the ticket sales donation comes out to around $1 mil, plus merchandise sales. Now that’s a very healthy donation.
But here’s what I’d like to know.
Since the bulk of concert sales are usually made on concessions and Live Nation is known for tacking on service fees too, I’d like to know if the donations will also include concession sales and service fees. If it does, my admiration and respect for Jay-Z would only increase. And I would start to think more highly of Live Nation because if they do donate concession sales and service fees then that tells me that they’re trying to do the right thing when it comes to using their immense amount of industry muscle for good, and not just trying to profit from the magical power of the live music experience in the name of a good cause.
If you have any additional facts or information that would help answer my question, please pass it along. And by all means, do join me in watching the concert on Fuse on Sept 11th. It should be fun and an emotional event.
Sounds drastic I know.
But I only say it like that because I want to ask you a question that’s very important to you and me.
Do you think we need to “destroy” the corporate live music industry from the top down and start over?
I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m not sure.
But I do know that I’m not alone in questioning the current system.
I found a like-minded fellow blogger when I read this response article by Fuel TV music blogger Colin Stutz. His response did a good job of furthering my concern for live music fans since I last fleshed out my thoughts about the woes of the concert industry.
In short, Stutz was responding to an article written by the New Yorker’s John Seabrook who made his own case for a breaking down of the concert industry in order to rebuild it and improve it.
Here’s a bit of what Stutz said:
“Seabrook goes on to make the counterpoint that if the concert business is to take the place of the record business within the current music industry then some concessions must be made. Money is necessary to develop new artists who will in turn fuel tomorrow’s industry, so evil as this may seem perhaps it is a necessary evil. But what has this done to the concert-going experience and at what cost does this change come? Does anyone really find big stadium concerts to still be fun; is this format at all artistically rewarding anymore?”
These are all great questions to ask any live music fan. And, yes, like any lasting change, there is a huge cost required. Believe me, I know. As both a fan and music journalist, I’m taking a risk by writing about this. But I belive it’s worth the risk. I love live music and if there’s any way to improve the live music experience I will do my best to do my part. Because I know what it means to me and the power it has in our lives.
Do I think we need to wish for a crumbling down of the current live music system and ticketing structure in order to move forward and bring about lasting change?
For starters, I wouldn’t wish for a complete wipe out and clean slate from the top down. And I don’t see that happening anytime soon; though it would be quite the spectacle to watch something like that happen at a corporate level.
But if you want to talk real revolution, I’ve always believed that the power is always in the hands of the fans when it comes down to lasting change in concert culture.
And change always starts in our own minds and hearts. And usually we’re only moved when something very dramatic and emotionally moving gets us to take action.
But, when it comes to live music, I’ve always questioned whether or not fans even care to put the effort forward to see change happen.
Why do I think this? Well, in my exploration into fan behavior in concert culture, I’ve realized that there’s a conflict in the minds of fans. Largely because fan behavior at concerts is usually more of the passive entertainment nature. And in order for fans to change their behavior and move out of a passive state of entertainment and take action to see the corporate concert industry change its ways something major would have to happen to motivate, or really piss off fans. And if nothing major happens, I just don’t see fans moving in that direction. Because, right now, they have no real reason to.
And that bothers me to type that. But I say it because it’s true.
Live music is such a major part of our lives. And the live music experience is such a complex mix of behaviors and expectations. Sometimes it’s a moment of pleasure and passive entertainment where we give our money in exchange for 2 hours of escape. And other times its active, a moment of protest, and we come to the show expecting to be moved or challenged by other fans or the music itself.
So for fans to all of a sudden snap into a complete mood of concert activism, and not be passive entertainees, would be nothing short of a live music miracle.
It will take several more Bruce Springsteen ticket scandals to shock fans out their usual comfort level and give them a reason to care and demand the corporate concert industry change its ways.
Sure, the Recession has forced fans to pick and choose which concert they’re going to spend their money on. But the fact that the concert industry is one of the only money makers in the music industryright now, makes me think that –without something horrible and deeply oppressive happening first– live music fans still don’t think things are that bad to put long term pressure on the corporate concert industry.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m all for a grass roots uprising if it’s going to help and not hurt. But most of the festivals I’ve reviewed this year were promoted by Live Nation or AEG, the industry top two corporate promoters. And in those reviews I’ve said my piece about how my expectations were not met because of a corporate and overly sterile vibe in the venue and treatment of the music. But at those same concerts, I also saw thousands of fans who didn’t seem to mind paying the ticket price and waiting in line for $4 bottled water.
I do agree with Stutz when he says that the current concert ticketing ways of Live Nation are certainly geared towards the Baby Boomer who are spending most of the cash for the big ticket shows. But, as I mentioned above, there is also a younger demographic that is also paying the prices without a problem, or questioning the process. And Live nation seems to be very aware of this as they continue to reach out to the younger generation via social media communities like Facebook and their current Twitter “Ultimate Concert Access Pass” Contest.
