How To Destroy the Concert Industry


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?

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