Live Music Fans Need a CARS Program



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?

WTF Chris?

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.

The recent Live Nation-Ticket Master merger and the current state of the concert industry, watered the idea in my head.

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?

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