That said, maybe this “fan uprising” or “bringing down” of the current live music system will come from my generation or the ones after me within communites like Twitter? Who knows? Change might come in stages over time. And we’re still waiting for an answer from the government on the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. So there’s a lot of unanswered questions.
But one thing’s for sure. I’ve been encouraged by a local grassroots uprising here in Chicago as local independent Chicago promoters pushed back over the last year against city ordinances to keep independent music communities alive and thriving here in Chicago.
So what are you going to do?
Do you think fans need to take action to rework the live music industry?
I’ve been thinking about the results of the Billboard poll to the right a lot lately.
Especially after reading how Live Nation is trying to “help” concert fans.
But is their recent removal of service fees (announced on June 1st) a move to help fans or just help increase summer ticket sales?
Here’s what Live Nation told Billboard earlier this month:
Live Nation has been tackling the issue of service fees with its in-house ticketing operation launched at the beginning of this year. “We know the fan has been frustrated by the series of successive fees in the purchase process,” Live Nation Ticketing CEO Nathan Hubbard tells Billboard.biz. “There is attrition in the sales flow once you see your third page with some additional fees. The fan told us they just want to know up front how much the cost of the experience is going to be. We didn’t address that problem completely, but the first step was moving from fans paying a service fee — you might pay a shipping and handling fee, maybe a print-at-home fee, delivery fee, etc. — to consolidating it into a single up-front fee that is there as you cart your inventory.”
Does that sound like helping?
Chicago Tribune rock reporter Greg Kot called the move “a start”. And then the fans went further to express their thoughts and feelings in the comments.
Then a few days later, after Live Nation extended the “no service fees special” to also include reserved seating, Chicago Sun-Times rock reporter Jim Derogatis broke down the specific pricing.
What do you think is a reasonable price to pay for a concert ticket?
A few weeks back I wondered if our concert experiences are really “priceless” by asking what is the “emotional” ticket price of concerts.
If there is an emotional value to concert tickets, why not experiment and let the fans decide how much they think concerts should cost? Why not explore concert ticket pricing system that’s similar to how certain artists have let fans determine the cost of an album?
Online ticket auctions do this to some degree. But only after scalpers and ticket brokers have determined the pricing structure.
So what if there was a way to allow fans to choose what they thought should be the actual cost of the concert ticket. And what if there was a way to create a ticket pricing structure that was based on combine factors of the emotional value, the market value and what the fan was willing to pay. Would you try it out?
We thought the “choose your own album price” was crazy when bands like Radiohead starting doing it. And why does it always seem, with a few expections, that the band members themselves remain silent when ticket pricing issues are discussed.
It would also be inspiring to see more bands join in the fight to keep their fans from being scalped by taking a more active role in how the cost of their live performance impacts their fan’s wallet.
From a promoters perspective, it seems like a prime time to experiment with different pricing options much like summer festivals are doing this year with the layaway option.
I think this idea of “letting fans choose the ticket prices” should be explored just to see what we could come up with. Because with the current recession, and knowing how much people love concerts, I think a fan uprising, or corporate backlash of some sort, on companies like Live Nation might be closer than we think.
People love their concerts and if fans have to choose, the majority of fans will stay home.
But that love and emotional need for live music will not go away. Fans will find ways to get their fix and feed their need for live music. But the question is whether or not Live Nation will be a part of helping fans find a way to satisfy thier fix that meets their budget. Or will Live Nation continue to be a part of the problem and not a part of the solution?
And when will fans take a more active role and create a community that shows companies like Live Nation that fans are more than just expendable and entertainable pawns with bottomless wallets?
So tell me live music fans:
If you knew where all the money went and why, (similar to Derogatis’ breakdown but a bit more detail), would you explore a “choose your own pricing” ticket pricing method?
I’ll be heading to several festivals this summer. And I’ll be sure to ask what fans think and share their responses with you too.
Dear Live Music Citizens,
It goes without saying that I love live music. So it’s only natural that I’ve been feeding you a regular stream of updates on the Live Nation Ticketmaster merger. And though I’ve used that above image in a few of the posts, as other bloggers have, I continue to post about the merger so that we don’t get used to them being together and think that the merger doesn’t have a huge impact on our live concert experiences.
It has a huge impact.
And who would have thought live music would have made made me a more active and aware citizen. My high school history and music teachers would be proud.
That said, this weekend you will probably enjoy a concert, or maybe two, so here’s some more info you need to consider and take with you on the way to the show. Because we can never be too informed about events that have an impact on our rights to enjoy live music on our terms.
So, in addition to the update I posted last week on the Ticketmaster Live Nation merger, I’d like to share with you a very thorough update courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times pop critic Jim Derogatis who, last week, posted a list of links and thoughts about the merger, which is still pending.
I can always count on Dero to get comprehensive and this is one of those times when we need it most.
Stay informed, enjoy your weekend and enjoy the show!